Eight and a Half @ POP Montreal

“I’ve gained a lot of weight since I was twenty-two… and then I wrote a song about it… and this is it,” frontman Dave Hamelin of newly formed Eight and a Half shared with his audience last night at La Tulipe, kicking off the first night of POP Montreal. The ensemble is an amalgam of Canadian bands, Hamelin and Liam O’Neil from Montreal band The Stills and Justin Peroff, the drummer in Broken Social Scene. The three have taken this opportunity to reinvent and reinvigorate their respective sounds, coming together to create music that is sophisticated, yet approachable, dance-y, but mature.

Each musician contributes in equal measure. Hamelin’s voice and guitar stands out front, O’Neil's varied orchestrations fill in the sound while Peroff, with both electronic equipment and his drum kit (often simultaneously) anchors it all, pushing it forward. The music satisfies because it never stays in place; at times, it’s pop-y and upbeat, at others more pensive and minor key—at its best, it’s a mix of the two.

“Hopefully, there’ll be a hundred people here by the time we go on,” O’Neil said to me shortly before they took the stage. By the time they began, there were closer to 200, and shortly after 300. As Eight and a Half played their closing song of what was a tight and entertaining set, the floor was packed with people somewhere between dancing, swaying and standing still, an audience sated, but wanting more—a familiar place for these three guys to be.

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