This past weekend, Pop Montréal put on a spectacular event for charity, which featured Varsity McGill and Concordia basketball players squaring off against adroit and athletic celebrities in an unexpectedly thrilling basketball match. Fans of all ages were in attendance at McGill’s Currie Gym for the match, which was accompanied by concurrent entertaining musical performances. Although Pop Montréal is billed as an annual international music festival, it is host to an assortment of musically inspired events including a fashion gala, a symposium, a film festival, an art exhibition, and now they have expanded with a music related sports component.
The “Jock” team was comprised of some Varsity basketball players from McGill and Concordia, and an eclectic group of musicians, actors, and pro basketball players represented the “Pop” team. Celebrities participating in the event ranged somewhere between notable and obscure. Among them were McGill alumni Win Butler and his brother Will Butler of Montréal’s own Arcade Fire, Nikolai Fraiture of the Strokes, Martin Starr of the cult TV show Freaks and Geeks, and NBA-free agent Luke Bonner.
Kid Koala’s beats and Régine Chassange of Arcade Fire’s vocals supplied the soundtrack to the game. Kid Koala frequently sifted through a box of records throughout the course of the event, carefully selecting the music that he would play on the turntables and add his own touch to, all the while donning a full koala costume. His remix of “O Canada” opened the game.
The high level of competitiveness displayed by both teams quickly led me to forget that I was watching a friendly basketball game for charity. On several occasions, Win Butler became so heated after disagreeing with some of the calls made by the referees, he openly expressed his discontent by shouting profanities while facing the crowd. In terms of gameplay, I was amazed by the skills and abilities exhibited by both squads as the participants competed at an extremely high level. Fast-paced dunks, smooth passes and a flurry of three pointers contributed to the excitement. The score of the game proved that the teams were quite evenly matched. After trading points back and forth in the final seconds of the game, the Jocks prevailed over the Pop team with a close final score of 96 to 93.
One of the highlights of the game was the half time show. David Byrne, (former member of the Talking Heads), the Butler brothers, and Nikolai Fraiture on bass guitar (forming the most unusual ensemble), performed a rendition of KC and the Sunshine Band’s, That’s The Way I Like It, while a roller derby took place directly in front of the band, and three women attempted to operate a giant slingshot to project t-shirts into the audience. The slingshot repeatedly malfunctioned, but eventually was able to shoot the t-shirts into the receptive crowd. Despite not knowing which act to focus on, the audience still enjoyed the high energy, albeit chaotic, atmosphere.
It appeared that the majority of fans showed up to see the celebrities rather than the basketball game, and they were not disappointed. More clapping erupted during the few times Nikolai Fraiture was handling the basketball than at critical moments in the game. Moreover, a group of students were elated after getting their picture taken with their favourite character from Freaks and Geeks just before halftime. After the winners were declared, confetti was blown from two canons on either side of the court, and fans then flocked onto the court to meet and take photos with the stars.
Win Butler played a considerable role in organizing the second Pop vs. Jock event along with Pop Montreal, and Dexter John of the DJ Sports Club, a non-profit charitable organisation located in Montréal’s southwest borough. The proceeds of the event will go toward the DJ Sports Club, which happens to be one of the largest youth clubs in Montréal that provides sport, educational, social, and recreation programs for youths.
When I first heard about Pop vs. Jock I was keen to go, and it exceeded my expectations. Pop Montreal should publicize this event more next year, because I believe it would attract a much large audience and benefit their benevolent cause. I would highly recommend this event to fans of Arcade Fire, music lovers, basketball enthusiasts, and anyone who enjoys a good time, as the event has a little something for everybody.