Last night marked the 4th edition of the KANPE Foundation’s Kanpe Kanaval event. Co-founded by Arcade Fire’s Régine Chassagne and Quebec Parliament member Dominique Anglade, Kanpe looks to fight poverty in Haiti through communal and family growth.
While the organization has been absolutely wowing Montreal with every event they have thrown thus far (past guests have included the likes of Madonna, Diplo, Lunice and more), this one certainly look the cake for their best yet. This year’s Kanaval featured an all-star lineup of select Arcade Fire members (including Regine and her husband, Win Butler), Preservation Jazz Band and Saul Williams, among other notable names.
The evening kicked off with a DJ set from Mr. Williams, an eclectic mix of primarily powerful female vocalists (Nina Simone, PJ Harvey, Rihanna). Although no songs were necessarily bad, the execution was messy. With no transitions and switching songs typically after the first verse or before their climactic moments, this set seemed more like Saul just picking songs of off his computer than actually DJing.
However, things started to pick up once it was Win Butler’s turn on the wheels of steel. Coming to the turntables while singing along to LCD Soundsystem’s “Someone Great”, Butler’s (who goes under the name DJ Windows 98) first go at the turntables of the night saw the indie rocker DJing for sets from Haitian artist Vox Sambou, as well as Montreal’s own Fwonte, who’s high energy likened his performance to that of Canadian A$AP Ferg, both backed by mesmerizing Haitian dancers.
This was followed by speeches from founder Régine Chassagne, alongside her co-host for the evening, The Office‘s Rainn Wilson. Before introducing the Preservation Jazz Band to the stage for an electrifying performance, both delivered powerful anecdotes about what Kanpe and Haiti meant to them. Once the Preservation Jazz Band had gotten everybody in the mood, it was time to pull out the big guns!
It was at this point in the evening in which the Preservation Jazz Band were joined by Win, Regine, Richard Reed Perry (sporting a golden mask with a beak) and of course, David Bryne, for one absolutely unforgettable performance. Spanning slightly under 30 minutes, the set opened with a cover of Talking Heads’ “Road to Nowhere”, which lead into a couple more Heads covers (including “Naive Melody”, also the name of the events Kanpe throws every other month at Montreal’s Phi Centre) before closing out with a rendition of one of Byrne’s solo tracks, ‘I Bit You Goodnight”.
From the moment Byrne, who was crowned King of Kanaval for the night (at one point, Win Butler demanded that everyone take a knee in honour of his majesty) stepped on stage, the audience immediately seemed fully engaged. While already being able to see members of Arcade Fire in such an intimate venue was already a blessing for any Montrealer, seeing them with one of their most distinct influences made it even more of a divine-like experience. While some seemed slightly disappointed that no Arcade Fire songs were performed, the inclusion of Byrne surely made up for it.
The night ended with a proper turn at the 1s and 2s from DJ Windows 98, throwing down some funky vibes with everyone from Bowie 80s hits, to forgotten gems such as William Onyeabor’s “Good Name” and Kiki Gyan’s “Disco Dancer“.
Overall, Kanpe Kanaval was certainly one for the books. As any Montrealer with a concious sense of community values could note, Haitian culture plays such a vital role in that of Montreal’s. With that being said, it goes without question that an event supporting a country so close to our hearts. Kanpe Kanaval 2016 served as both a remarkable evening of musical excellence, along with a thoughtful time to remind us all why Haiti means so much to us in the city.