alt-J + Drama @ Salle Wilfrid Pelletier – 3rd July 2019

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alt-J Concert Review Montreal International Jazz Festival  

At first, I was surprised alt-J was part of the jazz fest but I’ve grown to love how the jazz fest isn’t solely jazz. I’m glad that festivals are expanding their musical tastes to appeal to all sorts of people. Montreal is known as a city that celebrates music and creativity after all.

So, for two hot July nights at the Salle Wilfrid Pelletier, Montreal Jazz fest hosted alt-J and Drama.


The duo from Chicago made up of Na’el Shehade and Via Rosa walked on stage to the quiet anticipating crowd.

I found it a challenge to put my finger on a specific genre (which is getting harder and harder these days). That has to do with Shehade having spent his teen years being influenced by house and electronic music by DJing. Recently he was working on hip-hop, pop, and rap, but wanted to expand more towards dancy, soulful sounds. Rosa had grown up with her parents playing reggae but is interested in slow, jazzy hip-hop sounds. Together, they are able to experiment and branch out of the stereotypes of a specific genre. 

What they have ended up with is Rosa’s smooth voice over beats that make you want to dance along, somewhere between, but not limited to: Dance, R&B, and Soul. 

They played from their 2016 album “Gallows”, 2018 EP entitled “Lies After Love” and several new singles including “Dead and Gone” and “Give No F***s”. 

The crowd enjoyed the duo’s love and breakup songs as they hurried to their seats to enjoy the opening set. 

They played a few songs in a row, blending together seamlessly (thanks to Shehade’s DJ skills). When there was a pause, the crowd excitedly applauded. 

I think we all went home and downloaded their album 


As Drama walked off stage and the crowd awaited alt-J, I thought back to the first time I saw them. 

Going back to the summer of 2015, I arrived before the doors opened to Osheaga and ran straight to the barricade of the stage they were playing at. I stood there all day, about 8 hours (no I didn’t drink water and yes, I know that was a terrible idea). 

Needless to say, it was well worth the wait and dehydration, so I eagerly awaited to see them again. 

I thought Salle Wilfred Pelletier an interesting venue for the show. It would be a sit-down concert which felt a little odd. Most sit down concerts feel like social experiments. Do you want to be the only one standing even if it feels weird to be sitting at a concert? Or do you stand out from the crowd and just enjoy your show? 

Finally, alt-J walked out to “Something Good” followed by “Every Other Freckle” and almost immediately the crowd stood up and cheered. 

Despite having seats, they weren’t used much. Every time an older song was played, or anything the crowd loved, they stood. 

A good amount of the songs played were from “An Awesome Wave” and “This Is All Yours”. They played for the crowd the songs that drew us to love them and kept us around with their newest weirdly fascinating album “Relaxer”. 

Alt J comes from Greek letter “delta” which is a mathematical symbol for change. It’s called alt-J because the mac shortcut “alt + J” will show you a triangle. 

I kind of liked how alt-J felt like a change from the classic genres of music, each album felt different and experimental but still had the alt-J sound.

If you look on their website, for their new album alt-J had a game made based off of “LSD: Dream Emulator”. It’s a colorful, pixelated, open-world like a game where you can walk around and interact with different characters, I’d tell you what happens but you can see for yourself.

One of my favorite things from the show was the light show. The guy doing the lights must have had a blast. Larger budget shows mean larger budget props, and for alt-J, the more lights the better! Lazers, flashing lights, and vertical light poles between each member of the band fluttered along with each song. Each light show perfectly reflected how listening to that song felt. 

As many sang along and felt almost hypnotized by the flashing lights, you couldn’t help but feel wrapped up in the moment. 

The consensus by the second half of the show was that everyone was standing. 

The wild applause after songs indicated that everyone was having a good time in the Wilfrid Pelletier theatre that night. 

As an encore, they played “Left Hand Free” “In Cold Blood” and “Breezeblocks.” Afterwards, the theatre rumbled with applause, as everyone was so happy to make it out to see them that night. 

Review: Breanna Wark
Photo – Simon Williams

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