At the end of November we hit the third installment of M For Montreal, a music festival that’s part industry showcase and part Montreal-celebrating fan-fest (with a handful of Toronto bands thrown into the mix). We checked out more than 20 artists over the course of four nights, and did our best to interview the locals without losing any digits to the cold. (What can we say? We’re from S.F.) Here’s a sampling of our festival favorites:

Duchess Says
We’re gonna go ahead and put our favorite band first, since Montreal’s Duchess Says floored us (and set the bar damn high) on day one of M For Montreal. Singer and synth player Annie-Claude Deschênes is a frontwoman that rivals Wendy O Williams and Alice Bag, and that’s to say nothing of the discordant wow and flutter of Duchess Says’ power-packed synth-noise punch. All we can say is that if Duchess Says doesn’t get a major deal in the U.S. and Europe after this performance, then the world is severely out of balance. Photo by Ken Taylor.

A fine serving of Torontonian goodness, Lioness is your response to your jaded friend’s claims that indie rock ain’t got no soul. Singer Vanessa Fischer leads this pack with vicious, hefty vocals and a larger-than-life stage persona, while the drums and bass (no guitar!) keep things tight, rocking, and rhythmic. Photo by Ken Taylor.

Pas Chic Chic
What happens when you take Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Roger Tellier-Craig, give him a Farfisa player and the Pulp and Joy Division fake books, and tell him to keep it as French as Gainsbourg? Pas Chic Chic is actually tres chic chic when it comes to style, and their sound is equally reflective. Check out our review of their Au Contraire album. Photo by Ken Taylor.

Red Mass
We were told that this was Red Mass’ first-ever show, and maybe that’s why we dug ’em so much. Scrappy, noisy, crazy, and covered in red, these remnants of defunct MTL punks CPC Gangbangs mixed Stooges-esque raw power with a hint of Brian Jonestown Massacre’s bluesy soul. We also dug that they had a couple Bez-like stagehands–one who occasionally tapped a tambourine and another who just shimmied on the speakers, covered head-to-toe in gold body paint. Photo by Sophie Samson.

Toronto’s Woodhands had us at “keytar” but, with the addition of live drums, some killer vocals, and sometimes-crunky beats, this electro-pop duo brings the heat more than your typical dudes-with-synths combo. Photo by Ken Taylor.

We Are Wolves/Claass
Why are we throwing these bands two together? ’Cause, ostensibly, they’re the same band, save for swapping out one member. Bottom line is that bassist/vocalist Alexander Ortiz (pictured here in Claass) does some crazy shit with synths (in Claass) and some even crazier shit with vocal effects (in We Are Wolves), and both groups get our props for getting the rock-heavy masses dancing. Photo by Ken Taylor.

M For More: Check out what the Montreal locals have to say about their city, its music, and its penchant for frostbite at our Photo Blog.