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Suoni Per Il Popolo: 24 Years of Experimentation

This modest Montreal music festival changed the pace of the city’s now vibrant music scene and continues to roll in the face of funding cuts.

by Stephan Boissonneault 

Pictured above: Wolf Eyes & Anthony Braxton

When visual artist/cook Kiva Stimac and then-partner Mauro Pezzente (co-founder of  Godspeed! You Black Emperor) opened Casa Del Popolo, the resto-bar and live music venue revitalized Montreal’s DIY alternative music scene overnight. The year was 2000, and Montreal’s music venues were pretty much all pay-to-play, with Montreal consistently being overlooked as a tourable city in Canada and bands deciding to leave for greener pastures. 

Stimac and Pezzente were already booking DIY shows in Godspeed’s jam space, a place they dubbed Gallery Kiva—until it eventually became the Hotel2Tango studio—before hearing that another venue in Mile End, Artishow, was for lease. Together they took over the space and founded Casa Del Popolo, making it a free venue to book. That same year, they founded the experimental music festival, Suoni Per Il Popolo, which has been going strong for 24 years. 

“It was like the Wild West back then,” Stimac says nostalgically about the first year. “With a couple of credit cards and some gumption, we could make something for ourselves and the DIY music scene in Montreal. We wanted to make something for our community.”

“With a couple of credit cards and some gumption, we could make something for ourselves and the DIY music scene in Montreal.”

— Kiva Stimac

It’s impossible to talk about the history of Suoni without mentioning the other venue that makes it a reality: La Sala Rossa, not to mention its sister basement venue, La Sotterenea, which came sometime after.

Right after the first Suoni, which was more of a family and friends affair that involved inviting musicians Pezzente met on tour with Godspeed, Stimac and Pezzente booked the Scottish indie rock band Arab Strap. The show at Casa sold out in 10 minutes. At the time, Casa was only a 60-person capacity venue, so Pezzente marched across the street to La Sala Rossa, which has a huge history of activism and social movements dating back to the 1930s, and asked if he could book the 250-capacity upstairs room. As luck would have it, the building owners, the Centro Social Español, were looking for someone to rent the venue full-time, and La Sala Rossa’s music era began. 

Suoni quickly started to grow after Stimac and Pezzente began reaching out to “out there” or  “left of field” acts. 


RANGE is proud to present Backxwash + special guests Quinton Barnes and MAGELLA on June 21 at La Sala Rossa.


“My father was really influenced by the Free Jazz movement in the ‘60s, so that’s the music I grew up on,” Stimac says. “And Mauro and I, we were really into post-punk and avant-garde stuff, basically anything that was pushing the boundaries of music and art.”

Before his passing in 2018, Stimac’s father, Charley, was a huge part of the Casa-Suoni community. “He had multiple sclerosis and was a quadriplegic, but his care-givers were basically all musicians, so he would sit in his wheelchair with a coffee every day and hold court in Casa,” she says. 

Charley was also a muralist, meaning there was always a screen-printing set up in the Stimac household. Along with her visual background, this influenced Kiva to start making psychedelic posters for Suoni shows, which have become an artistic trademark of the festival. This year’s poster features a panther with a third eye blasting rainbows out of its eyes. 

“A big part of this thing is my aesthetic and my artistic practice and I guess curation of the festival now, but the whole Popolo idea is the community and not being alone,” Stimac says. “For example, I have an archival intern that is helping me put together a book of all of the posters with a visual history of the festival.”

However, that book won’t be available until next year’s Suoni, and Stimac admits that this year’s edition is pared back due to funding constraints. You see, Suoni is usually held throughout all of June with close to 88 shows, but this year it is cut in half. This is again in part due to funding, but also because of a split in the Casa-Suoni organization. Stimac now runs the festival and Pezzente runs the venues.

Regardless, Stimac knows this year’s Suoni is “going to fuck.” 

“I really put an emphasis on fun this year, whether that be noise, funk, punk, jazz, whatever,” Stimac says. “Like we have Anthony Braxton and Wolf Eyes; Irreversible Entanglements is playing with Montreal artists during a kind of speakeasy; and a co-presented darkwave dance night with Noise Not Borders featuring Blu Anxxiety, Laura Krieg, HRT, and Slash Need…”

New to Suoni this year is also the day pass. For the humble rate of $45, festivalgoers get access to all three venues; the goal is to see a bit of everything from different scenes.

“We’ve staggered the sets this year so you really can see a bit of everything. It is impossible to see everything, but you can definitely try.”

Suoni Per Il Popolo runs June 12 to 24 | TICKETS & INFO