Montreal, May 21st 2019
The ninth annual Pouzza festival, or the beginning of Spring time as it is known in Montreal (No, not really, but we could try make it that way, right?) kicked off its three day festival this past Friday under cloudy and much cooler temperatures than the city is accustomed to at this time of year.
None the less, people came out in numbers to the central stage, the Beer Garden, where all the main bands played and free of charge. Yes, free of charge! Lets pause here for a second to pay hommage to this minor miracle. How many music festivals can you name that provide their main attractions to anybody that cares to show up? I’ll wait. Hats off to the organizers of Pouzza festival for managing to offering such high level of talent, free, and still find a way to fund the next years editions. Its beer isn’t it? Beer sales! That’s what funds this whole thing, am I right? When you have two great breweries on site slingin’ suds, you’re going to sell quite a few pints. Vankleek Hill’s amazing Beau’s brewery and Quebec’s own Trou Du Diable provided the liquid fuel that kept party goers, music fans, staff and bands hydrated all weekend long.
The shortest of the three days, because, you know, people have to work during the day and stuff, but far from short of talent and good sounds. The day began with a panel discussion on the wonderful women of the music scene, one that we sadly missed, and followed with an anti-harassment seminar (That we err, also, missed. But we’re sure it was great.) Again, despite having missed these two events, just that the fact that this sort of programmation is included shows the social awareness of the Punk Rock scene, even if we are, by and large, a great unwashed mass of anarchistic ratbags. We can thumb our snotty noses up to the Trudeau’s and the Trump’s of the world while still caring more and honestly about the things going on around us. From gentrification to human rights, Pouzza fest and its people had a lot of positive vibes to spread.
Although the first bands hit stages across various venues around the city, our evening began at the main stage with Worriers. Brooklyn, New York’s melodic punk rockers took the stage as zombified music lovers began flowing in after a long weeks slaving for the man. With the stage now warmer than the frigid and windy weather blowing people around the park, Montreal’s Lost Love took the stage. Veterans of the festival, Lost Love brought their ultra-catchy power pop-punk once more, having performed at the festival on numerous occasions. This time, their guitarist, had his three young children on stage with him. Probably a special moment for all involved. Bad Cop / Bad Cop took the stage for penultimate performance of the opening day’s main stage, which has a curfew due to its location in a fairly residentially part of the city. Fair dinkum. (That’s Aussie slang because Bad Cop, Bad Cop was also the name of an Australian TV show. Do we have to explain everything to you?) Anyway, so Bad Cop / Bad Cop powered their way through a solid set of 90s throwback skatepunk with powerful pro-female messages that have been at the forefront of the Pouzza festival itinerary for a while now.
Polishing off the evenings outdoor activities, were Against Me. Known for their advocacy of LGBT rights, and fronted by Laura Jane Grace, a transgendered punk rocker than has given voice to many and paved the way for so many to feel comfortable with who they are, Against Me have become something of a pop-culture icon, and a massive crowd had formed in front of the stage by the time the bands first notes rang out across the city. Grace is the epitome of punk rock; its diversity and its understanding of people judged as different and odd by other communities. Montreal is something of a perfect setting for a band such as Against Me, given the large LGBT community, the massive Pride parade and festivities and the entire concept of a Gay village; Montreal has long been seen as mecca of gay rights. Freedom. And as such, the huge the gathering that formed was probably expected. All walks of life appeared, and all were accepted for whom they are.
It takes a hell of a lot of guts to do what Laura Jane Grace has done. But lets talk about the performance. Starting off with “True Trans Soul Rebel”, which has to be an iconic track by now, and following suit with one true to my heart; “Pints Of Guinness Make You Strong”. Her disdain for much of humanity, especially in the United States still rings through with tracks like “Sink, Florida, Sink” and the hit “I Was A Teenage Anarchist”. Finally ending their set with “The Ocean” and “Black Me Out” to the admiration of the massive crowd, this is a set that will be long remembered.
Edmonton’s Fire Next Time where gearing up on the stage at the famous Foufounes Electrique (Fouf for short – fun fact; it means electic ass! Somewhat fitting) by the time we arrived and played a solid set of acoustic fused Punk rock with an Albertan attitude. Fire Next Time were one of the bands that caught my attention on their last pilgrimage to Pouzza back in 2015, and they’ve put out a second album since then. Through tired eyes, we witnessed War On Women destroy the Fouf with some hard hitting Feminist punk rock. Punk has always been about breaking down barriers and fighting for equality. Such on stage energy, such rage. Pouzza fest were dead on with their promotion of women in the scene, from the opening curtains to the closing; everything was bang on.
Despite the recommendations from United Snakes guitarist, Chuck Coles, to check out Smoke Or Fire, closing eyes and fading energy levels had us head home for the night, to rest up for the big day that was to come.
The one gripe we do have with Pouzza, is the time slots allocated to out of town artists. I can’t imagine how annoyed certain groups might be to travel so far, to play for an empty room because everybody is over watching another band at another venue or the time slot is simply impractical for folks to check them out. We still love you though. The program makers are going to be even more challenged next year, when Pouzza celebrates its first decade of existence. No pressure (Ok, some pressure) but we have lofty expectations for your big ten!
Written by Samantha Morris