Montreal, May 22nd, 2019
Morning arrived far too soon for my liking. We had every intention of catching Danny Rebel‘s set at Pouzza Bambino; an early morning toned down jam session for the children to vibe too – another example of what Pouzzafest does right. Include the kids! They are the future and introducing them to music at a young age will lead to the next generation of bands and musicians, maybe even a new style of music or two, too. Every intention! Alas the alarm clock received a swift slap on the nose and was belittled with scornful cuss words that sent it to and I back to the land of slumber.
I arose in a panic several hours later and pulled on whatever garments could be found scattered on the floor, and ran out the door. Thankfully, we arrived at the Fouf mere moments before United Snakes began their noon set at the Pouzza Barbecue. With a slight chill in the air on an otherwise nice, blue skied day, the United Snakes, a collaboration between members of The Creepshow and Gallows Bound, poured their hearts out with some great folk punk acoustic tunes. Now, if you’re familiar with the most recent release from The Creepshow, the first to feature Chuck Coles on guitar, you’ll know that the man has riffs for days and days, and that is also evident here, only now he can add voice to his songs too. And if you haven’t heard the latest The Creepshow record, you really need to. Now. Stop reading this and go! This will still be here when you get back. United Snakes were my favorite discovery at last year’s festival, where they play as a threesome on the terrace of the Katacombes, and this time they brought an upright bass player and a spiffy new self-titled Ep with them.
Coles attempted to raffle off an iPhone to the hotdog chomping, beer swillin’ patio punks, with all proceeds from the sale being donated to Dans La Rue, an organization that helps the homeless of Montreal. Their set was short and sweet, but great and very memorable. Personally, I hope these Snakes will be an annual inclusion on the festival bill. Following them up was Elissa Janelle Velveteen, with her acoustic guitar and later in the set, a friend with a Cello. At least, I think it was a cello. Whatever it was, the duo enchanted the gathering with their melodies and had everybody ready to get up, fight through their hangovers and hit up the main stage.
Instead of seeing .The Anti-Queens, veterans of the Toronto punk scene, we were greeted with a late soundcheck from Strung Out, who would be playing later in the day. Once The Anti-Queens, the newest member of the Stomp Records camp did start, the high energy from these four rocking ladies was certainly what we all needed, as some of us were still partied out from the first night of bands. With noticeable influences from Joan Jett and L7 shining through as they powered through each song. The Anti-Queens offer up a nice throwback to an older era of rock n’ roll, infused with a good amount of attitude and an anti-authoritarian veneer. Definitely something to look out for and as luck would have, they will be back in Montreal to play the ’77 festival later in the year, as well as at Montebello Rock and will be playing the opening slot when The Addicts roll into their hometown, too. Their first full-length and following up to their Ep should see the light of day this fall.
Speaking of old-timey rock n’ roll, next came the rollicking rockin’ Alex Brown & The Hepcats. Like a throwback to the 50’s era with some psychobilly blended in, these ‘Cats had people swinging and dancing around, having a grand ol’ time. Sharp dressed and full of fun. The Doped Up Dollies were next and were not shy at all being in front of a large audience. These girls call what they play, double dutch, northern Soul, Ska, Reggae. The Doped Up Dollies, comprised of twelve members, managed to fit on an already crowded stage. Previously back up singers for Big D And The Kids Table, now with Bid D and the gang as their band, they stepped it up, bringing tight harmonies full of positivity in this ever changing world. Dressed in matching attire with a classy pin up look, these gals gained many new fans quite quickly. With the song “Make Your Own Sunshine” is was what we were all doing, hoping to see any sign of that elusive big orange ball in the sky and with it being a bit of an overcast day, we relied of the Dollies to provide the heat.
Ogikubo Station, a simple melodic duo featuring solo artist Maura Weaver and musician Mike Park from the Bruce Lee Band and Skankin’ Pickle and Direct Hit! followed that up before handing the stage back over to Big D And The Kids Table. Despite being Bostonians; the natural enemy of everything and anything Montreal, Big D is a big fan of playing Montreal and was quick to note that his band had their first break here, and have always looked forward to playing here. Their second album cover even featured a photograph taken outside the Salle de L’X, and now defunct venue that some of the older folks might remember. Their set was nearly tarnished by the local green haired, Ed the sock lookalike clown that seems to climb onto the stage and ruin every single punk show in the city. Security really needs this idiot’s mugshot hung up backstage to keep him from wrecking future sets. Buddy! We get it, you need attention, but leave the stage for the bands people paid to see. Nobody wants to hear from you. Nobody. Alas, Big D and companies cover of “Freeze Up” was otherwise grandiose and a highlight of their set.
One of the greatest bands to ever grace the Fat Wreck Cords roster took the stage next, Strung Out, and the park was now jam packed with people from all sorts of backgrounds. Obviously many had wondered in off the street just to see what was happening and they made for an amusing spectacle as business suits stood beside studded vests stood besides hijabs. Some ran the moment Strung Out’s guitars let out their first licks but others stayed, at least for a beer, before heading home to their smooth jazz playlists or whatever it is banker types listen to. Their loss, because Strung Out were solid. For a while, I regarded them as a great studio act with an so-so live show, but the last few times I’ve seen them, I haven’t be able to say that. Like a fine wine, they’ve gotten better with age.
From their set opening track, “Nowheresville” to “Matchbook”, it was clear that Montreal was in for a treat. Vocalist Jason Cruz was solid, in his too-tight leather jacket, while guitarist Jake Kiley jumped about the stage like he did the first time I saw them way back in the mid 90s. Fan favorites such as “Velvet Alley” and my personal favorite, “Bring Out Your Dead” (Oh the highschool daze), made the setlist, too, and the crowd moshed and danced and surfed about in response. As it would turn out, they were witnessing one of the better sets on the weekend. They played back to back covers, too, which was neat – especially seeing what they played; No Use For A Name‘s “Soulmate” (which I heard covered three times by three different artists over the weekend” and Ozzy Osbourne‘s “Bark At The Moon”.
You could feel the anticipation growing as the crowd packed in anywhere they could fit to see The Planet Smashers. Shoes laced up tight all ready to skank up a storm once again. No matter if it was your first or your thirtieth time experiencing them live, they truly portray “Life Of The Party”. At first glance, it might have seemed odd to many to see them headline the main stage over Strung Out, but once the rowdy, high energy locals got going, it was evident that this was the right decision. The good vibes that were had were incredible, and everybody was moving. People that had never heard of the Smashers were suddenly dancing in the beer sodden grass and dirt, while the brass section, keys, guitars, bass and drums propelled to new levels of fun. That is what The Planet Smashers are! Fun!
A large portion of their set came from their newest album, “Too Much Information”, which is an incredible record, by the by, but many a classic track from the groups impressive back catalog rang out across the streets of Montreal. Hopefully the condo dwellers in the vicinity have soundproof glass or a sense of fun less the Pouzza party suffer the same nonsense as the Evenko “big three” are facing from the boring, fun-hating residents of St.Lambert. (A story for another day, kids). By the time the stage lights dimmed and the main stage shut down for the night, the mighty Smashers must have recruited a whole barrage of new fans.
The paying customers now had a choice of avenues to explore at various venues across town, my path lead me to the Foufounes Electrique for Samiam‘s set. A choice apparently shared by many, because the building was now rapidly approaching capacity. What took place next was a jaw-dropping display that I’m not sure I was expecting. Somehow, I had managed to have lived this many days without ever sharing an evening with Samiam and I long for the day I can spend another intimate evening with them. They were spectacular in every way, even though the vocals were a little low in the mix, or at least they were from my vantage point. No matter, the gathered rockers sang along loud enough to make up for it. Samiam were nothing short of fantastic. I had hoped that there re-issued albums would be available but luckily for my wallet, they weren’t.
Quebec City’s Get The Shot were up next, which was our cue to head upstairs to find a perch to watch from. I love my Hardcore, but I can’t say the same for the would-be ninjas that seem to come out to shows instead of spend a few hours in an MMA gym. Whatever. Knock yourselves out (!!). One person that had been to the gym though, was frontman Jean-Philippe Lagace, who bulged like the Hulk on stage while spitting venom at the spin-kicking, fist throwing ninjas below. The usual speeches were given, on how this is a space for all races, genders and sexes and such, that you would expect to hear at any given Hardcore gig, as Get The Shot did what they do. Stage diving was rampant as the intensity was raised to heavy levels for the first time of the festival. Every year, one, two, maybe even three hardcore or metal bands find their way onto the Pouzza line-up, and honestly, I’d like to see more. (Bring back Ringworm!) I can only think of a fistful of hardcore bands that use anti-religious symbols on stage (or on their guitars in this case) and I haven’t quite gotten used to that yet. Get The Shot were solid and thoroughly vicious as they bashed out their set.
Finally, an hour past midnight and fifteen hours into the day, came Iron Reagan. Yes oh yes! I had been lucky enough to witness vocalist Tony Foresta’s other band, Municipal Waste, during their Pouzafest set and was highly eager to see if the same energy levels and crowd mischief would repeat itself on the night. I must say, it fell short of the mark, but that Municipal Waste show was sheer madness. Now, Iron Reagan were incredible, don’t get me wrong; and the place was still packed from the back wall all the way to the stage. People flung themselves off the stage with reckless abandon and surfed over one hell of an intense mosh pit. That was almost more fun to see than watching the band. Almost. But not really. During the aforementioned Municipal Waste set; drunken fans that should have been cut off at the bar gathered up all the toilet paper that the Fouf’s bathroom’s contained and flung it about the venue. It rained ass-wipe much of their set. Several bog rolls were flung during Reagan’s set but without the same intensity or fun – probably because their set was so late into the night and everybody was too tired or hammered to fully let loose.
After the first song, “Eat Shit”, Tony Foresta asked the head of house to stop using the strobe lights, stating that he was high on mushrooms and the lights were “freaking him out”. If he was, in fact, off his ass on magic shroomies, you couldn’t tell. Reagan were lit or… on point or… whatever the cool kids of today say. Fuckers. Their current buzz words have probably already changed to something even more annoying before I finished this sentence. Reagan bashed out nine songs, including the ever-awesome and sadly way too relatable titled track, “Miserable Failure”, finished with “Glocking Out”, or at least they thought they had until the crowd demanded they return for one last track. And they did, and despite other shows still going down the city, some announced and other secret shows, my night ended as the final notes of “Eye Gore” rang out of the amplifiers.
I was done. Dead. And headed for the night bus and a long walk to bed, only to sleep off the booze overkill and do it all over again the follow day. What is it they say about the dictionary definition of insanity again? And how many records did I buy? My credit card bill is going to suck!
Written and photographed by Samantha Morris and Kieron Yates