Road Report: Pouzza FestSteve O - June 5, 2016
So I spent the other weekend in the great city of Montréal for Pouzza Fest. While the weather was absolutely perfect for Pouzza weekend, it turned out that it actually snowed the week before. We lucked out there. The uniquely named Pouzza Fest is a portmanteau of pizza and poutine, that famously delicious Montréal cuisine of fries, gravy, and cheese. And yes, I did get vegan poutine in Montréal. I also went to 8 museums and walked all over the city. And then there were the 27 bands I saw throughout the Pouzza weekend. So let’s talk about that.
The Museum of the Day: Yeah, that’s right, there’s a museum of the day category. None more punk. Jardin Botanique, is the expansive and beautiful botanic garden. It might seem contradictory in a northern city with such long winters, but the Jardin Botanique is wonderfully well sculpted with different themed gardens throughout. While the Chinese Garden was closed, both the Japanese and First Nations Gardens exhibit both the plants, traditional architecture, and plenty of information to learn about their respective cultures. There’s an arboretum at one end, with trees grouped by family, and an Insectarium, a small museum focused solely on those ubiquitous critters.
The Unknown Band You Gotta Hear: Okay, I guess we’ll talk about the music. Hopefully you’ve become familiar with Boston’s Trophy Lungs, since we featured their debut LP on our bracket last year, but if not, it’s a great time to reacquaint yourself. Playing that style of gruff pop-punk that’s so prevalent, and awesome if I say so myself, these days, Trophy Lungs blast out heartfelt anthems. Think of Dillinger Four if they were from Boston and shared the working class ethos of some of Beantown’s more famous names like Dropkick Murphys or Street Dogs. With songs honoring their working class roots and deceased friends, you know their hearts are in the right place.
Also worth checking out is San Francisco’s Cut Up. Playing at Theatré Sainte-Catherine, which sounds really classy but was basically about the same size as the Subterranean. Pop punk at a breakneck pace, they covered Latterman’s “Fear and Loathing on Long Island”, doing a spot on job in the process. If you dig that upbeat style, with a bit of grit on it, you’ll be into Cut Up. Fun and fast, I’d definitely recommend checking them out.
The Highlights: Friday was the longest day – I saw 12 bands – but it was also the day with the most small, lesser known, bands. One of the more well-known is Toronto’s Brutal Youth. I know I’ve written about them on here before, so hopefully you’ve listened to them over and over again by now. Playing Kid Dynamite-esque hardcore, Brutal Youth have an unrestrained energy level to them. Vocalist Patty is one of the most energetic frontmen I’ve ever seen. Running all over the stage, jumping up and down, constantly hitting himself in the head with the mic (he was bleeding by the end) and belting out short, bombastic, hardcore anthems, he’s the perfect example of an engaging frontman. I’ve been lucky enough to see Brutal Youth four times now, and every time I come away reminded how great they are live.
Also playing Friday, starting at 1:45 AM, were Montréal punks Oh My Snare! For the sake of full disclosure, I booked them a show in Chicago, consider them good friends, and hung out with them a lot throughout the weekend. But even if that weren’t the case, I’d still be talking about how great they are. Catchy, melodic punk with lots of great hooks and a barrage of vocals, they played only one song from last year’s Høyeste Gang; the rest of the set was made up of new songs. Høyeste Gang did pretty well in our bracket last year, and they’re currently recording for a new record that you can expect to do well again, if Friday night’s (or technically Saturday morning’s) set was any indication.
The Museum of the Day: While not a museum per se; the park atop the hill overlooking the city is certainly the equivalent of one. Mont Royal is the highest point on the island and you can walk right up to the top of it. From up there, you get an expansive vista of downtown Montréal and the river beyond. There’s a large overlook at one point, where everyone gathers to enjoy the view on nice days. The park was designed by Frederik Law Olmsted, who’s also responsible for New York’s Central Park. Much like Central Park, Mont Royal is a jewel of its city; in fact, buildings on the island are restricted in that they can be no higher than Mont Royal.
The Unknown Band You Gotta Hear: Saturday was unique in that none of the bands I saw really fell into that small unknown category. The Penske File are probably the closest, playing a folk punk influenced style, though they were entirely electric at Pouzza’s outdoor stage. Ray Rocket played some Teenage Bottlerocket songs on an acoustic guitar, which was a really cool medium to hear those songs on. And then the Dreadnoughts played. I honestly have no idea regarding their level of popularity. They got a full hour set time and it seemed like a lot of people were into them, but they haven’t been a full time band for a while, and it seems like some great Canadian bands don’t get their due notice down in the States, so I’m gonna put the Dreadnoughts into this category.
The Dreadnoughts are a self-admitted polka band, so it’s pretty clear their music is going to be a lot of fun. With the additions of a mandolin and violin to their punk sound, they’ve got the polka-punk combination down pat. And they’re a lot of fun live; there were big smiles on the band members’ faces the whole set. During the sea-shanty – yes, there was a sea-shanty – the drummer crowd-surfed out to the beer truck in back to get a beer, and then back to the stage. We were reminded that “Polka Never Dies,” and we lamented the lack of “Poutine” in the States. So yes, as is probably quite clear, the band doesn’t take themselves too seriously. But they have a seriously unique sound and don’t get the recognition they deserve. So go listen to their records, which will bring a smile to your face—at least until you realize they’re not a very active band and you don’t know when you’ll have the chance to see them live. I’m so glad I was finally able to.
The Highlights: I got into Night Birds so much more after seeing them live. They played another great set at Pouzza, with their spastic hardcore punk bursts, with twinges of surf mixed in. Their high energy performance kicked off three solid sets in a row at Foufounes Électriques, affectionately referred to as Foufs. This was one of the larger venues for some of the larger headlining acts, though it was still a relatively small space. Think Double Door size, but extremely dimly lit and with a fog machine haze floating around. And it would get packed. Following Night Birds came the Suicide Machines, playing their 1996 debut Destruction by Definition in full. Jay Navarro is one of the most engaging frontmen I’ve seen; he spent the set constantly reaching out and climbing out wherever possible to interact with the crowd. And even though this was more the ska-era Suicide Machines, they had a guest keyboardist for this set, Navarro still brought some of those intimidating facial expressions he’s so masterful at that fit in better with late-era Suicide Machines or Hellmouth. As a big fan of that more hardcore influenced Suicide Machines era, I would’ve enjoyed seeing a few more of those songs. But Destruction by Definition is a great record, and it was a lot of fun to see those songs. And they even played the Minor Threat cover at the end.
The big highlight of Saturday, and pretty much the whole weekend for me, was finally getting to see the Sainte Catherines live. Oh yeah, and they played 2006’s Dancing for Decadence in full. I never got to see them live before and the Montréal band called it quits back in 2012. If you don’t know them think basically Montréal’s answer to the Lawrence Arms. Hugo Mudie’s gruff vocals lead the way over some catchy, Hot Water Music-esque pop punk and raspy sing-along anthems. And their hometown Montréal crowd was definitely engaged and responsive. This was their first show since breaking up, and the crowd showed them plenty of love, packing in right up to the stage and shouting along every word with Mudie. I’ve always felt the Sainte Catherines never got the attention they deserved down in the States. As such, you might not be all that familiar with them. But if you’re into either of the bands mentioned above, you’ll likely enjoy the Sainte Catherines. Let’s hope this show is a sign of more to come.
The Museum of the Day: Montréal was founded back in 1642. It’s an old city, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the part of town referred to as Vieux-Montréal, or Old Montréal. Here the buildings are tiny and close together, there are brick streets and small sidewalks, and the place is thronged with tourists visiting all the gift shops. One place that’s not overly crowded (for reasons completely unknown)? The Pointe-à- Callière Museum of Archaeology and History. Not only is it a totally immersive exhibit into Montréal’s archaeological past, but the museum itself stands on the site where Montréal was founded. And you can literally see Montréal’s history just by walking around in the basement. That’s because Pointe-à- Callière is an active archaeological site. There’s the walls from when it was bank building in the 1800s and remnants from the forts and garrisons of the 16th century. And the story doesn’t just tell the Euro-Canadian history of Montréal. It also explains how the Iroquois used the land, back when it was referred to as the village of Hochelaga. It’s a fascinating and immersive trip into the history of what we now call Montréal, with the primary evidence and direct sources used to tell it.
The Unknown Band You Gotta Hear: Blurry Eyes, featuring two members of the Sainte Catherines, played their very first show at Theatré Sainte-Catherine. Definitely in that same vibe of gruff pop-punk, they certainly seemed like a band that had been playing a lot more shows before this one. Looking forward to what the future brings from them. Toronto’s School Damage played fast, fun, and raucous punk rock. If you’re into the kind of bands that don’t take themselves too seriously at all, School Damage might be your kind of thing. La Armada should be well known, especially since they’re a Chicago band. One of the heaviest bands of the weekend, they’ve perfected the grimy hardcore punk with hints of thrash and grind mixed in. But since they’re a local band, you’ve probably already seen them live at least once.
I’ve written about them a lot before on here, so hopefully you’re familiar with them by now, but Wasted Potential was one of the best bands of the weekend. Unrelentingly fast and short punk songs, they’ve got an unbridled energy on stage. They flew through songs of their self-titled and Nervous Conditions EPs. It’s great because so often the energy that seems inherent on a record doesn’t carry over to the live performance as you expect it. The Wasted Potential you get on record is exactly like the one you get live. There’s that snotty sense of humor, that fun punk rock attitude, and that energy and speed. I’d been wanting to see them live since discovering and repeatedly listening to their 2014 self-titled EP. They definitely lived up to what I was imagining and I can’t wait to see them play again.
The Highlights: See the above paragraph for my ravings about Wasted Potential. Easily one of my favorite bands that is nowhere close enough to being as well-known as they should and their live set was spectacular. The Creeps, out of Ottawa, played a quick set with a fair amount of songs pulled from their latest record, Eulogies, which earned a place on our bracket two years ago. They had a majority of the crowd singing along the whole time. The songs are catchy, and it’s easy to find yourself singing along whether you meant to or not. San Francisco’s Get Dead, played later in the night, overlapping a bit with Scotland’s the Murderburgers. I decided to stick around for all of Get Dead’s set and catch about 15 minutes of the Murderburgers. Hindsight shows I made a great decision, and this is not to discredit the Murderburgers, who put on a great set of speedy pop punk. But Get Dead, who I was familiar with as this pseudo-acoustic/electric punk band straddling that folk punk line, put on an amazing and energetic set. Eschewing any folk/acoustic elements for a straight ahead punk rock vibe, they blazed through their 45 minute set by being completely in your face. I was blown away by the intensity of it, and there’s few bands that can sound as good whether they’re playing a more chill folk punk or a raging punk rock.
Closing out Pouzza Fest was Brendan Kelly. If you know me, you know my obsession with the Lawrence Arms/Falcon, so it should be clear that Brendan Kelly’s set was going to be one of my favorites. With his typical sense of humor and crowd engagement, Kelly played an hour long set of acoustic ditties. Every song was accompanied with sing-alongs from the crowd, as Kelly played a mix of Lawrence Arms, Falcon, and Wandering Birds songs. He played the songs you’d expect him to: “Quincentuple Your Money,” “Like a Record Player,” “Seventeener,” and “The Ramblin’ Boys of Pleasure.” But he also through some deep cuts in there, such as “These Pigs Seem to be Getting the Best of Me” and a cover of Jawbreaker’s “Kiss the Bottle.” He also pulled off playing “Hasselhoff Cheeseburger;” you know, the one on the new Falcon record where he sings absurdly fast. I’d already seen him do this at the record release show at Reckless, so it wasn’t a big surprise, but it is impressive to see him turn a song that, in theory, shouldn’t be that good acoustic, sound really good. All told, it was a perfect way to end an extremely fun weekend.
The Bands: Here’s a list of all the bands I saw during Pouzza weekend. Check them out, buy their records, or book them a show.
Blurry Eyes: blurryeyes.bandcamp.com
Brendan Kelly: facebook.com/thelawrencearms / facebook.com/mofukkinfalcon
Brutal Youth: facebook.com/brutalyouth / brutalyouth.bandcamp.com
The Creeps: facebook.com/capitalcitycreeps / thecreeps.bandcamp.com
Cut Up: facebook.com/cutupsf / cutupsf.bandcamp.com
Dead To Me: facebook.com/deadtomesf / deadtome.bandcamp.com
Deja Mort: facebook.com/dejamortmusique / dejamort.bandcamp.com
The Dreadnoughts: facebook.com/thedreadnoughts
Five Minute Major: facebook.com/fiveminmajor / fiveminutemajor.bandcamp.com
Flatfoot 56: facebook.com/flatfoot56
Get Dead: facebook.com/getdeadband / getdead.bandcamp.com
Get The Shot: facebook.com/gettheshothc / gettheshot.bandcamp.com
Insubordination: facebook.com/pages/Insubordination/140905159285060 / insubordination.bandcamp.com
La Armada: facebook.com/armadahardcore / armadahardcore.bandcamp.com
A Minor Revolution: facebook.com/AMinorRevolution / aminorrevolution.bandcamp.com
The Murderburgers: facebook.com/burgercore / themurderburgers.bandcamp.com
Night Birds: facebook.com/NGHTBRDS / night-birds.bandcamp.com
Oh My Snare!: facebook.com/ohmysnare / ohmysnare.bandcamp.com
The Penske File: facebook.com/thepenskefile / thepenskefileband.bandcamp.com
Ray Rocket: facebook.com/teenagebottlerocketofficial
The Sainte Catherines: facebook.com/thesaintecatherines
Scare: facebook.com/scareqc / scareqc.bandcamp.com
School Damage: facebook.com/schooldamage / schooldamage.bandcamp.com
The Suicide Machines: facebook.com/suicidemachinesdetroit
Trophy Lungs: facebook.com/TrophyLungs / trophylungs.bandcamp.com
Wasted Potential: facebook.com/WastedPotential / wastedpotential.bandcamp.com
You Vandal: facebook.com/youvandalfl / youvandal.bandcamp.com