Article by Joelle Laes.
Travelling from Belgium to Montreal was an adventure in itself; a journey for the love of punk. You can read my Road To Pouzza article to hear more, as it gives the perfect intro to this.
If you’ve never heard of Pouzza Fest, then where have you been? It uses the same formula as The Fest and Manchester Punk Festival. Multiple venues participate and there’s pretty much five bands playing at the same time throughout the day; you have to run around town to catch your favourites. Sensible shoes are a must. This makes choosing difficult, though they do try to not have bands in the same sub-genre clash.
It is impossible to describe the whole weekend (especially in the midst of the inevitable post-festival mood crash), so here are my Top 10 moments of the festival, recorded in chronological order. I have selected these based on how the music made me feel, because sometimes that’s more important than an impressive performance.
Hate It Too
Getting back from our Toronto trip later than expected, we rushed to shower to get rid of bus smell and get down to registration, for our wristbands and get to Foufounes in time for Quebec’s Hate It Too. Filled with anxiety we rushed into the venue. With the first notes that warm feeling of happiness came flooding back. By now I’ve only seen this skate-punk band live twice, and twice I’ve been mesmerized by the bass. It’s not just me. Those warm bass tones might have something to do with it, and their phenomenal songwriting skills too, I suppose.
I have been in love with their album Purple Mountains since it came out in 2015. Having recently released a new song Cyanide Teeth, they had me stoked to hear it live. They definitely did not disappoint; I have nothing but love for this band.
It’s my second time seeing this pop-punk ensemble from Chicago in two days! I said I’d give them a second chance, didn’t I? While they got somewhat lost in the lineup at the gig in Toronto, playing at Foufounes with a super-stoked crowd made them shine. For me they were a nice chilled break from all the fast bands and had me nodding along in no time. Despite being referred to as a ‘skate-punk aficionado’, I do quite enjoy some slower punk-rock as well.
A Wilhelm Scream
We pretty much stayed at Foufounes most of the Friday as the lineup there was impeccable. Headlining at the venue was A Wilhelm Scream. Last time I saw them was probably on the main stage at Punk Rock Holiday, but the sound was so awful then that it couldn’t even entice the longtime fan in me. But at Foufounes… Oh boy. Was it mental? Yes. Absolutely. From the first note the crowd parted and the pit started. With us in it. Wristbands got torn off, alcohol was sweated out, faces were accidentally elbowed or booted but it was all good. Let’s say it was an intense way of cuddling each other.
Hitch & Go
Fast forward to Saturday at Cafe Cleopatra: a strip club with a venue upstairs. The setting and rude bar staff put a bit of a damper on the mood but the lineup made up for it. One of my favourites on it was Hitch & Go, a band from Quebec bringing a poppy punk-rock vibe. With an excited local fanbase and excellent live performance, the mood was lifted. Near the end of the set, one of the band members managed to rip his shorts doing near-splits whilst playing guitar. It was a highly energetic and entertaining gig to say the least!
After The Fall
After The Fall’s set was hindered a little by a case of the man-flu. It sounded kind of okay considering the fact that Mike’s face was filled with snot and he could barely breathe. They pushed through and delivered a strong set of emotional songs. From tear-jerkers to rowdy singalongs, they know how to bring it every time I see them. If their songs don’t stir up any emotions in you… you might need to get yourself checked out. As always, After The Fall were one of the highlights of my festival.
This Is A Standoff
With After The Fall behind us, we fast-walked from Theatre to Catacombes. After only having to queue for 10 minutes, we got in. We were even early. Good. Some time to cool down after panicking for no reason about possibly not getting in (story of my life).
Making our way into what seemed like a sauna, I got seriously excited to see This Is A Standoff. How long has it been? 7 years? Far too long. Looking around, I instantly spotted some familiar faces. Up on the balcony, at the bar and at the front right next to me. Surrounded by wonderful people watching a wonderful band: the perfect Saturday night. The set consisted of the perfect mix of old and… not-as-old songs. It’s like they knew exactly which songs I wanted to hear. And it seems it wasn’t just my dream setlist: people went mental. Unfortunately, one of them didn’t quite have the spatial awareness needed to safeguard singer Steve’s teeth. Mouth-sores aside, it was an excellent gig. Some sweaty hugs and catch-ups late and we’re off home happy and tipsy (hipsy?).
Sunday was a day of discoveries. With a schedule that was rather open, we randomly walked into places or followed the recommendations of others.
First on the list of discoveries is Laval from Montreal. They played at Foufounes late afternoon and, as we walk in, I’m instantly intrigued by their performance. One song in and I’m sold. Every bone in my body vibrates with the intense, sludgy and aggressive music they deliver. Having listened to it afterwards on record, I do suggest you catch them live if you can, as that’s where they shine most.
Having marked them on my schedule, I knew Spoilers were a UK band but it didn’t click until I saw them, that I had seen them at Dugstock at the New Cross Inn (UK) two months ago. Aahhh, it was that Spoilers. I blame cocktails for this hole in my memory. Regardless of my totally embarrassing blackout, I seriously enjoyed this set.
Discussions about roundabouts were had on stage, which seemed to please the audience. There was lots of onstage banter, which seems to be a very typical UK thing to do. After a couple songs I found out they’d just toured Canada with Face To Face. How awesome is that?! I highly suggest you take some time out of your busy schedule to listen to them. They absolutely deserve your love and devotion.
Brand New Lungs
One of the last bands of the weekend was Brand New Lungs, another local band from Montreal. Recommended to us by our fellow music nerds Davey and Brian, we couldn’t really say no.
I quite enjoyed their set although, at this point, I was absolutely exhausted. I chose to stand near the back of the crowd for once, to oversee the whole thing and slowly take it all in. After a few highly enjoyable punk-rock tunes with mesmerising vocals, I hear a very familiar intro to a song.
A cover. Before I fully realise what’s going on, I’m dragged to the front for a Much The Same singalong, mixed with hugs and the spilling of many a beer. I stay there until the end of the set with a warm and fuzzy feeling in my tummy. Only music can make me feel this way.
What a perfect way to end the weekend.
It’s all love
I could have added a 10th band… but as I did with my Road To Pouzza article, let’s talk about feelings.
There is nothing better than travelling across the globe, to a city where almost no one knows your name, only to be greeted with such love and kindness. To form friendships and connect with people thousands of miles away from home. Such shared enjoyment of this thing we have in common, is what gets us through life: punk-rock.
If these thoughts and feelings in any way resonate with you.. I highly suggest you take that trip you’ve been thinking about. Whilst the road can be filled with anxious thoughts, I can only nudge you toward the path I’ve walked to get here and realise this for myself. Take that step, book that trip, go see that band, share that love with others. You will never be alone.
To say it in the words of Rebuke:
“That empty seat, that vacant chair made me doubt anyone would ever care
as much as us, and some of you about this beautiful music that we listen to
and though we’re few and far between we sing these songs and share these dreams
and that will always stay perfectly clear to me.”
If you would like to check out some of the incredible bands that played Pouzza Fest, check out the Spotify playlist I’ve made with all my favourite songs:
Article by Joelle Laes.