While the rest of the city ran around all night in the cold gallery-hopping and getting cultured during Nuit Blanche, a winter wonderland festival held in Montreal every year involving bars and clubs being open all night, public transportation running all night, and outdoor light shows, about eighty lucky punks spent their night delightfully sweaty, bruised, and soaked in beer as they partied at the final night of Buckfest, one of Montreal’s best and longest-running punk rock festivals. After one hundred bands spread over thirty nights of rock ‘n’ roll madness, the fourteenth edition of the festival went out with a definite bang as Buckfest organizer Starbuck brought two acts of Montreal punk royalty on stage for the final night’s performance: Ripcordz, and Vagabonds.
The crowd assembled slowly at L’Escogriffe, giving us the chance to quench our thirst and mildly numb ourselves to prepare for some action in the pit. When Rat Patrol hit their first chord, the audience was ready to rumble. Playing fast and hard guitar with wicked gang vocals, Rat Patrol’s sound reminded me of early Jughead’s Revenge and Screeching Weasel stirred into some hardcore. They were clearly having a great time on stage, and the crowd went nuts in the small pit, especially for the song “Japanese Gameshow.” Audience members who knew the songs would occasionally grab the mic and sing along. Their songs were short, intense, and typically under two minutes. Even so, their set went on for around 45 minutes; I think they might have played every song they know. After about twelve songs, the crowd lost a bit of energy, but overall it was a great start to the night.
Next up was Montreal’s power pop-punk band Rock n Roll Television, who have been fixtures in the scene here since around 2006. Channeling the best elements of pop-punk in the vein of MxPx or Mr T Experience, RNR-TV are impressive to watch live; they slammed out every song in super tight formation, with great backing vocals including a lot of perfectly-executed “whoa-oh-ohs.” I was impressed by Huge Trudeïch’s work on bass – he was a master of speed and precision without using a pick. Drummer Disaster Dave had some awesome moments as well, and at times you couldn’t even see the hands of Max Television and Hall as they literally blurred over their instruments. Highlights of the set included the songs “My Brain,” “Shark Attack,” and crowd favourite, “Get Away.” If you’re into fast, powerful pop-punk, definitely check these guys out!
I have to confess, the moment I was waiting for all night was to see one of my favourites, Canada’s punk legends Ripcordz, take the stage. My very first exposure to Ripcordz (about a million years ago) was one of the most punk-rock moments of my life, and I can’t talk to you about how awesome this band is without sharing the story first: So, back in the day, they played in my hometown at an all-ages punk club called The Millennium. Similar to L’Esco, the stage was pretty small – really just a bit of raised platform shoved into the corner of the room. On one side there was a heating vent surrounded by a box of drywall coming down from the ceiling. Ripcordz were a couple of songs into their set as the crowd thrashed away when suddenly the bassist, Alex Gauthier, jumped up in an awesome head-bang move and CRACKED his head on the sharp corner of the heating duct. He immediately crashed to the floor in a heap, and everything screeched to a halt as people rushed over to help pick him up and untangle him from his bass. There was a two-inch gash across his skull which was totally gushing blood in a thick stream down his shaved head and into his eyes. After a minute or two of sopping up the gore, he got back up, looked over at the rest of the band, and they picked up exactly at the moment where they’d stopped, like nothing had happened! They finished the entire set, with blood and sweat painting the left side of his face and dripping down over his chin onto the floor the whole time. Occasionally he would flick his head to the side to spray off some of the blood that was getting in his eye. It was SO BADASS!!! I had never seen such intense rock’n’roll showmanship in my life, and the band has been a favourite ever since.
Seeing Ripcordz again was just as great as that first time. No one ended up in the emergency room during this show, but even without any ‘unintentional special effects’, the show was bloody perfect. Opening with the anthem “X,” the pit reassembled in front of the stage and didn’t stop until the end. The crowd turned into almost 100% mosh pit for “Hardcore,” and everyone sang along to the “Oi! Oi! Oi!s” as well as to the chorus “It must come down!” of the incredible political manifesto “The Fence.” Ripcordz played all the favourites, including “Your Mother Wears Army Boots,” “You Are Not Alone,” “Anarchy,” and probably one of the best-known punk songs in Canada, “Youth War.”
Front man Paul Gott kept us entertained with anecdotes about the songs (like “24” and “Punk Nation”), and bassist Matty Forty-five (who also plays pick-less) and drummer Alex Roy crushed every song. The current line up obviously has some pedigree, despite a lot of changes in musicians over the years. At one point Paul told us, “Our newest album is our best on yet, and you wanna know why? Because we’ve been practicing for 34 FUCKING YEARS!!” After all this time, it shows – Ripcordz are as intense as ever, and their show was fantastic.
To finish off the night was another group of Montreal punk-gods, Vagabonds. Singing in both French and English, these guys have a pedigree almost as extensive as Ripcordz. They’ve been tearing up the stages of Montreal since about 1989, and have so many hits it’s impossible to name them all. This is classic punk rock, pure and simple. Their gang vocals and sick drum rolls inspired even the softest spectator to join in the mosh pit (that was me, and I got belted in the stomach by some dude falling down. It was awesome!). Hits like “Walk On” and “The Stand” got great reactions from the crowd, and the pit got pretty intense. At one point, the guitarist Johnny and bassist Kevin traded places, and the result was totally impressive. Singer Doog summarized it by saying, “On est fou en ce moment-là!” I am not familiar enough with their song titles to give a play by play, but I can say the set didn’t waver in energy for one second. Finishing at around 1:30am, this group of veteran punks tore into every song with the energy of a thousand nu-punk bands all rolled into one.
All in all, it was a glorious ending to this year’s Buckfest, and I, for one, was glad to have witnessed these two legendary Montreal punk bands share the stage again.
Written by Kate Erickson
Photography by Stacy Basque