Gutser’s EP launch party at Montreal’s Turbo Haus the past weekend was a fairly solid crash course on what you can expect from a punk rock show in this town. The whole thing ran on “punk rock time” – which means not on time. Much of the crowd was made up of friends of the bands and members of other local punk groups, and everybody was drunk. If you were to take a trip outside the venue into any of the neighboring St. Henri alleys, you’d have been sure to find small clusters of punks doing whatever it is that makes the elderly afraid of them.
Initially, this was supposed be a tournament of sorts, with bands facing off in a song versus song format and allowing the crowd to choose winners. As there was a last minute drop out, this format was abandoned in favour of a more straightforward lineup. So it was in that relative scene newcomers Guitarfire 100 (you know you want to write that in emojis) took the stage just after 9 o’clock. This power-pop duo, consisting of Patrick Le Barbenchon of Summerled fame on the drums, and Eric Muir of Eric Muir fame on the guitar and lead vocals, oozes emo melody from every pore. Le Barbenchon’s spastic but tight drum style accompanies Muir’s fluid guitar playing perfectly. Though ultimately the live set-up would have benefited greatly from the addition of bass, the boys still powered through an engaging set with tunes ready to make any scene kid’s heart melt.
The amount of different emotions that circled the room during Empty Mickeys’ set was staggering. Lead man Bob Borracho was about as drunk as I’ve ever seen a man be while still keeping himself upright and holding the full weight of a guitar around his neck. You’d be drunk too if you were being deported. As this was probably the boys’ last set (at least for the time being), they made it a long one, and even threw in a couple of covers that were so punk rock that I’ve never heard of them. This crowd was having the time of their lives, moshing and dancing and singing along to choruses of “Life sucks!” and “I’m on a bender!” Borracho’s guitar was out of tune and his rhythm was hilarious, but the man’s got soul for days and his short songs always hit home, whether being sad white-kid emo singalongs or speedy hardcore anthems.
Dizastra provided the night’s most straight-forward set. Decked in shirts repping classic titans like Metallica and Behemoth and sporting V-neck guitars, the quartet played a set of ripping thrash songs with laser precision. It was funny to see the clothing colours in the crowd shift from generally neutral to almost overwhelmingly black. Ah, that metal uniform. Unlike the other bands, there was no lovable goofiness in their playing. They were all business, firing off riff after riff of crunchy metal goodness. Frontman Matteo Conti provided melodic guitar leads and hell demon screams. Definitely a band for the metal community to watch.
And then there’s Gutser. Gutser is more than a band. Gutser is an aesthetic. These guys understand all facets of entertainment. The move to call their EP and release party “Gutser Sucks” was an inspired one, and that particular chant reigned throughout the night. Frontman Chris Aitkens spent most of the evening supporting the other bands while decked-out in a suit topped with a classic fedora adorned with flowers (say that ten times fast.) Halfway through his own set, however, his outfit deteriorated to a t-shirt and a pair of hot pants that gave me weird feelings.
The set not only included short, pummeling hardcore bangers like “Are You Ashamed?” and “The Spilling Joke,” but it also included an episode of “Gutser TV” which was basically various clips of the band playing video games, drinking things like beer and laundry soap, smashing things and smashing each other. It was some of the best TV I’ve ever seen. They then invited Conti onto the stage to sit at a table and eat a pizza while they played around him. So he ate a pizza (he shared, don’t worry) and they played. It was magical. They also made extensive fun of poor bar manager Sergio, who really just wanted to mop up and go home but he couldn’t because these darned punk-rock bands wouldn’t stop playing.
This was definitely one of the loosest shows I’ve attended in a while, and it reminded me how much love I have for this city’s punk rock scene. It’s never just about the music, it’s about the people and the moments you make with them. These shows are always unique and when you say that you were there, you inevitably say it with pride.
Written by Syd Ghan
*edited by Kate Erickson