Pouzza Fest 2019 has come and gone and left me with an achy body, a wicked hangover, and a full heart. It’s such a unique experience in that you have all the grandiosity of a major three day punk festival, but with the intimate, community-oriented good vibes that only the Montreal punk-rock scene can provide; case in point, kicking off the festival with a women’s panel called “Women in the Scene” featuring female artists and members of the music scene speaking about their personal experiences being a woman in the music biz. The panel included Rock Camp for Girls founder, Anlin Fan, Bad Cop/Bad Cop‘s Jennie Cotterill, singer-songwriter Jordan Joyes, reputable publicist punk rocker Melanie Kaye, Greenland Productions‘ Nancy Ross, The Anti-Queens‘ Valerie Knox, and our very own Liz Imperiale, the founder of Bucketlist Music Reviews. The panel was moderated by Turbo-Haus co-founder, Michelle Ayoub. This year’s fest had a huge female presence, to the point where, in my opinion, terms like female artist or female-fronted don’t even need to be mentioned! Props to POUZZA for helping make that the reality.
My Friday blasted off at the beer garden with the riot girl, pop punk, three-part harmonies of So Cal’s Bad Cop/Bad Cop. Their anthemic jammer “Womanchrist” perfectly encapsulates what I was saying in the intro, and their unbridled energy and enthusiasm was legit the best possible way to start off this fest. The pop-punk vibes continued next over at Theatre St Catherine with local act and Bucketlist darlings These Fast Times. The sweaty, fast paced set had vocalist-guitarist Jeffery Vuorela tearing it up on the floor with crowd members while the rest of the band showed a little skin and carried the energy onstage. Few bands I’ve seen recently have more fun than These Fast Times. Late Friday night (I guess early Saturday morning if you wanna be a literal asshole) was reserved for Turbohaus, and while it was a bit of a trek compared to the other venues hosting POUZZA FEST shows, Turbohaus has quickly become my new favourite place to see local shows and I was happy to do the walk. Laval and Dead Tired brought so much fucking heaviness, I was almost compelled to go get checked for a concussion after their sets. Laval frontman Alex Kaluza cruised the floor like a shark smelling blood in the water. I always adore it when the line gets blurred between spectator and performer. “Shakes” sounded even more ferocious than the last time it peeled my face off back in ’17 (my first show review with Bucketlist at the old Turbohaus on Notre Dame, what what!) I’m excited for new material from these guys. Dead Tired (Hamilton, ON) closed out the night, as the initial pangs of exhaustion began to set in (Dead Tired, get it?). I’ve never been punched in the throat, thank Christ, but I imagine it would feel somewhat similar to witnessing Dead Tired live, as these far-from-gentle souls tore the place up! Check their track “Get On Me” and brace yourself for that punch to the throat.
The Anti-Queens kicked off my Saturday with some ferocious, ’90s inspired punk rock. Their intoxicating energy played perfectly to an outdoor festival type crowd and as luck may have it, they’re playing another one later in the summer! Make sure you catch them at 77’Montreal. Montreal darlings Big D and the Kids Table were next on my docket, and it kinda blew my mind that I had never seen them before! They’ve been around since the ’90s and seem to hit Montreal every tour. Big D were clearly in the mood to party, and they injected the audience with a massive dose of big-band ska and kept those rain clouds at bay. Sincere Engineer wasn’t really on my radar going into the festival, but a couple of friends insisted on me checking them out. Wouldn’t you fucking know it! I was pleasantly surprised. Singer-guitarist Deanna Belos plays bedroom, lo-fi garage rock with playful but heartfelt lyrics and an awkwardness that is absolutely charming. Their album Rhombithian has made its way into my regular rotation, and it should be in yours, too. Saturday climaxed at Foufounes Electriques with one of the heaviest performances I’ve witnessed in some time, Iron Reagan. I swore off moshing sometime in my mid twenties, but for this set it was as if Iron Reagan were by some cosmic force compelling me into the mosh pit! Alright fine, it’s not as if I entered the pit like Jon Snow charging the ice walkers! (Did I get that right, Game Of Thrones fans? Probably not…) The point is that I was there, in the shit, and I legit think every human body on the floor was moshing. Vocalist Tony Foresta ensured that the strobe lights were turned off (he was on mushrooms and they were messing with him) and then ripped Foufounes Electrique a new asshole with “Fuck the Neighbors,” and “Miserable Failure,” a fucking Cannibal Corpse cover! We all walked out of Foufs feeling around to make sure our skulls were still intact.
Sunday was by far the busiest day for me, and my body was at this point probably fifty percent poutine and Beaus beer, but I dragged my sorry ass over to the beer garden early to catch locals Danny Rebel and the KGB. Those good-time reggae vibes were just what I needed to perk back up and bask in the sunshine that finally decided to show after the first two cloudy days. Another local act, Kman and the 45’s, highlighted Sunday with a smooth transition from reggae to ska. Kman’s set was pure fire, but it was about way more than just the music that day. Propped in front of the drum riser, centre stage, was the bike of Brian Mac Smith, who passed away last year after a battle with cancer. Brian was the long time drummer of Kman and the 45’s and the face of the Steve’s Music Store drum department. He sold me my first drum kit back in 2003 and was the kindest, most helpful guy every time I went to Steve’s. In a festival so full of highlights and beautiful moments, this one by far resonated the most.
Festival headliner Andrew W.K proved he still knows how to throw a party, albeit briefly, as it felt like the set lasted no more than half an hour. With all the antics between songs and hitting the stage late, it was hard for the crowd to get into any rhythm. Still, “She Is Beautiful, “ “Fun Night” and “Party Hard” (with its 96 second countdown) are songs that put smiles on faces. The positive energy that Andrew W.K puts out there is heart warming. But I’d trade all of that in to get to witness Pears one more time! They closed out the festival at Foufs and fuck, did they ever do it in style. Pears are one of those bands that give zero fucks about what you think, and singer Zach Quinn will run you over with ferocity if you turn your head for one second. Just as Pears’ set was hitting full throttle, someone on the periphery of the mosh pit passed out and fell face first to the floor. To the band’s credit, they immediately stopped playing and waited for the crowd member to get medical attention. Once the band was informed that the individual was going to be ok, they immediately began to make jokes about it and proceeded to rip up the Foufs stage once again. I can’t think of a more fitting metaphor to sum up what being punk is all about.
Written by Lee Ferguson
Photography by Danny Donovan & Michael Kovacs
*edited by Kate Erickson