Pouzza Fest has grown considerably over it’s six year existence, and has rightly established itself as a premiere punk rock festival with international acclaim. This makes me all the more terrible as a Montrealer, musician, and human being, since this was my first time attending the festival.
In my ever-continuing quest of self-improvement, to right this horrible social atrocity I finally decided to take in the sights, sounds, and smells of this Montreal musical institution; there was a lot to take in.
The first step of my journey to Pouzza self-improvement would take place at the Foufounes Electriques with an evening predominantly presided over by hardcore bands. But these were not just any hardcore bands; tonight’s show was a raucous celebration of the genre’s past and present, with legendary headliner Sick Of It All proudly celebrating thirty years of stage-dive-inducing music alongside A Perfect Murder, Get The Shot, Brutal Youth, and many more over the course of the day .
I got in just in time to catch the start of Brutal Youth’s set, a band whose name I recognized, but wasn’t familiar with at the time. Contrary to what the band name may imply, Brutal Youth are neither brutal in the conventional sense, nor youthful in the literal. But what they lack in brutality and youthfulness, they exude in energy and fun. Their sound leans far more to the punk side compared to the other bands on the bill, bringing to mind a mix of band’s like Gorilla Biscuits, 7 Seconds, and old-school skate punk. The highlight of their set didn’t come from their music, but instead in the form of a marriage proposal when singer Matty brought his girlfriend on stage mid-set and popped the question. It was a sweet and tender moment, with most in attendance momentarily breaking their hardened facades and sharing in the heart warming scene.
Quebec city’s Get The Shot are unquestionably one of the fastest rising stars of the Quebec and Canadian hardcore scenes. The quick influx of attendees made the general anticipation visible and palpable as the group got ready to start. There is something unmistakably primal about them; from the first ominous note and pounding beat, the floor became a war zone of fists and excitement. They make me more than a little nostalgic for the days I started going to hardcore shows and watching local bands like In Dying Days and A Death For Every Sin draw huge numbers of enthusiastic fans. If this is a sign of things to come, our scene is in good hands.
Another band that I should have placed on my aforementioned nostalgia list is A Perfect Murder, who were next to grace the stage. The band’s 2004 Victory Records debut Unbroken thrust Quebec hardcore into the international spotlight and cemented their legacy at home. Legacy unfortunately doesn’t always translate to attendance, as the crowd noticeably thinned between sets. Regardless of this, A Perfect Murder commanded the stage and force fed everyone their brand of metallic, groove-laden hardcore. Even with the decline in attendance, the pit woke up at key points, and the audience returned their own offering of violence to the band. Given their general inactivity these days, they still put on a strong performance right across the board.
It didn’t take long for the room to fill to capacity, and the undeniable anticipation for the night’s headliner sat heavily in the air alongside the scent of sweat and alcohol. Foufounes served as the perfect backdrop for the show, offering a distinctly intimate and gritty setting for what would surely be a festival highlight. A quick glance around the room was testament enough to their legacy as the age of attendees ranged anywhere from the possibly underaged to the almost certainly geriatric. I shit you not, there was a guy who looked like he was pushing seventy years old, decked out in SOIA gear and ready to do back flips into the crowd. Sick Of It All’s thirty-year career is almost unfathomable by today’s standards, yet here they were, still one of the strongest forces of the genre today, and still celebrating that they don’t give a fuck. From the first note of “Take The Night Off” the room erupted into absolute chaos, where watching the band took a backseat to staring in awe at the pit from time to time. So in other words: a perfect hardcore show. It feels trite to say this, but SOIA play with a vigor and energy that you don’t see in 99% of bands half their age. Lou Koller (vocals), Pete Koller (guitar), and Craig Setari (bass) are nothing short of electric on stage with every step, jump, and scream. Their mere presence is energizing to behold. Watching this band blast through material spanning three decades for an unrelenting audience, you can’t help but step back and think, “This is it, this is the very ethos and spirit of Hardcore in all it’s glory made flesh, enduring as ever for everyone to witness and revel in.”
Written by Paul Ablaze
Photography by Angie Radczenko
*edited by Kate Erickson