After a high-protein, alcohol-free recovery breakfast, I was fueled up and ready to hit day two of Pouzza Fest. The festival’s second day offered a rather amazing selection of things to do. On top of performances from bands like Less Than Jake, The Sainte Catherines, The Suicide Machines, and The Copyrights, the early afternoon included a ton of fun non-music options: yoga for punks at Le Jardin des Bieres, The Pouzza Grand Slam baseball tournament at Jeanne-Mance park, and even a stand-up comedy show at The Theatre St-Catherine.
The options for evening shows were indeed great, but I had a particular itch that needed scratching. While the chilled out, feel-good, hippy dippy ska party at Le Jardin Des Bieres during day one of Pouzzafest was indeed gnarly, there is only so much happy music I can withstand before I begin breaking out in hives. Thankfully, day two’s line up had just what the doctor ordered. So, after reading my daughter a wonderful bed time story about bunnies taking a bath, I made my way to Katacombes for a night of pissed off, nihilistic hardcore and metal.
Because of the aforementioned story time, I was unable to catch local Montreal post-hardcore outfit PLUUM open up the show. This was unfortunate, as I’d enjoyed the recorded material I’d checked out in advance of the concert. Alas, Dadcore problems.
When I did finally make it to the venue, I was a little bummed out at the sparseness of the crowd. I was furiously mashing a diatribe into my iPhone about how people should support their scene by showing up early to see the local acts when Quebec City’s APES took the stage and blasted into their first song. I stopped typing. Where the fuck did all of these people come from? It was as if they magically moshed through the walls in order to watch APES tear the stage apart with their vicious brand of grind-inflected dark hardcore. While I am an easy sell on this style of music, APES’ tunes contained far more melodic variation, driven by guitarists Simon and Pat, than the run-of-the mill blasters, making the music as interesting as it was concussive. The mix of grind sections with hardcore breakdowns was reminiscent of Worms and Dirt-era Homewrecker.
I have to quickly mention the crowd once more. Not only were there far more people inside the venue, many of those people came with the express purpose of fucking shit up on the dance floor! Much wind was milled and all of the change was picked up. Let’s just say Carl Douglas would have been hella-proud.
Up next were Saskatoon’s Weak Ends. I dug the group’s particular take on old-school hardcore, as their sound married the straight-ahead speed and catchy riffs of West Coast / Bay Area stuff with a tiny drop of powerviolence grit. Despite some technical difficulties and a little sloppiness at times, the group put on a solid set of straightforward, aggressive tunes.
After destroying two slices of pizza provided by Bucketlist photographer Mel (henceforth known as The Most Amazing Human Who Ever Human’d), I returned to my perch to take in MountainMan, a six-piece, post-rock, post-metal, I-am-really-not-sure-what-genre-qualifiers-to-use band from Massachusetts featuring two drummers on full kits and what appeared to be a Viola da Gamba. The group’s slow, atmospheric, contemplative riffs were a nice counterpoint to the other music. Having two live drummers runs the risk of making things sound overly busy, but MountainMan’s dual percussionists generate a massive presence without throwing the kitchen sink at the audience.
Next up were Montreal’s Dark Circles, a group I’ve watched and enjoyed many times, however this would be my first time seeing them perform as a three-piece, and tonight’s performance felt especially pummeling. While dropping a member has appeared to push Dark Circles towards a more grind-influenced assault, the newer tunes still contained the group’s trademark use of well placed vocal harmonies and intricate riffs.
Audience members itching for more martial arts mosh time were in luck, as Montreal’s Harriers came prepared to bring an ample serving of breakdowns. The band’s classic, infectious, East Coast-hardcore style of bounce got the aforementioned moshers moshing, and kept that swirling mess of fists and feet moving until the final note. While this style of music has certainly been done before, what elevates Harriers’ particular take is the level of musicianship; ripping solos from guitarists Chris Riopel and Eric Langlois-Gervais added a headbanging thrashiness that perfectly broke up the beatdown.
Taking the stage before headliners Ringworm were Baltimore, MD’s Full of Hell. Full (of Hell) disclosure; I am kind of a massive fan of this band, so please take this review with an equally massive grain of salty harsh noise. Lead singer and chief noise maker Dylan Walker fired up his intricate effects board to bathe the audience in an eerie soundscape before blasting into the title track from One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache, their new collaborative record with The Body. Walker’s vocals sounded delightfully unhinged, and the ferocity of his performance made it appear as if he was attempting to exorcise a life’s worth a demons in a very, very short period of time. The band’s set consisted of tunes from across their discography, including “Burnt Synapse” from the Merzbow collaboration and two tracks from the Amber Mote in The Black Vault EP. While Walker’s guttural emanations and panic-inducing electronics create an imposing sense of dread and despair, drummer David Bland’s use of angular, intricate patterns in between light speed blast beats lends the music an unmatched ferocity.
Closing out the evening were legendary metallic hardcore heavyweights Ringworm. As the band launched into their set, I couldn’t help but notice how sharp they sounded. To me, this speaks of a road-tested unit that have honed their craft to cruise missile-like precision. This sharpness carried over to instrument tone; Matt Sorg’s guitar sounded simultaneously heavy as fuck and crystal clear – a difficult feat to pull off without extensive sound checking. Singer Human Furnace seemed in great spirits, feeding off of the appreciative crowd while delivering his signature “angry bees live in my windpipe” vocals. The set included a ton of fan favourites, including the title track from Hammer of the Witch, their newest LP and the first with new label Relapse Records. Ringworm’s sound, to me, represents what metalcore should sound like; the meat-and-potatoes simplistic intensity of hardcore, beefed up with a healthy dose of metal’s evil musical swagger.
Another great night of Pouzzafest insanity featuring a diverse, well-curated line up. (And I only bought two things at the merch table because I am a responsible adult!)
Written by Jesse Gainer
Photography by Melissa Martella
*edited by Kate Erickson