It’s been an eventful two days of Pouzza Fest. My friday evening set the bar pretty damn high with some amazing sets, and dare I say the Sick Of It All show may fall into one of my top ten shows of all time. That evening’s unbridled energy had me primed and a little hung over for Saturday afternoon, when press and band were pitted against each other in a three-hour battle royale of interviews armed only with wit, stock questions, dehydration, and Beau’s beer. A huge thanks to Melanie Kaye of Fat Wreck Chords for organizing the event and keeping it from turning into complete pandemonium.
My final day of indoctrination into the Pouzza way of life started later than most, when I made my way to Katacombes for the tail-end of the Hardcore Brunch. The “Brunch” itself started at the ungodly hour of eleven a.m., a time akin to torture for most festival goers. However, this off-shoot mini festival event clearly had its own unique attendees from the rest of the festival. By all accounts the show had been pretty lively from the start, and with two of New York Hardcore’s most revered acts poised to take the stage, there were no signs of anyone slowing down.
When Stigmata took the stage the Montreal faithful went to work, and there was little place to hide on the intimate Katacombes floor from the flurry of fists and spin kicks. Set opener “Save Us” had one of the most epic singalong choruses I’ve ever heard in a live setting, and set a strong tone for the rest of their show. Vocalist Rob Riley is an intimidating force on stage, but he also lightened the mood by giving funny anecdotes between songs. If kind of felt like he was the good-natured uncle at family gatherings who maybe killed a guy in his teens.
Headliners Merauder are legends in their own right in underground hardcore, even being credited as one of the first Metal-Core bands. As all good things must come to an end, they decided to close this musical chapter of their careers, and made their appearance at Pouzza Fest their last Canadian show. A sizable crowd came to pay homage and promptly made the floor a war zone for the entire show. There was more than one instance when I thought people were going to get carried out in stretchers, but everyone seemed to have gotten through the ordeal with little more than a few bruises. From what I could tell, they played a variety of songs from various records, and the most notable were off their watershed Master Killer album. Singer Jorge Rosado spent time between songs reminiscing on the band’s past, often shifting focus to other groups in his scene who he felt needed more credit, which was extremely admirable. Merauder’s music undoubtedly influenced many in attendance, but certainly all appreciated being a part of one of the final performances of such a venerated band.
After soaking in some more sun and suds around the outdoor stage, it was finally time to catch one of my absolute favorite live acts. I’ve seen Chicago’s Flatfoot 56 at outdoor festivals around Illinois many times in the past ten years, and I can say without a shadow of doubt that their sets are always highlights. There’s nothing as exhilarating as running in a circle pit of hundreds to their upbeat Celtic punk anthems, and their shows give off an overwhelmingly positive vibe which is impossible to ignore. Thankfully, not much has changed since the last time I saw them live. The band came out roaring to a decently sized and energetic early evening crowd. Things picked up when the title track of their album Knuckles Up kicked up a righteous circle pit and got everyone’s blood flowing. Their set seemed mostly comprised from songs off their Black Throne (2010) and Toil (2012) records including singles “Courage” and “I’ll Fly Away”. If there ever was a band who deserved more for their tireless work, it’s Flatfoot 56, and I hope to see their fan base north of the border grow exponentially in the years to come.
I had heard tell that secret acoustic shows were occurring at St Elizabeth’s pub not far away, and when Molly Rhythm singer Elissa Velveteen confirmed to me that she was in fact taking part in one, I figured it would be an ideal atmosphere to wind down from the high-octane weekend. Sure enough, in the upstairs of the quaint, low-lit pub was a small PA system and a small group of attendees and performers taking in the softer side of the fest. Artists from various bands were asked to come perform short sets of either acoustic versions of songs or solo material to whoever was in the know. I was happy to arrive in time to catch Seth Anderson play a couple of songs, seeing as we interviewed him the day before. Seth’s indie-folk style made for perfect chill-out bar tunes at the end of a long weekend, and made me intrigued enough to investigate more of his music. Elissa Velveteen and Nikki Nailbomb of Molly Rhythm were nex, playing some of their tunes and Elissa’s solo material. It’s tough for me to describe the music seeing as I have such a limited knowledge of the style for referencing, but what I can say is that Elissa and Nikki possess beautiful, soulful voices with incredible emotional dynamic. When they played it was easy to become captivated by the sometimes upbeat, sometimes somber atmosphere they created together, all this made better by the nature of the intimate setting.
In closing, I’m immensely grateful to have taken part in this year’s festivities and it’s encouraging to see that the punk ethos in all forms is not only alive, but growing stronger from year to year. Here’s to the new blood at this festival, and many more years of Pouzza to come.
Cheers and Beers!
Written by Paul Ablaze
Photography by Angie Radczenko and Melissa Martella
*edited by Kate Erickson