Despite what the thermometer is telling us, spring is making its way to Montreal. One of the great joys of turning the calendar to the “March” page is the influx of excellent tours that make their way through the city. One such tour, featuring two of the best contemporary crossover bands on the planet, landed at Les Foufounes Electriques last week.
Due to poor timing on my part, I had to rush to make it to Foufs for the posted 7:30pm start time. Thankfully, I arrived to find a line snaking through the downstairs bar leading to the second floor show venue, leaving me plenty of time to get upstairs and grab a beer before local openers CELL drenched the crowd in a grimy soup of reverb and delay. These were certainly not the sounds one would expect at a hardcore or crossover gig, but the band’s fascinating blend of mid-paced, 90s-era hardcore and reverb-soaked crust, noise rock, post-punk was enjoyable and refreshing. CELL’s somewhat aloof stage presence felt a tad at odds with the more hardcore-sounding elements of their music, but I was fairly certain I’d get my fill of on-and-off-stage martial arts before the end of the night.
Thankfully, Niagara, Ontario’s Wild Side ensured my wait for hardcore kung fury would be short lived. As soon as Wild Side busted into their first song, I was sold. Like CELL, the band’s take on hardcore was refreshing, but instead of incorporating seemingly disparate influences, what made Wild Side’s music so fucking gnarly was their commitment to old school, major key, posi hardcore where the only metallic element was the occasional ripping (and I mean fucking ripping) guitar leads. It’s as if Gorilla Biscuits and Suicidal Tendencies had a happy, very athletic child. The band’s set was razor sharp, and their on-stage energy was infectious, riling the pit into increasingly aggressive forms of ritualistic combat. As if to emphasize their commitment to the old school, Wild Side capped off their set with a cover of Iron Cross‘s “Crucified For Your Sins.”
As the already sizable crowd grew larger, various members of Richmond, Virginia’s Iron Reagan occasionally popped on stage to complete their portion of set up. Noticeably absent was drummer Ryan Parrish. Front man Tony Foresta explained that Parrish was unable to make it across the US border and, as such, they had spent the last two hours teaching three different drummers as much of their set as possible. The band kicked things off with “I Won’t Go” and “Close to Toast.” Even with backup drummer #1 Jordan behind the kit, Iron Reagan sounded as confident and as explosive as ever, effortlessly driving the appreciative crowd into spin cycle mode. Mid-tempo rager “Fuck The Neighbors,” a cut from Iron Reagan’s latest album Crossover Ministry, snarled with satisfying fury that kept heads banging and hair swinging. Backup drummer #2 Pete jumped in to rip through “Shame Spiral” before abdicating the throne to have Power Trip’s Chris Ulish take over for the rest of the night. Despite the occasional drummer-related shakiness, the band truly seemed to be having a blast as they treated fans to more new material, old favourites like “Cycle of Violence” and “Miserable Failure,” and even a cover of the classic Cro-Mags jam “Don’t Tread On Me.”
To say I was stoked to finally get a chance to see headliners Power Trip perform would be an understatement. The group’s debut record Manifest Decimation was a caustic mixture of “Big 4” style thrash, hardcore, and death metal that hit like a sack full of dumbbells. Their newest record Nightmare Logic, released a scant three weeks ago, is already one of my favourite albums of the year. After a relatively quick changeover, the band got down to the business of crushing skulls, launching into Nightmare‘s opening track” Soul Sacrifice.” From note one, the pit went straight to Double Dragon mode, with spin kicks, air punches, and stage dives galore.
Channeling the crowd’s destructive enthusiasm, singer Riley Gale leapt around the stage while belting out “Executioner’s Tax” and “Suffer No Fool” with malicious gusto. Before “Nightmare Logic,” Gale implored fans to up their stage-dive game, and by mid song the air was positively thick with somersaulting bodies. Anyone who survived the dance floor melee quickly had their faces liquefied by guitarist Blake Ibanez’s powerful, surgically precise solo work. Despite already playing a half set with Iron Reagan, drummer Chris Urlish’s performance was positively crushing from start to finish. Just when it seemed the blizzard of fists and boots had hit its peak, Power Trip thanked the crowd for their enthusiasm before closing out their set with “Crossbreaker” and sending the audience into one last pugilistic hurrah.
While traditional crossover thrash and hardcore were at the root of all of the evening’s music, what made the evening special, besides the reproduction of that fight scene from The Matrix Reloaded, was witnessing each band’s unique spin on classic ideas.
Written by Jesse Gainer
Photography by Angie Radczenko
*edited by Kate Erickson