Montreal was a goddamn bizarre place to be as a music fan during the first weekend in August. The city was host to three separate music festivals, the largest of which brought an influx of tank-topped DudeBros and high-waisted-jean-short-sporting supplicants to the Pumpkin Spiced Latte. Juxtaposed against the H&M Summer catalogue was the crust/noise/doom RRROOOAAARRR fest as well as the only slightly less smelly Punk-o-Rama fest, the latter of which happens to be the subject of this review! Segues are neat!
Since my fellow Bucketlister Kate Erickson has more than likely provided you with a good synopsis of this inaugural edition of local show promoter Marc Misfits’ brainchild in her Day One coverage, I’ll skip my customarily lengthy preamble and get right to the music!
I arrived at TRH Bar around 5:00pm in order to catch the Acoustic BBQ sets from Vancouver’s Annoying and Erik Petersen of Philedelphia-based anarcho-punk band Mischief Brew, as well as cram as many hot dogs into my gaping maw as possible. The guys from Annoying were oddly a no-show (odd because they apparently came directly from Vancouver for this show), so kicking off the fest would be Erik Petersen. Originally, Petersen has set up a mic and amp in TRH Bar’s first floor skate bowl, but after realizing that the entire crowd was still soaking up the sun and wolfing down BBQ on the back terrace, he took the show to the people! A charming performer who is clearly at ease in such an informal setting, Peterson played a selection of Mischief Brew songs, as well as songs from his first band The Orphans. The music, a heartfelt style of punk-informed folk, was both powerful and catchy, with each song painting vibrant pictures of working class struggle. When it began to rain, Petersen and the crowd squeezed under TRH Bar’s tiny awning where Petersen continued belting out requests and crowd favorites such as ” Roll Me through the Gates of Hell.”
It was now time to move upstairs for the rest of the show. As the crowd began to pack in, I noticed the temperature begin to creep slightly. More on this later. Kicking off the night’s main show were Montreal Ska Core band Exploring Dora who were apparently playing their last show ever. The band’s brand of energetic ska-punk was quite fun to take in. While the members were all clearly in high spirits, the performances, especially those of saxophonist Jean-Fenouil Blanchette and trumpet player Jeaneth Larose, were quite sharp. Main vocalist Jean-Laurier Lafrance’s voice was at times reminiscent of Dickie Barrette’s gravelly rumble. It was also great to finally see a crowd get mobile for the first band of the night; “Rusty Trombone” whipped the medium-sized audience into a respectable mosh frenzy.
Up next were Toronto Ska Punkers The Filthy Radicals. While this was indeed another ska punk act, the band’s sound was far more stripped down with a noticeable uptick in tempo in comparison to the previous act. While breakneck-paced punk is always fun, The Filthy Radicals’ tunes maintained attention through cool changes in song structure. The band regularly chucks in waltzy 3/4-time sections and funky Stray Cat-style walking bass lines to keep things interesting. After blasting through a number of originals, the group launched into a spirited cover of The Violent Femmes’ “Blister In The Sun” to the great approval of the growing crowd.
After a quick trip to the downstairs bar and the back terrace to grab some air (did I mention it was getting warm upstairs? Well, it was getting warm), I returned upstairs to catch Montreal Ska Punk band Les Skalpés. This group’s particular flavor of ska-infused punk rock was decidedly more grimy and raw. The tunes were fast, wild, and would have been almost completely full-on hardcore punk if not for the occasional use of guitar chords played on the upbeat. While there were occasional tightness issues, the set was overall a good time. The band wrapped up the set with an uncharacteristically slow song that reminded me of Leftover Crack’s “Operation M.O.V.E.”.
Up next was Talk-Sick, a band of which I am the drummer. I loathe writing about my own music, so I shall keep this brief; songs were played, panties were collectively dampened, and I’m fairly certain I lost six pounds through perspiration. Did I mention it was hot? Well, it was hot.
After another fresh air and beer run, I made my way back into the upstairs sauna to watch Seven Thirty Seven. If the needle on the Ska-Punk-O-Meter was buried into the punk rock red for Les Skalpés, the meter would register a complete opposite reading for this Buffalo, NY three piece, whose melodious tone and clean vocals were a welcome aural palette cleanser after a spate of more aggro fare. Seven Thirty Seven’s sound and aesthetic greatly reminded me of early Home Grown , and while admittedly I do not have my finger on the pulse of the current Ska Punk scene, I was unaware that there were bands still making this kind of music. While this style of ska punk may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it did act as an excellent counterpoint to the rest of the night’s cacophony.
As had become customary at the end of each set, I made my way downstairs to attempt to lower my body temperature to some level below “internal demonic bonfire,” and to my surprise the first floor of TRH had become some sort of sparsely populated night club, including a DJ spinning Hip Hop. Grooving out to these tunes were a group of milk-white, button-down Osheagites who were attempting to break dance, and it may have been the single greatest thing I have witnessed in my 34 years of existence. These young fellows had laid claim to a monopoly on swag, and were most certainly on fleek.
Once more through the humid gates of Hell, I returned upstairs to see Montreal’s The Horny Bitches. Formed in 2007, The Bitches are mainstays of the Montreal punk rock scene, and have also toured extensively throughout North America and Europe. The band’s hilariously sex-crazed lyrics and over the top stage banter make for an entertaining show. Musically, The Bitches style of punk rock is fast and melodic, albeit a bit traditional, with good use of vocal harmonies. Lead singer Virginie is able to procude a Cinder Block-style snarl while remaining on pitch. The band ripped through a variety of favorites for an appreciative and sweaty crowd, with Virginie constantly encouraging them to sing along.
It was still hot. Very hot.
After another brief trip outside to remind my body that cool air still exists, I trudged back upstairs as I did not want to miss Montreal punk rock hometown heroes the Ripcordz. I’ve caught the band numerous times over the years, and while they have always been great, the current iteration featuring Matty Fortyfive on bass and Alex Roy on drums is, in my opinion, their strongest to date. Lead singer and original member Paul Gott is a kind of punk rock troubadour, constantly interacting with the audience and telling stories in between blasts of old school punk rock. The set included favorites such as “Your Mother Wears Army Boots…But Man she Looks So Cool” and “You Are Not Alone,” as well as new material from a forthcoming album. While I’d feel odd using the word “pop” to describe The Ripcordz, their material compels you to sing and dance along, and the choruses lodge themselves in your brain like the tumor from Kindergarten Cop. It’s also a real treat to watch Alex Roy play drums, because that motherfucker is a metronome. Also, why is it so hot? Am I having some sort of cardiac event? Has someone forced me to wear an invisible parka?
Rounding out the night were headlining act Les Ordures Ioniques, an incredibly entertaining Montreal based six-piece skate/street punk band. Vhuit and Marie, the group’s two main vocalists, displayed an explosive, expressive stage presence aided by the fact that neither singer was encumbered by an instrument. The singers’ contrasting timbres were an excellent fit for this style of balls-to-the-wall punk, and the rapid fire lyrical trade offs added to the frenetic pace of the tunes, matching the similarly intricate guitar & bass work. Further driving the pace was the excellent performance by drummer Germ, whose blistering gallop added a weighty punch to the songs while simultaneously keeping the party train from coming off the rails. Throughout the set, the crowd broke out into mosh pits and stage dives, unable to resist the band’s output of kinetic energy.
Afters Les Ordures Ionique had wrapped up their set, I came to the realization that I might be on fire. After exiting TRH Bar I was relieved to see that I was, in fact, not on fire, and contented that I had been privy to a great night of music. I proceeded home and submerged myself in ice.
I should probably go see a doctor.
Written by Jesse Gainer
*edited by Kate Erickson