The third and final day of the Punk-o-rama Fest saw both a change of venue and a change of vibes, offering the audience a diverse ending to their musical weekend. Trading the skate culture atmosphere of TRH Bar for the classic punk and metal haven of Foufounes Electriques, the festival shifted into a primarily gypsy-style acoustic punk showcase.
As I mentioned in my review of Day 1 of the festival, before I attended the Punk-o-rama Fest I was not familiar with the “acoustic punk” genre. Acts like Chris Cresswell (of The Flatliners), Swiss Knife, and The Matchup gave me a first glimpse of what “acoustic punk” is all about, and although I think I still prefer my punk rock to be plugged in, the experience did make me a little more open minded about this mash-up of styles.
While Friday’s acoustic sets introduced me to a quieter version of punk, Sunday’s set was anything but relaxed. The show finally began at 9:45pm with Montreal’s Street Meat. Despite the crowd arriving very late, the venue filled up about 45 minutes after start time. Once Street Meat’s vaudeville-punk act got started, the crowd didn’t stop dancing until their last song was over. The trio of “street musicians” played accordion, banjo, stand-up bass, drums, guitar, and sang; yes, three musicians managed to play all of these instruments, sometimes simultaneously, the drummer using his feet for the pedals and playing banjo with his hands! They were extremely talented, swapping instruments at one point and not even missing a beat, which elicited cheers and whistles from everyone there.
After almost a full hour performance from Street Meat, Tintamare took the stage. My very first impression was, “How can so many people fit up there?!” A drummer, an upright bass player, a full horn section with two trombones, a trumpet, and a saxophone, an accordion player, a violinist, and a guitarist left barely any room to breathe, let alone rock out. Yet, that is just what Tintamare did, for OVER an hour!
The sheer stamina of the players was incredible to watch as they traded places singing, growling, and stomping their feet, jumping around, and generally behaving like entertaining maniacs the entire time. In fact, the accordion played was also the bass player for Street Meat; he managed both sets back to back with a smile and barely looked winded. Their antics on stage were eclipsed only by their range of sound, which covered every emotion and was so layered it was almost cinematic. Every single member of Tintamare was a virtuoso; I’ve rarely seen a group make every single person in the room move before. Definitely check them out live if you enjoy lively, witty, dance-inciting music.
After what was both a super impressive and an INCREDIBLY long set, Tintamare was followed by another folky, acoustic, gypsy-roots-rock band called Les Chiens de Ruelles. In another band crossover, the front man (lead vocals and upright bass player) from Tintamare simply stayed on stage and proceeded to play upright bass in Les Chiens as well. I might be repeating myself, but if there was a theme for this evening, it was definitely stamina.
Although Les Chiens were in the same general genre as Street Meat and Tintamare, they had a much different musical and visual aesthetic; their music was almost reminiscent of bluegrass, while their appearance was the closest to “punk” I’d seen all evening, being a mix of squeegee punk and crust punk highlighted by the vaudeville vibes shared by the former two bands. Also purely unplugged, Les Chiens featured a great harmonica player as well as an unusual percussionist with an antique-style washboard strapped to his bare chest, which he played by dragging his fingers, tipped with strange little metal “claws,” up and down the grooves, and occasionally hitting tiny cymbals nailed onto the side of the washboard. The crowd sang along as early as the first song, and clearly the long set from Tintamare didn’t exhaust them at all as they continued dancing for the rest of the night.
Unfortunately due to the super late start time, I wasn’t able to stick around for the last act of the evening, Montreal’s Mischief Brew, but from what I’ve heard previously, this band is also incredible. Friends who attended their show at this year’s Pouzza Fest assured me that they are more than likely to bring down the roof as everyone dances and jigs their way to hell, smiling all the way. If the other bands of this evening were anything to go by, I most likely missed a heck of a show; I’ll definitely try to catch them next time.
With that, the Punk-o-rama weekend was finished, and I’m really grateful that I got to spend my time there instead of trapped on “Bro Island.” However, I wasn’t sure at first whether to label Sunday night’s groups “punk” or not; the style of all the bands playing was more of a vibrant, carnivalesque, vaudeville, gypsy-style folk with the occasional punk-like growls and snarls punctuating the vocals. I was strongly reminded of Montreal locals, Ol’ Savannah and Bad Uncle, both of whom refer to themselves as roots/Americana/folk rather than “punk.” Asking our photographer if he considered the music “punk,” without thinking he said, “Yes, of course!”
Throughout the evening, I considered the question, is this “punk” or not? And what makes something “punk” anyway? Labels are always tricky, especially in our modern lingo of hybrids and mash-ups and genre crossover. By the end of the night, I decided that despite huge differences in style, genre, and overall music, all the bands on the Punk-o-rama bill could be considered punk simply because of their badass, take-no-prisoners, lust for life mentalities, and their sheer punk-rock energy on stage. If playing the accordion for over an hour and headbanging the whole time while your singer growls out songs about cro-magnons isn’t punk, then I don’t know what is.
Written by Kate Erickson
Photography by Hugues Bouchard
*edited by Danielle Kenedy