What an exciting week it was! Stephen Harper was finally dethroned in a thrilling Canadian election, the Montreal Canadiens extended their perfect NHL record, and Stomp Records kicked-off a 20th anniversary Canadian tour with an evening of live music at Club Soda. Once again, I’m blown away by the depth and talent of the Montreal ska scene.
One of the key reasons for the explosion of quality ska music in the city is Stomp Records. Founded in Montreal in 1994, the prolific label has released over 150 albums, and has been instrumental in promoting several Canadian ska bands such as The Kingpins (whose reunion concert at the Montreal Ska Festival on October 3 I reviewed for Bucketlist), Subb, and of course the label founders, punk-ska superheroes The Planet Smashers. Surviving for 20 years in the notoriously difficult music industry is quite an accomplishment, and Friday’s concert was a fun celebration of this milestone.
Danny Rebel and the KGB kicked off the night with a roots-reggae performance. The band’s chilled-out sound was a great warm up for the blistering music that was about to take over. Regular readers of my reviews know that I’m a massive reggae fan, and I love that I can go to a punk-ska show and hear at least some roots-reggae. Danny Rebel’s socially conscious lyrics, and his waist length dreadlocks, even reminded me of Black Uhuru’s singer Mykal Rose.
The Beatdown’s catchy, blues-heavy, soulful reggae was my pick for the night. Alex Giguere’s scratchy vocals and harmonica playing, along with the stripped-down, no-nonsense sound of the band, cut through Club Soda like a razor. The best description I’ve read of The Beatdown is “Northern Reggae,” sort of a collision of classic Jamaican-inspired roots music with tough, gritty rock-and-roll born in the frozen back streets of Montreal. Check out the title track from their 2012 album Walkin’ Proud and you’ll see why I’m excited to hear these guys again when they open for The Slackers on November 13.
Next up, ska-punk band Subb took the stage just as Club Soda hit capacity. Subb have been electrifying crowds since the early 90s, and have released four full-length albums. Although Subb’s melodic pop-punk sound appealed to the rowdy crowd, I was ready for a break and went upstairs to get a better look at the dance-floor antics. The venue was packed and sweaty, people lined up on stage waiting to dive into the crowd, and among some of the most memorable costumes were Fred Flintstone and a 2 Tone mascot.
By the time The Planet Smashers appeared just after 10:30 and the crowd was at maximum intensity, balloons began to fly around capping off a wild birthday jam. As probably the most recognizable band on the label, The Planet Smashers had the honour of headlining this special celebration. The best part of this iconic ska-punk band’s performance was the two-piece horn section consisting of Patrick Taylor on trombone and Alexandre Fecteau on tenor sax. The pair set the tone for the high-energy concert, skanking around the stage for songs like “Life of the Party” and “The Hippopotamus” (a hilarious dude with a dancing hippo costume jumped on stage to join the band for this track). Halloween is just around the corner, and the Montreal crowd already looks prepared.
Happy Birthday Stomp Records! Here’s to twenty years of quality Canadian music!
Written by Rob Coles
Photography by Melissa Martella
*edited by Kate Erickson