Pouzza. Oh geez. Where do I begin?

The patio at Foufounes Electriques is where it all began. Or maybe it began the moment I cracked a beer on the side street beside the Pouzza HQ after picking up my pass?

It doesn’t actually matter where we started, now that I think about it. But instead what really matters is that Pouzza 7 happened and it was one of the best freaking weekends of my, and I’m certain multiple other people’s lives.

Here’s how it went down…

The patio was starting to fill up, and the afternoon sun gave everything that nice golden hue that makes it feel like summer.

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The Bollweevils. Photo by Sara Mai Chitty

Sitting across from Poli Van Dam and Jen Razavi of the Bombpops, Bobby Gorman of the Punksite and I rattled off the usual festival questions. The two musicians gushed over Canada and the relief of being out of “Trumpville,” as this was the band’s first trek north. They found themselves at Pouzza by invitation.“From my first impression, Pouzza is the party festival,” says Razavi.“I can feel it in the air, Pouzza is where you come to party. Maybe it’s because we’re not in the United States, but there is definitely a level of “turnt” here that is not somewhere else.”

Good observation, Jen!

Pouzza party people.

Indeed, Pouzza is a giant party. Three jam-packed days of over 150 bands, comedy, yoga and a baseball tournament spread over six venues in downtown Montreal. Does it get any better?

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Jen Unbe, just strummin’. Photo by Sara Mai Chitty

The Bombpops are just one of many amazing acts that played over the course of the weekend. London’s own Snacks? and Heart Attack Kids were on the bill, not to mention The Slackers, Lagwagon, The Dirty Nil, and PUP.

It’s essentially one giant cuddle puddle of the North American punk scene with a few Europeans sprinkled in. Hugs abound all weekend as well as copious amounts of sing-alongs, cheers-ing, and general debauchery All this helps Pouzza live up to its name as a greasy, cheesy affair.

Cheesy, greasy, and EXTRA special!

Now I have to be completely transparent here and tell you that Pouzza was extra special for me this year. That’s because I’ve spent roughly 9 months missing my friends and the sweet bands that roll through town, by living in rural Northern Ontario for work.

I was so bummed I missed Bad Cop/Bad Cop play London in November, but at Pouzza, I not only caught them play twice, but got a chance to interview Jennie Cotterill and Myra Gallarza. I told them I was sad about missing their set in November and Cotterill confirmed something I’ve suspected all along.“Well, your friends are awesome,” says Cotterill.

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Go Betty Go. Photo by Sara Mai Chitty

“Well, your friends are awesome,” says Cotterill.“They really are,” I concur.

“They really are,” I concur.And then she said something that made me all glowy inside.

And then she said something that made me all glowy inside.“I was like, this is a scene that I want to hang out with.”

“I was like, this is a scene that I want to hang out with.”

Honestly, that’s what Pouzza is for me. Awesome friends. Awesome scene. Good times. It’s one of those events where you see folks you haven’t seen in a long time and it feels like yesterday, and you meet new pals and it feels like you’ve known them forever.

“We love doing festivals,” said Gallarza. Bad Cop/Bad Cop flew in for Pouzza, but are about to tour nonstop on every date of Warped Tour, and about to drop their new album Warriors in June.

“Especially ones like this one, and The Fest and Punk Rock Bowling, because it brings everybody together from all over the world.”

Again, BC/BC hit the nail on the head. Pouzza dragged in some phenomenal humans from all over the place for a pretty banging three day party.

But I digress.

Logistically, Pouzza was better than ever this year. All the venues were close enough together making it easier to catch more bands. Despite the fact that downtown Montreal was already bumpin’ for Montreal 375 celebrations, the venues were relatively easy and accessible to navigate and attend, to the best of festival staff’s abilities from what I observed.

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Old Wives. Photo by Sara Mai Chitty

Pouzza’s accessibility is its true asset. At one point during The Real McKenzies’ set at Foufs on Sunday night, a dude was crowd surfing in his wheelchair. That place is full of stairs and that punk rocker did not have to miss out.

The free stage offers something for the punks who just can’t scrape together enough for a full weekend pass. Pouzza Bambino, and the free stage allowed children to enjoy their favourite bands and hang out with their parents doing fun activities, like these little ones below:

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Just a regular child’s day at Pouzza, watching Lagwagon. Photo by Sara Mai Chitty

Part of the accessibility of Pouzza isn’t just about festival goers, but for bands to access fans, press, and potential labels. Since Stomp Records sponsors the event, lots of Stomp bands play. But, many independent or smaller label bands play too and can make connections with bigger bands for tours and of course, friendship.

First-time bliss…

Fat Wreck Chords came down for the first time ever. Co-founder Erin Burkett was a little shocked Pouzza had flown so far under their radar, given the label’s relationship with festival founder Hugo Mudie’s band the Sainte Catherines. Mudie asked Burkett why Fat never comes to Pouzza last year at Rockfest, and Burkett thought to herself, wait why haven’t we?

“So here we are, and oh my god we’ve been here one day and I had so much fun yesterday,” she exclaimed.

“I think it’s really cool that you can have a festival in the middle of downtown,” Burkett added. “That’s weird. I mean great weird, but still weird. And I like the fact that the actual festival part of it is free. That’s also unusual. So there’s a lot of, I think, unique things about it.”

As a record label owner, Burkett says festivals like Pouzza are invaluable to her because she can check out new bands, but also for Fat’s smaller bands to gain exposure. Once bands put out an album, they tend to headline tours, but Burkett says for lesser known bands, that’s not the best route.

Get yourself out there.

“What you should still be doing is getting yourself in front of the biggest audience that you possibly can, by opening on a bigger tour. Because then you’re going to actually get yourself out there and people that wouldn’t necessarily have picked up your record are suddenly going to go “f*cking hell that band just killed it, let’s go buy their record” and same thing with these festivals.”

With so much new music and music generally out there in the world (so accessible in and of itself thanks to the Internet), Pouzza offers fans (new and old) the same accessibility in one weekend that a Spotify playlist offers as well as a unique way to experience their new favourite band.

Bring out the veterans.

While Pouzza is stacked with many new and developing acts, a few relics were on the bill. Lagwagon of course, one of the headliners, have been a band for over 25 years, and it’s incredible they played downtown Montreal, completely free to anyone. Lead singer Joey Cape has had a longstanding love affair with the city, most noted in his solo song “Montreal.” He finally popped the question during their closing set Sunday night.

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Lagwagon. Photo by Sara Mai Chitty

“I wanna know, Montreal, will you marry Lagwagon?” he asked, before the band went full throttle into May 16th.

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Joey Cape and Joe Raposos of Lagwagon. Photo by Sara Mai Chitty

On the flip side, Vancouver BC hardcore legends Daggermouth reunited a week before Pouzza, playing their first show in 10 years at the Cobalt. They flew into Toronto for a date with Iron Chic, played Ottawa then Pouzza. Despite playing at 1am on the last night, people were raving about Daggermouth and Katacombes was packed.

After all these years, what made Daggermouth want to get together?

“It was Pouzza’s fault,” said bassist Dana Edwards. Drummer Dan Donald’s band Elder Abuse were set to play, and he came back to the Daggermouth boys saying there was interest in having them play as well. 

“I think we just really missed each other,” said guitarist Kenny Lush. They’d talked about getting back together, and the timing was right. The reunion doesn’t spell full out comeback for them, but playing a few shows here and there and maybe releasing a 7 inch is as far as they’re thinking they’ll take Daggermouth again. Part of the reason they broke up, Lush says, is because it wasn’t fun anymore.

But, Pouzza is fun, and that’s why they came. 

It’s difficult for me to summarize exactly how magical that weekend was, which is partly why this review is coming at you two weeks after the fact. I came home, having not slept, just so I could get a few last minute hangs with some buds, and cried myself to sleep because it was over and I missed everyone already.

All I can tell you is if you go into the weekend with a “Pouzza Mental Attitude” you’ll come out of it with a slew of new pals, new favourite bands and enough memories to sustain you the next six months of your eight-month contract in rural Northern Ontario.

Maybe the photos in this article will speak one thousand more words about Pouzza for me.

For more thoughts on and love letters to Pouzza, check them out at Pouzzafest.com, on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Feature photo by Sara Mai Chitty

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