Take me out to the punk show, take me out to the game, buy me a Beau’s beer or pouzza slice…
Fans of baseball, punk rock, poutine, pizza, and good times are headed to Montreal this weekend for one of Canada’s most eclectic music festivals: Pouzzafest! It’s kicking off its seventh year as a multi-venue punk rock extravaganza, and its second year running a baseball tournament in the heart of one of Canada’s classiest cities.
With over 150 bands, yoga, a kids’ event, free outdoor stage and various secret shows and events in between, Pouzza truly is the cheesy, greasy, delicious affair its moniker alludes to.
“This is a punk rock festival,” Pouzza spokesman Matt Collyer says. “It’s about meeting people, it’s about community. It’s about having a good time. It’s about enjoying life. So if you like those things, you should come on out.”
Over the course of three days, revellers can catch underground and mainstream punk rock bands from across the continent (and a few from across the ocean) playing several legendary Montreal venues like Foufones Electroniques and Katacombes, drink craft beer from Beau’s Brewery, not to mention this year’s lineup is completely stacked with Lagwagon, The Slackers, PUP, The Dirty Nil, and The Flatliners… all playing a free outdoor stage!
Basically, there are music festivals, and then there is Pouzzafest.
Seven years ago a couple of punks poured their blood sweat and tears into an unorthodox music festival modelled after The Fest in Gainsville, FL. Named after poutine-pizza, the mashup of fans, musicians, and revelers you’ll find wandering the streets of Montreal this weekend will delight you just as much as a gravy soaked slice o’ pouzza. The festival still runs on blood sweat and tears, just a helluva lot smoother.
Stomp Records officially joined as a Pouzza sponsor last year to ease the burden of organizing from founders Hugo Mudie and Helene McKoy.
“Before that, it was just two people running this massive festival that was… it was impossible,” explained Collyer, who is also the co-founder of Stomp. “They had too much on their plate, they had no lives, and then the festival never made money. So they were just killing themselves.”
Pouzza is largely made possible by the dedication of friends and volunteers, which is what makes it simultaneously so great, and so important to support, explained Collyer. “That’s something special about Pouzza,” he said. “And I think the word’s just going to continue getting around that that’s what we’re all about, you know.”
Plus, of those 150 bands booked to play, at least 100 of them are up and coming, developing acts, Collyer points out.
“Nobody does that,” he said. “We’re the only festival like that in Canada for punk rock.”
It’s a rock n’ rollin’ buffet of new music!
And on top of that, you can catch some of it for free. The stage in the Quartiere de Spectacles is free, where bands such as The Slackers, Mustard Plug, Iron Chic, and Lagwagon will play. Not being able to ticket the outdoor stage hosting many of the main acts means the festival doesn’t make as much money as it could, says Collyer, so running and planning it relies on people who love what they do and what Pouzza represents to make it happen.
As the Flatliners’ Chris Cresswell puts it, Pouzza is “for the punks, by the punks.”
Pouzza keeps growing…
This year organizers tightened up venue proximities to make it easier for festival goers to go from location to location. As well, last year saw the introduction of a baseball tournament and had four teams sign up. This year the teams have tripled, and Collyer only expects it to get bigger next year.
“I guess you could say we’re ripping off Punk Rock Bowling a bit, you know,” he joked. “It’s getting a bit there.”
They’ve continued with yoga on Sunday and Pouzza Bambino programming Saturday afternoon, which will see the ninja turtles making an appearance, a bouncy castle and a field of lollipops.
As well, people can expect secret shows, barbecues, and a one-stop merch mall to grab all the goodies from your new favourite bands.
What makes Pouzza so special?
It’s hard to put your finger on it, but it’s something about the way Pouzza treats everyone the same. Founder Hugo Mudie’s open minded attitude is non-negotiable when it comes to organizing.
“For us, there’s no difference between bands and festival goers and organizers,” Mudie said in an interview with Londonfuse last year. “It’s all one big thing. It’s their festival as much as it is ours.”
Toronto artist Jen Unbe, playing an acoustic set on Saturday at Midway Speakeasy, describes Pouzza “as a giant house party that takes over downtown Montreal.” She loves that everyone walking around is either in a band or is a punk rock fan, and you could end up standing next to one of your idols watching a band no one’s heard before.
“It’s punk like how I pictured it would be when I was a kid – a community where everyone is in it together and helps each other,” explained Unbe.
The sense of community at Pouzza has been likened to a punk rock summer camp, and London’s own Heart Attack Kids and Snacks? are repping the Forest City at Pouzza this year. Snacks?’s label, Get Party Records released a “Friends and Family at Pouzza 2017” to celebrate that very kind of community. Read more about it here.
A little advice:
Edmonton rockers Worst Days Down are playing their first Pouzza, and frontman Ben Sir’s advice is to check out new bands, not just reinforcing what you already like.
“Once a day, I wanna pick a show in which I don’t know any of the bands playing and then just go and check a couple of them out,” he said. “To learn about new music, and support other small bands, I’m excited for that.”
Fellow Edmontonian Ryan Dix of The Old Wives has the same sentiment.
“You can pop into any show, you don’t have to know who the bands are, you’re going to find great music, and you’re going to find music that you like.”
His band will also be playing in the baseball tournament Saturday at Lafontaine Park. Twelve teams are slotted to compete and there will be a concession stand and bar on site. Stomp Records has its own team this year, comprised of members of The Isotopes (Punk Rock Baseball Club), staff, and other Stomp bands.
There’s just so much to do and so much going on!
Plus you’re in downtown Montreal, it’s just impossible to get bored, or not find something you’d want to do. It’s an exhilarating way to interact with and experience the Canadian music scene.
“Every Sunday night at Pouzza you get a little rough,” Collyer says. “There’s this dark patch where there’s like, I can’t do another night of this. It’s just insane. But you just force yourself to do it. You get out there, you have a couple drinks and you see your friends and off you go and you make it to the end of the fest.”
There will be craft beer and delicious Montreal eats to sustain you, and Collyer hinted at secret shows that’ll keep you burning the midnight oil all weekend.
“So if you can make it to the end, do it.”
Fond out more about Pouzza right here.
Feature photo via Pouzzafest.com