Pouzza Fest [Day 3] - Live in Montreal (Cover Artwork)

Pouzza Fest [Day 3]

Live in Montreal (2023)

live show

On the morning of May 21, I went out into the city in search of a good breakfast. What I found surpassed my expectations. The crepe was delicious and filled with vanilla custard and fresh fruit. The breakfast potatoes were out of this world. The toast was buttered to perfection. It was one of the best meals out I’ve ever eaten and it bolstered my faith in humanity. After exploring the city a bit, it was time to head back and change into my show clothes.

I headed over to the Foufs with the intention of spending the night there. I missed Chastity by mere seconds but went into Electriques to secure a good spot on the floor for Montreal math-y emo punks Gulfer. The band sounded great as they played a mix of old and new songs and a dreamy yet energetic vibe filled the room. The guitar work was wonderful, showcasing the technicality of their arrangements. Joseph Therriault and Vincent Ford’s fretwork was absolutely phenomenal as they used every available inch of the guitar. I saw Gulfer for the first time when they opened for Pup in 2016 and hadn’t had another opportunity to until that night. They were even better than I remembered.

I moved up to the balcony before Connecticut-based hardcore band Anxious hit the stage. Their energy was off the charts throughout their entire set. I think they spent a grand total of five seconds standing still. They flew around the stage, jumping, kicking, and embodying their frenetic songs. Throughout it all, they were hyping up the crowd with lead vocalist Grady Allen urging people to move in, mosh, and dance. At one point, he even got the crowd to start a small circle pit in front of the stage. I didn’t know what to expect from them going into the show and they blew me away.

After Anxious left the stage, Toronto’s Anti-Queens started setting up. I was beside myself with excitement when it was announced that they would be replacing One Step Closer because I’d wanted to see the band live for years. Back when I was just starting out at Punknews, I reviewed their 2015 EP Start Running and their 2019 self-titled album and have loved them ever since. The lineup for this show was Emily Bones on lead vocals and guitar, Valerie Knox on guitar, Michael Crusty on bass, and Sarah Fellin of Among Legends on drums and they absolutely killed it. Alejandro Serritiello of the Creepshow came onstage and ripped through a couple of new songs with them at one point too and it fucking rocked. I can’t wait until their new album comes out because the new songs were stellar. Their energy was unwavering as they played songs from their catalog including “Miss Scarlett”, “Worse Than Death”, “Leave Me Out”, and “Read My Mind”. Valerie Knox took over lead vocals for “Sorry Babe” and a killer cover of the Misfits’ “Where Eagles Dare” that had the whole crowd singing, “I ain't no goddamn son of a bitch”. I could have watched the Anti-Queens all night long. They were easily one of my favourite sets of the weekend. They are hands down one of the best live bands out there and if you haven’t seen them live, remedy that at once!

Following the Anti-Queens, The Dirty Nil took to the stage. This was my first time seeing them since Sam Tomlinson of Captain Wildchild became their bassist and they were excellent. The band was bursting with energy as they bent over backward with the power of rock, struck power poses, jumped, danced, and almost did the splits. Throughout all of this lead vocalist and guitarist Luke Bentham was chewing his signature gum and blew several bubbles while shredding. They played songs from every era of the band including from their (then unreleased) new album Free Rein to Passions. They tore threw “Smoking Is Magic”, “No Weaknesses”, “Wrestle Yu to Husker Du”, “That’s What Heaven Feels Like”, “Doom Boy”, “Damage Control”, “Elvis 77”, “Blunt Force Concussion”, “Nicer Guy”, and “Undefeated” among so many others. When they played “I Don’t Want That Phone Call”, I just about fell over. Screaming along to that song while listening to Master Volume has been extremely cathartic over the years and being able to scream along to it in a live setting was beyond amazing. I felt like several weights had been lifted off my shoulders. Whenever I have the chance to see the Dirty Nil, I take it and you should too. Hail, hail rock n roll.

When the Dirty Nil’s set had finished I went down to check out the Cabaret side of things because North Carolina’s Dollar Signs were getting ready to play. Dollar Signs were among the most fun sets that I saw over the course of the weekend. They started by doing warm-up “wooo”s before launching into their first song. They had guitars, they had synths, they had horns, they had drums, they had great vocals - what more could you ask for? Balloons floated through the crowd, adding to the party-like atmosphere. When they finished the first song, they proceeded to tell their harrowing border crossing experience. The band had printed fake bills with their logo on it and the border guards had thought they were attempting to bring counterfeit money into Canada. After much grilling, their merch was seized and they were allowed into the country. I would’ve bought a shirt if they’d been able to bring them over. I stuck around for a few more songs, dancing and having a great time before my body felt like it was going to collapse. I deked over to catch a song from the Bronx before reluctantly heading out.

I had lots of time to think about the weekend on the train back home and I wouldn’t have wanted my first festival experience to be anywhere else. I met and hung out with so many awesome people and saw so many superb bands and artists over the course of the festival. I learned the importance of bringing insoles with you and making sure your shoes are comfortable. All of the venues were amazing in providing cold, fresh, and accessible water. Y’all are lifesavers. This festival also highlighted the importance of earplugs. This was the first time I ever wore earplugs to shows and they saved my ears. Huge thanks to Pouzza for having a bowl of free ones at the check-in desk! It was thanks to you my ears remained intact. The extremely quick passage of time caught me off guard and I didn’t make it to a lot of shows that I wanted to catch. I learned so much this year and I can’t wait to go back next year.