Pouzza Fest Montreal QC, May 17 to 19

Pouzza Fest Montreal QC, May 17 to 19
MU330 photo by Tracey Lindeman
It began innocently enough — a band here, a beer there, a couple hot dogs thrown in for good measure. Then there was the (real) lobster on stage, enough tattooed flesh to envelop the earth, PBR tallboys in coat pockets, late-night ruminations on punk rock's past and future in Montreal, last-minute secret shows, staggering from venue to venue and finally, 3:30 a.m. poutines at La Belle Province.

It was the third edition of annual punk rock marathon Pouzza Fest, and it was fucking awesome.

Montreal trio BCASA kicked off the festivities on Friday at Foufounes Électriques by charming the audience with jangly call-and-response gems like "Street Fighter 2 Turbo," "Ghost Dad" and "Mortal Kombat." New material from the forthcoming Fuck You Shredder — the new album will be exclusively about ninja turtles — was heavier than the usual punk fare, particularly "The Ballad of Casey Jones."

Over the course of the weekend, Foufounes Électriques played host to the likes of MU330, Big D and the Kids Table, Good Riddance, American Steel, New Found Glory and Grade, and served, as it always does, as ground zero for getting crunk.

St. Louis, MO ska legends MU330's rare performances (including a secret show at Théâtre Ste-Catherine) were Friday night's standouts. Right on the heels of celebrating 25 years, singer Dan Potthast joked the band was on a two-date anniversary tour, "and then that's it for the next ten years." And they made it worth the audience's while by delving deep into their catalog to produce energetic and goofy renditions of songs like "Time To Rock" and "KKK Highway."

Over at Club Soda, anonymous (and colour-coordinated) four-piece Masked Intruder rocked the pop punk hard on "Break In" and "I Fought the Law (But the Law Beat the Shit Outta Me)," as did Bremerton, WA's MxPx, who, as Friday night's headliners, churned out well-loved material like "Chick Magnet" with enthusiasm.

A last-minute show with Mikey Erg, Ann Beretta, No Trigger and Masked Intruder at the Savoy, a swanky and plush-carpeted lounge within Metropolis, was a decidedly refreshing start to Saturday afternoon. As is characteristic, Mikey Erg probably played a song with at least half the bands playing this year's Pouzza Fest but his Savoy performance was all his own, with him singing about love and heartbreak and bowling with skinheads while accompanying himself on electric guitar.

Erg later joined Plow United on stage at Piranha Bar after their earlier and last-minute performance at Underworld. Hailing from early '90s-era Delaware, the recently-reformed band didn't miss a beat at either venue, playing with a hunger only 15 years of inactivity could cause. Earlier in the night at Piranha, Peterborough, ON two-piece Bumpin Tacos played a blistering set to a couple dozen people, resulting in an addition to my CD collection.

Early '90s Illinois emo band Braid took the evening's energy down a notch at Club Soda, preceding venue headliners Saves the Day. A broken string early in the set, coupled with awkward banter amidst incessant tuning, wore the somewhat-sparse audience down some. But over at Metropolis, Mute, A Wilhelm Scream and the Planet Smashers opened up for fest headliner Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, who came out in white leisure suits and Hawaiian shirts. Kicked off with "Who Put the Bomp," the late set involved a real lobster being thrown on stage and an impromptu onstage autograph-signing.

A personal favourite, New York City's third-wave ska pioneers The Slackers played an hour-long set to a packed Underworld, featuring 1997's "Watch This" and Misfits cover "Attitude." Frontman Vic Ruggiero played an outdoor solo set Sunday afternoon in which he balanced a kick drum, hi-hat cymbal, tambourine, harmonica and electric guitar.

Marked by comedic interludes and reflections on life delivered in his heavy Bronx accent, Ruggiero played his own material as well as a couple select covers and Slackers songs (the Specials' "Little Bitch" and "I'd Rather Die Happy"). He solicited requests from the crowd that included the seldom-performed "Policeman," a song recorded over a decade ago under the moniker fhe Silencers with Rancid's Tim Armstrong and Lars Frederiksen.

Pouzza Fest rightly anticipated hangovers and festival burnout on Sunday, for which it planned lunchtime and suppertime BBQs and ample acoustic sets to ease its denizens into one last night of revelry. And San Francisco, CA's Dead To Me, who played a secret show the night before at Théâtre Ste-Catherine with opener Chris Cresswell (the Flatliners), warmed the Foufounes Électriques crowd up for Grade and New Found Glory Sunday night.

Masterminded by former Sainte Catherines frontman Hugo Mudie, the young Pouzza Fest has learned from mistakes committed through inexperience over its first two editions to produce an impressive multi-venue and volunteer-run operation. After experiencing several coups this year, including securing the Metropolis room and major attractions like Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, next year's festival will be one to watch.

To see Exclaim!'s Pouzza Fest photo gallery, head here.