Category Archives: Read

Deb Frazin Photo Column – Steven McDonald

Deb Frazin Photo Column - Steven McDonald

(click for full image)

Keith Morris was kind enough to hook me up with a photo pass at the last minute for this show, and I was extremely grateful, because Steven McDonald was on fire that night! He’s always been one of my favorite musicians to photograph onstage because he’s so animated!  It had been quite a while since they’d played their last show, and they put on a very tight set that night. Off! Doesn’t play very often, so it’s always a good idea to catch them whenever the opportunity arises. They never disappoint!

debfrazinphotography 

Featured Record Reviews Razorcake 110–Old Firm Casuals, Black Dots, Bob Mould, Dead Bars, Pandemix, Radon, Uranium Club

Illustration by Abdul Vas

OLD FIRM CASUALS: Holger Danske: LP
I’m pals with this lot, so if you think you’re getting an unbiased opinion, you’re tripping. Mercifully, I don’t gotta lie. The boys have pulled it off! Keeping the street rock’n’roll backbone they started with, they have opened up the playing field taking nods and winks from NWOBH, AC/DC, Motörhead, and even some of the dodgy later Rejects LPs. The addition of second guitar brings a thickness to the sound and the recording sounds like they are a fucking stadium band. I can see the band really coming together with all members bringing pasts and presents to the table. Don’t get me wrong—this is still punk as fuck—but they have transcended the bootboy world into something totally new and interesting. KILLLLLLLLLLLLER. –Tim Brooks (Pirates Press, piratespressrecords.com)

BLACK DOTS: Everything Has Gotta Change: LP
Technology has become accessible enough that everything can sound and look good these days. You can take a picture with your fucking phone for the cover of an LP. We’re constantly surrounded by total morons releasing records that people absolutely love; at least for a quick moment. That’s why when a record comes along with songs and lyrics that really resonate, it just feels different. It’s exhilarating! It feels like it used to feel! And I love it, and it reminds me how important these goddamn things really are. Colorado’s Black Dots are comprised of people you might recognize from The Achievement and Vena Cava. They play that introspective, heart-felt style that cities like San Diego and Tampa blew the doors off of in the 2000s, faintly blended with the musicality of post-hardcore DC. But this isn’t nostalgia. This is so current and vital, and that’s what makes it so beautiful, and inspiring, and painful. On a two hour bus ride to my uncle’s house for a family gathering, headphones on, I listened to this album on repeat. Five months later there are parts that still give me goose bumps. When you question your existence, you might not get the answers you want, but at least you get answers. –Daryl (Snappy Little Numbers / La Escalera)

BOB MOULD: Sunshine Rock: LP
The power of Bob compels me! If there has been one thing in the last thirty years that I can count on, it’s that Bob Mould is eventually going to write another batch of exquisitely crafted songs. I jumped on the Hüsker Dü train right at the last stop, but a few years later Sugar came along and kicked me into submission with more hooks than a Nova Scotian tackle box. Many great solo records followed the demise of that band, but the best ones have been since he picked up his current backing band of Jason Narducy and Jon Wurster back in 2012. Sunshine Rock is a fine addition to Mould’s discography. The press has really been leaning into the fact that this is Bob’s “positivity” trip and the songs are happy. The truth is, I never notice when he’s being negative or dark because his music always puts a smile on my face and a welcome worm in my ear. This album is no different. –Ty Stranglehold (Merge, mergerecords.com)

DEAD BARS: Regulars: CD
For a long while I’ve been saying Dead Bars are one of my favorite local Seattle bands. It’s time to drop that qualifier. They’re one of my favorite bands, period. Have I been hearing some of these songs live over the past year or so? Yes, but I have never heard them like this. The guitars are huge—a personality all their own. I suspect the vocals were slightly pushed back to bring up these arena rock riffs and fuzz effects. Fret not though; John Maiello comes through snotty and clear, albeit a little quieter in the mix. His trademarked raspy sing shouts are still carrying us through Ramones level lyrical simplicity. “Producto Toxico” starts off with a sweet, slow tempo guitar riff and an egg shaker for several measures until Maiello swoops in with a story about drinking Pacifico in Mexico. It’s way Tom Petty, but also way rock’n’roll. Then “Rain” comes charging in with these harmonies and Thin Lizzy leads and it just gets to me. How can a song about walking home in the rain make me want to dance and cry at the same time? I love Dead Bars. It’s almost not even fair to us that they are this good of a band. Do we deserve Regulars? I’m willing to find out. –Kayla Greet (A-F)

DIGITAL LEATHER: Feeet: LP
Okay, so there’s a lot to talk about here. First off, this is a collection of primarily tape-only released songs recorded between 2008–2018, collected here for the first time… and they’re great lo-fi synthesizer jams with tons of hooks! For real, the songs on here are the upper echelon of great, bouncy synthpop and more distant-sounding coldwave tunes. Sometimes punky or garagey, other times not, but nearly always with the synths being the main attraction. Other Digital Leather that I’ve heard didn’t necessarily stick with me but these songs are different, as they seem catchier than I remember. This entire release is super solid, and this doesn’t seem like a collection of newer and older tunes. Instead, it feels like a super cohesive release, and I’m super into it. Secondly, the packing on this record is fucking insane. Hand numbered LP covers with beveled corners and a hinge glued onto the cover as part of the artwork, including a sixteen page booklet and other goodies. The entire package is well thought out, front and back. Overall, I can’t recommend this enough. –Mark Twistworthy (Stencil Trash, info@stenciltrash.de, stenciltrash.de)

LOST SOUNDS: Memphis Is Dead: LP
Another repress of this venerated band’s second album, originally released in 2001. Eighteen years hasn’t diminished its impact a whit—simple instrumentation pushed to its sonic limits in a heady mix of new wave, synth punk, lo-fi punk, ’60s psych pop, synthpunk, and death rock that roars, snarls, whispers, and rocks in wild abandon. The band is still spoken of in respectful tones and with good reason: they were one of those rare bands that was able to transcend punk’s increasingly polarizing pigeonholes, generate a strong buzz around them, and actually deliver the goods. Essential to any collection. –Jimmy Alvarado (Big Neck)

PANDEMIX: In Condemnation: LP
This record is so good, I worry that I am not going to do it do it justice. It’s politically charged monologue-punk, with equal parts hardcore, skate punk, and Red Dons-style post-punk. The record comes at you like a sonic blast, unrelenting until the final note. It, at times, made me wonder if the entire thing was done in one take since the songs move into each other at such a breakneck pace. This record is intimidating as hell! The rose on the cover, being stomped by a high-heeled shoe, is representative of your brain which is about to get its ass kicked. The closest band I could think to compare Pandemix to is PEARS, and I wouldn’t say that really nails it. The wildness is there, though, the unpredictability. You never know when the song is going to make a sudden breakneck turn into something else entirely, and that’s amazing. It’s been a while since a record so viscerally grabbed me by the opening notes and refused to let go. It’s been a few days since my first go and I’m still thinking about this record when I’m not listening to it. My highest recommendation, we could all use a moment to check this one out. –Gwen Static (Dirt Cult, dirtcultrecords.wordpress.com / Boss Tuneage, bosstuneage.bigcartel.com)


PINE HILL HAINTS
: Ghost Dance: LP
Ten years after its initial release on K Records, Ghost Dance has been re-issued on the Haints’ home base label Arkam. As far as the punk people playing acoustic instruments game goes, this band and this album in particular are the shining-fucking-star in the infinite universe of lesser acts. There’s just so much atmosphere on this record. You can’t avoid being transported into their world with welcoming arms for another raucous night of “smash skull blues.” Damn near perfect. Long live the Haints! –Daryl (Arkam)

RADON: More of Their Lies: LP
I mean, fuck. Nobody told me that this new Radon record easily holds up with anything that they put out in the ’90s, and I don’t take that shit lightly because those records used to be some holy grail shit for me. But yeah, this is really, really good. The same humorous songwriting is present, along with all the hooks—all of them. A lot of bands can write a catchy-as-fuck melodic punk song, but nobody does it quite like Radon, a band who has mastered the craft of writing about hilariously typical things with a cynical slant. This is chock full of the kind of songs that get stuck in your head hours after listening to them and you can’t get them out. I needed this record, and you probably need it too. –Mark Twistworthy (Dead Broke, deadbrokerecords.com / Creep)

LES THUGS: Tout Doit Disparaître: LP
I only received this LP two weeks ago, but it’s already become my most heavily rotated album of 2019. And hey, even though it’s a reissue, it totally counts. Les Thugs’ 1999 opus, Tout Doit Disparaître, was rereleased by French record label Nineteen Something, and I’m super happy it was. This album makes me feel all the feels. Right out the gate I was hit with a romantic wave of nostalgia reminiscent of when I first discovered My Bloody Valentine. Sung in both English and French, Les Thugs take their listener on a journey through the melody-steeped sounds of the ’90s—a little Heatmiser here, a little Tripping Daisy there, yet somehow still wholly ahead of its time. For me, it’s a pretty perfect album. Dig it. -Simone Carter (Nineteen Something, nineteensomething.fr)

URANIUM CLUB: The Cosmo Cleaners: LP
A couple of years ago I had the good fortune to be sitting in the kitchen at Razorcake HQ sipping a Tecate when Todd put on a record. “I think your really going to like this” was all he said. That was my introduction to The (Minneapolis) Uranium Club. It’s safe to say that Todd has edited enough of my reviews over the last fifteen (?!) years to be an authority on what I am going to like, and he was correct. I was hooked instantly. I am a huge fan of the weird. When I first got into punk rock, as much as I loved Dead Kennedys, Misfits, and Sex Pistols, I was also drawn to Butthole Surfers, Scratch Acid, and Nomeansno. Uranium Club is straight up weirdo shit and they’re glorious. The Cosmo Cleaners is out there. Disjointed chaos yet laser focused. For a moment I found myself wishing I still got high because this album would be a blast while blasted. As a whole, I don’t think this album is as good as All Them Naturals but that is a pretty tough album to beat. That said, tracks like “Flashback Arrestor,” “Man Is the Loneliest Animal,” and “Geodesic Son” are absolute rippers and the twelve minutes-plus “Interview with the Cosmo Cleaners” is a journey, to say the least. Another winner for the bastard sons of Devo, Minutemen, and XTC. –Ty Stranglehold (Fashionable Idiots, fashionableidiotsrecords.bandcamp.com)



VARIOUS ARTISTS
: Trash On!!!: 6 x LP
P Trash records was one of the few international labels that I can think of that during most of the 2000s released a steady stream of solid punk and garage records by bands from all over the world. In January of 2018, P Trash records founder Peter Eichhorn was tragically killed in an automobile accident. The news came as a shock to his immediate family. Word quickly spread amongst his friends and the punk community. Peter’s wife Susanne released a statement on the label’s website asking for some time to tie up any loose ends the label had but also regretted to announce the label would be no more. Later, it was announced that with help from friends No Front Teeth and FDH Records, a compilation—the final P Trash release—would be a tribute to Peter. Trash On!!! is a set of six LPs with a total of 104 bands, with nearly half of those songs previously unreleased. The six albums are housed in two album jackets and sit inside a specially made screen-printed tote bag. The track listing is a veritable who’s who of punk and garage bands including recognizable favorites such as Mean Jeans, the Spits, Statues, Jay Reatard, Steve Adamyk Band, Digital Leather, Dean Dirg, M.O.T.O., Poppets, Nervosas, Hatepinks, and tons of other great bands. The bigger names who lent their talents to this collection serve as a reminder of how someone who would otherwise go unrecognized in a crowd meant so much to the artists we all know and love. On a more personal level, as someone who has lost a dear family member to an automobile accident, I can attest to the strength of love and friendship during a very difficult time when your life is forever changed in the blink of an eye. Peter touched so many lives and the reciprocity of their love shines through in this compilation. Hug your friends and family. Tell them you love them. Buy your friend’s band’s records. Make new friends and keep in touch as often as possible. Because without love, what the fuck are we all even doing here? Cheers, Peter. –Juan Espinosa (P Trash, FDH, No Front Teeth, ptrashrecords.com, fdhmusic.com, nofrontteeth.co.uk)

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Webcomic Wednesdays #379 by Chainsaw Cathy

Cathy Hannah lives and draws comics in Chicago with her kitties. She organizes the Chicago Women’s Comics Collective and smells like flowers. www.sayrabbitrabbit.com, Facebook.com/chainsawcathy, http://chainsawcathy.tumblr.com – for full size of this comic click here!

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Do you or your friends make webcomics that would fit well here at Razorcake? Send an email (and comics or links to comics) to our editors: msiref@alum.calarts.edu or donna.ramone@gmail.com

Gaming Disorder: Pulling Back the Digital Curtain by Will Kenneth

(Illustration by Danny Rust)

When the Lawrence Arms announced the dates and lineup to the fourth annual War on Xmas show, I noticed my own calendar aligned perfectly. I bought tickets when I realized this gave me an excuse to knock a line off my bucket list and to hang with an old friend. As someone who rarely travels, booking this trip felt like a big deal.

The last time I was in the area was also the last time I got on an airplane. In June 2015, I went to Botcon, the official Transformers convention. I got to hang with a bunch of grown-ass nerds, and we talked about robots and partied past my old man bedtime. When we moved our party outside, the Midwesterners were walking around outside in shorts and T-shirts while I was bundled up in my All hoodie and shivering.

I may be a proud New Yorker by birth, but living in Florida for nearly thirty years has made dealing with weather below sixty degrees feel like I’m slogging through unexplored arctic tundra, and now I want to go back to Chicago in December? I hadn’t seen a serious winter since I was six, and I definitely haven’t driven on icy roads.

Dropping this Floridian in a car seemed like a disaster waiting to skid off the roads, but putting myself through that would be worth it to see friends, catch some great bands, and drive outside of the city to reach the Galloping Ghost Arcade in Brookfield.

Oh yeah, that’s right. The real reason I was going to Chicago was to get to the arcade loaded with nearly seven hundred games (a milestone they’ve since surpassed) and knock it off my bucket list. Punk rock and good friends were just a cool bonus (and a way for me to segue into this column).

Getting Hooked

The truth is that I play a ton of video games. Even with balancing a family, a full-time job, and a Razorcake column, I still sneak in a good five to ten hours a week to fire up my PlayStation 4 and retro consoles.

As I’ve been going to counseling to better understand my relationship with my abusive father, I’ve also learned to better understand my relationships with the world around me, including some of the crutches I use to deal with the parts of my life I don’t like.

I have to admit I haven’t always had a good balance with video games, and I didn’t realize that until recently.

Last year, the Borderlands Facebook account shared the first magazine writeup the original Gearbox game received in 2007. This excerpt about gameplay design caught me off guard.

Gearbox is specifically structuring the game so that players will always be juggling several quests of varying length and complexity. “We’re encouraging the player to just play five more minutes to get something new,” says Hurley. “Sometimes it’s just a new gun, sometimes you finish a quest, and sometimes it’s another piece of the story that clicks into place.” This simultaneously allows players to make meaningful progress even in brief bursts while also encouraging the “just one more” kind of gameplay that can unintentionally lead to marathon sessions.


Here the developers give away the secret sauce: Video games are designed to keep you hooked.

Honestly, I was shocked. Somehow, something that felt like an innocent hobby suddenly felt predatory. Disgusted, I put the controller down for more than a month.

In that time, I learned video games use feedback loops to keep you engaged—like when you eat ghosts in Pac-man or get 1-ups in Super Mario Bros. Those are in-game rewards for your progress, and when combined with lights and sounds they will stimulate the natural release of dopamine in your brain.

Over time, games became more sophisticated and so did game designers’ ability to keep us engaged with feedback loops. I’m too embarrassed to admit how much time I’ve sunk on Borderlands 2, but I will say it’s probably more than any game I’ve played, and I’m still not done exploring all that the game offers.

Identifying Symptoms

Looking back on more than thirty years of gaming, I don’t know if I can put my finger on the exact moment home console video games felt predatory. Maybe they always were.


I’ve been thinking about the Copyrights song “Crutches” lately. The chorus line, “All of my crutches are breaking my bones” hit home here. My favorite escape may be a problem I need to escape from.

After doing some reading, I learned not everyone is an agreement about gaming addiction. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognized gaming disorder as a public health threat in their medical documentation ISC-11, which they formally adopted May 25, but the American Psychiatric Association (APA) is undecided whether gaming disorder is its own disorder or a subset of something else. Regardless of how gaming disorder is categorized, the effects of addiction are still real.

The APA proposes nine symptoms of video game addiction disorder, which I’m taking directly off their website:

Preoccupation with gaming
Withdrawal symptoms when gaming is taken away or not possible (sadness, anxiety, irritability)
Tolerance, the need to spend more time gaming to satisfy the urge
Inability to reduce playing, unsuccessful attempts to quit gaming
Giving up other activities, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities due to gaming
Continuing to game despite problems
Deceiving family members or others about the amount of time spent on gaming
The use of gaming to relieve negative moods, such as guilt or hopelessness
Risk, having jeopardized or lost a job or relationship due to gaming

Talking with my counselor, she says something is addictive if it impacts your ability to keep a functional balance with work and other responsibilities. You look at the entire picture of symptoms to understand if someone is addicted, and one or two symptoms may not be enough to confidently diagnose someone. Knowing that, I still identify with a few of these and that made me a little uncomfortable. I hope that by recognizing them in myself, I can develop a healthier relationship with my hobby.

My trip last year to the Galloping Ghost was part of my interest to seek out bigger, better experiences that I can’t have at home (#3 tolerance). In the end, my trip wasn’t unreasonable; I set aside money and time to do it, and it didn’t impact other activities I planned.

But at home, the trip was part of a larger pattern where I’m also frequently looking for obscure and rare titles. I’ll study fan sites, and scour eBay and local game stores for region exclusives from Asia, Europe, and South America. I have a substantial backlog of games I don’t play, so I don’t need to add more, and I’m suddenly not going to get an influx of time to play them. You can apply that to any other kind of collecting habits for books or records and still get the same result—buying stuff you don’t have time to appreciate and enjoy is worth reconsidering, no matter how scarce the item is or good of a deal you’re getting. To be fair, I need to take some of my own advice.

Instead of acknowledging and working to understand emotional stress, I tend to immerse myself in games instead (#8 games as an escape). All that anger I had from being abused by my dad—if I wasn’t channeling that rage into writing or playing in punk bands, I was gaming. When life threw me curveballs, I leaned on games even harder.

When I was younger and working for The Gainesville Sun as a copy editor (and occasional contributing writer), we were told in advance they were going to cut a few of us from the copy desk (we were responsible for page layout, proofing, and writing clever headlines). Sure, I created a resume and applied to jobs once I knew I might lose mine, but I also bought Final Fantasy XII and waited out my impending doom by slaying monsters in an engrossing fantasy adventure game, which I did to the exclusion of pretty much everything else. (Spoiler: I got cut, and I haven’t played FFXII since).

Fortunately, getting counseling has helped me understand my emotions, and developing that emotional intelligence has made me less inclined to dive into a game to escape emotions I didn’t know what to do with.

The rest of the bullet points don’t apply to me as much. Sure, I’ll think about games when my mind wanders (#1), and sometimes I feel irritable when stepping away from marathon sessions (#2), but I never feel like I have to lie at about playing video games (#7), and it’s never been a weight on my marriage (#9). With Borderlands 3 dropping later this year, I told my wife that I’d like to plan time to binge on it for a few days, and she said she appreciated that I warned her months in advance. That way we can work together so my gaming doesn’t feel like a burden on our family.

Seeking Treatment

Fortunately, recognizing these signs have helped me moderate my intake, but I understand moderation doesn’t work for everyone, and some people need to walk away altogether.

Counselors can help you identify if you have gaming disorder, and can recommend treatment. I realize healthcare in the United States is expensive and not everyone can get it, but if you can afford it, and you believe you need it, you should go. You deserve to get help. Seeing my counselor out of pocket is $70, which is just $10 more than buying the latest AAA big budget blockbuster game. And yes, you may want more than one visit, but please consider the cost of one more game versus not getting help at all.

You can also reach out to Online Gamers Anonymous (OLGA), which is a 501(c)3 that offers a twelve-step recovery program and online chat rooms where you can find people tackling this too. Computer Gaming Addicts Anonymous also offers similar community-minded approaches for people interested in quitting.

Redditors also put together r/stopgaming as a support group for gamers trying to quit. Though I don’t subscribe myself, the discussions seem lively and supportive.

I know it may be hard to accept that something you enjoy and maybe even take pride in could be harmful for you. Video games brought me so much joy through the years and have helped me through challenging times in my life, but I have to recognize they’re seductive for a reason. If you can relate to some of these symptoms (and it doesn’t have to be video games), you may want to reconsider your habits, too.

Will Kenneth lives in Jacksonville, Fla. See you at Fest 18. ALL > Descendents. (Facebook | Instagram *NEW* | w o l f m a n w i l l [@] g m a i l)

Webcomic Sundays #378 by Ollie Mikse

Click for full size and see more of Ollie’s work at Curingcancercomics.com

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Do you or your friends make webcomics that would fit well here at Razorcake? Send an email (and comics or links to comics) to our editors: msiref@alum.calarts.edu or donna.ramone@gmail.com

Chris Boarts Larson Photo Column—Under Attack

(click for full size)

Coming again soon to a basement or living room in Richmond, VA is the new band Under Attack with an all-star line-up of HC-scene vets—featuring members from Suppression, Municipal Waste, and Limp Wrist to name only a few. I had the pleasure of seeing these old friends play one of their first house shows. “Hey, so-and-so and so-and-so’s new band is playing at this house on this day” and it’s all I need to hear to know I’ll be there. Back to their roots, these fellas deliver some straight-up blazing hardcore in the very best way.

www.slugandlettuce.net
www.facebook.com/SlugandLettuce

Remembering Fast ‘N’ Loud by Daniel Makagon

Rodney_Anderson

Part of The Sound Salvation series.

It is easier than ever to hear old and new bands. We can stream or download music that is quickly found through an internet search. But in the pre-internet days there were limited options for discovering new punk bands. Living in an area that had a college radio station with some kind of punk programming was certainly one great way to hear music. People might record the shows and listen all week and/or write down releases to mail order. In Chicago and some nearby cities, “Fast ‘N’ Loud” on WNUR 89.3 FM at Northwestern University was the source for punk and hardcore. The show lasted for nearly two decades and was integral to the local scene. I interviewed one of the show’s founding hosts, Rodney Anderson, to learn about the experiences of doing a show in the early 1980s when it was much harder to find punk on the radio.

Daniel: How did you get involved with Fast ‘N’ Loud?

Rodney: I was playing in a punk band (Seismic Waves) and suddenly in the summer in ’83 things exploded in the punk community. For the first time we had a punk radio show that a lot of people could hear because of NUR’s signal strength. So we rushed and got an interview as quick as we could. During the interview we talked about going to college and how we were going to make the band continue to work. Everyone said where they were going. I went last and said, Northwestern. There was dead air for a second, and when the interview was over Doug Conn (host and creator of “Fast ‘N’ Loud”) said, “I’m going home in a couple weeks and I need somebody to cover this show while I’m on vacation. Are you really enrolled?” I said, “Yep, I start in September.” I had the keys to the radio show; stumbled and bumbled my way through it. You could tell people were listening because every bad trait I had on the air would get yelled at me on stage when my band played. [Laughs] I started that summer of ‘83 and did the show until December, 1987. Shortly after I started, another buddy of Doug’s came, a guy named Mark Hejnar. The three of us did the show for a year. And they both graduated so I kept it alive.

Daniel: Can you share a bit about the context of “Fast ‘N’ Loud”: When were you on the air? How did your show fit into the station’s sound and mission more generally?

Rodney: We had a prime time radio slot that a lot of college students wanted: 7-10 PM on Saturday nights. It was 8-11 at one point, 10-12 if there was a basketball game. They always had the “Rock Show” (a block of programming that is currently on Monday-Friday in the late afternoon/early evening that focuses on indie/post-punk/alternative music, broadly speaking). We weren’t against the “Rock Show” playin’ the stuff, but we needed a separate identity.

fast_and_loud_q_1
After a couple years I felt done, but it was what I knew, it was what I was good at. It’s just that I spent more time defending the show than I worried about running it. They (station management) were always pointing a finger at the show because we were this odd thing that supposedly could do more damage than good. The show didn’t make any sense until we did our first fundraiser and pulled in—I don’t know—$600 or something during three hours on that particular night. But we did it with like two hundred phone calls. The phone never stopped ringing. These listeners wanted the show to remain around. People behind the scenes were trying to figure out what shows were worth keeping and every year we went on and did our shtick, playing songs like Fang’s “The Money Will Roll Right in.” The reaction was always great; the listeners loved us. There was no alternative.

Daniel: The show was still going when I moved here in 2005 but ended shortly after. A lot of older punks I have met here talk about the importance of “Fast ‘N’ Loud”; the show helped them hear new bands but also was an important outlet for their music to be heard. What was the reach in terms of wattage and geography?

fast_and_loud_q_2
Rodney:
I am surprised the show ran for twenty nine and a half years, or somewhere in there. There was enough flow of students. The wattage was the same then as now: 7200 watts. The antenna was only about eighty feet off the ground. There are other stations on that frequency, so when you started driving along Lakeshore Drive (a mini expressway that runs along the far east side of Chicago along Lake Michigan), you couldn’t hear the station when the buildings got taller. But the bizarre thing is that the signal cut across the water like nothing, so we had listeners in Kenosha, Wisconsin and fans in Hammond, Indiana. My band was on a bill in Madison, Wisconsin with Toxic Reasons and a band from up there called Imminent Attack. When we were playing, people were singing along. That’s a little weird. We finish the set and they come running over: “You’re the guy who does the radio show.” I said: “The signal does not make it to Madison, Wisconsin. How do you know us?” They were from Kenosha. Kids got in their cars and drove eighty or ninety miles to see a punk show. It’s something I always liked about Wisconsin; they supported bands. Any event was a big event. In Chicago people won’t go across the street; there’s just too much of everything here.

One thing that I always had fun with is that people knew what I sounded like but not what I looked like. It was good because you could do your job, leave the station, and nobody could pick you out. Somebody called once and said he saw me at a show. I asked, “Yeah, what was I wearing?” And he said I was six feet tall, blonde, with a mohawk. Leather jacket. “What was on the back?” He names a band. “Yep, next time I’ll buy you a beer.”

Daniel: He had no idea that you are African American. [Laughs] He thought he was able to link your voice to some other punk, but did you have situations where people could identify you because of your voice?

fast_and_loud_q_3
Rodney:
One time I was working in a lab at For Eyes Optical, talking to the lab tech. There were two eight-year-old boys and a father. The father says: “My son says you do a radio show.” He picked my voice out of the air just walking through. “Yeah, it’s a punk rock show. Songs are basically anti-parental and hating the government, but it all goes over their heads.” [Laughs] And they walk off. The lens secretary goes: “Why would you say that?!” And I told her: “Well, for the first time in a long time, he’ll sit down with his kids and see what they’re doing.” They’re not going to turn into axe murderers. There’s this stigma that punks are fuckups.

Daniel: Let’s talk a little bit about The Middle of America Compilation that came out in 1984. That comp certainly helped expand the show’s influence beyond an immediate listening range.

Rodney: Doug got the idea of making the compilation. He presented it to NUR and they shot him down one hundred percent. Doug is a very enterprising person and he got a group of friends, who all pitched in, and put it out. Everybody thinks it’s an NUR compilation because on the cover it says “Fast ‘N’ Loud Presents.” He might have put NUR on their somewhere. (WNUR is listed on the back of the album jacket.) But he wasn’t very happy that he had to do it himself even though he was totally capable and got it done. I wasn’t involved: I didn’t put in any money, help with the production, and my band was too lazy to get our shit together to put a song on it. It was critically acclaimed and after that NUR started doing compilations all through the “Rock Show.” Fairly cool stuff would show up on those comps but we were laughing because we had to earn it.

Daniel: How were you getting records during those early days? I think there’s a false sense that punk bands were constantly on the road at that time, but really that only applies to bigger bands. Local bands would mostly play local or regional shows.

Rodney: We did get stuff in the mail. And we had one sponsor, Wax Trax (a record store that started in Denver but moved to Chicago and later became a label). In exchange for saying that “a portion of the show was donated by…” we could go there once a week and pick up twelve dollars worth of stuff. We’d grab a lot of 7”s because you could get more than LPs. We’d go down there and pick out stuff and add it to the rotation.

The compilations were a great way to get international bands. Any national touring bands would bring their records. But we were also local, and local needed our support. That’s what keeps everything going. It took me a couple years to realize—there was some band I didn’t want to play on the air—but at that point I decided as long as it was punk I would play it. Somebody somewhere may dig this. If the mic was off, I might not like a band, but what I would say when the mic was on was different: it’s not fair to somebody to have some music critic, or some nobody who doesn’t know anything shit on you. People travel a long way to give you their cassette.

Daniel: Can you talk a little bit about the sound of the show and how you coordinated with the other hosts?

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Rodney:
During the days when it was Doug, Mark, and me, one of us was on the air and then we usually trash talked each other. [Laughs] But it was cool because Doug would play a lot of British, Mark was East Coast, and I was very local. And then stuff from California got played. But the running theme was that “Fast ‘N’ Loud” was always educational. You could get Suicidal Tendencies “Institutionalized” or “Holiday in Cambodia” anywhere. When you come here once a week, we want you to go: “Who was that?” And then you could go out and buy it. What good am I if I just play “No Feelings” by the Sex Pistols? We want you to hear everything. A lot of the obvious stuff that you already had, that was probably sitting on your turntable, when you’d call the station to request it… that doesn’t accomplish anything. Time is precious.

I don’t know what happened during the later years but for us it was a newborn and you had to nurture it. And, again, we were on during a prime time. I always thought that the first ten minutes was always fun. Sometimes we’d follow a basketball game and I would always say: “Either turn up or turn down your radio because it’s ‘Fast ‘N’ Loud.’” I would make a point to run the most sonically shredding, hard stuff for the first ten minutes. I wanted to make sure I purged anybody who just happened to casually leave the radio on. You will be challenged.

Webcomic Wednesdays #377 by Eskander Fairweather

Click here for part one.

See more of Eskander’s work here and follow them on instagram at @eafairweather – and click for full size here!

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Do you or your friends make webcomics that would fit well here at Razorcake? Send an email (and comics or links to comics) to our editors: msiref@alum.calarts.edu or donna.ramone@gmail.com

Daisy Noemi Photo Column—Ozma

(click for full size)

Ozma blessed the progressive rock nerds by performing along side Nerf Herder for one hot summer night.

www.daisynoemi.com

Pouzza Fest 9, Montreal, Q.C., 5/17/19-5/19/19 By Will Malkus

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I’ve often heard Montreal’s Pouzza Fest referred to as “Fest spring training,” but now in its ninth year of operation it’s pretty clear to see that Pouzza Fest is in the process of developing its own identity, out from under the shadow of its larger and older fellow. It’s no secret that Pouzza Fest was heavily inspired by The Fest in Gainesville, Fla., but like so many of us did when we first discovered punk music, the smaller festival is now starting to see which parts of its identity it wants to keep and which parts it wants to change. This year especially the changes were readily on display, not just in the presentation but also in the lineup the organizers chose to book and the other wholly unique activities and events that are part of the Pouzza experience. I look forward to seeing Pouzza Fest continue to grow and mature but this year had its own highlights, which I had the opportunity to write about.

All the best parts of Pouzza Fest are still there of course; the fact that all of the shows at the main stage beer garden are free and open to the public, for example, or the presence of the food that the festival is named after (pizza with poutine as a topping), but the most valuable part of Pouzza Fest by far is the ongoing dialog about diversity in music and working hard as a community to make sure everyone at the festival is safe that the organizers encourage to not only take place, but evolve and expand throughout the weekend. Over the course of the three-day festival Lorien Lamarr and I covered twenty-seven bands, two panels, and one baseball tournament. I saw old friends, made some new ones, and explored parts of Montreal I’ve never gotten to see before. Obviously that makes for a lot of content, so I’ll try to keep this brief. Hopefully the following reviews will introduce you to a new band or musician, or help start a conversation about safety and representation, but please also feel free to check out the full lineup at their website. Amusez-vous bien!

POUZZA FEST DAY ONE, 5/17/19

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Women in the Scene Panel: at The Beer Garden, Pouzza Fest, 5/17/19
It’s telling that Pouzza Fest decided to hold a Q&A panel focusing on women in punk, and even more telling that it was the very first event on the entire festival schedule. The panel, which featured a combination of musicians (Anlin Fan, Jenni Cotterill, Jordan Joyes, Valerie Knox), bookers (Nancy Ross), journalists (Liz Imperiale), and PR agents (Melanie Kaye), was moderated by Turbo Haüs co-owner and music industry veteran Michelle Ayoub. The topics covered ranged broadly, as the issues and experiences of being a woman in punk are no more universal and interchangeable than those of any human being, but of course there were some common threads. A lot of time was given to addressing and debunking the prevailing myth that “female-fronted” constitutes its own genre, and also to discussing strategies and tips for achieving success in whatever niche aspect of punk the hypothetical audience chooses to focus on. I would love to see more of these panels happen not only at Pouzza but also at other festivals in the future, because as the panel members pointed out, this was not only about addressing the struggles of being a woman in the scene but also presenting a valuable educational resource for people of any identity to benefit from.

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Anti-Harassment Seminar and Q&A with Shawna from War On Women: at The Beer Garden, Pouzza Fest, 5/17/19
I won’t spend too much time focusing on Shawna Potter’s brief introduction to anti-harassment because it’s all covered (and in much more depth than I could ever get into with just this brief paragraph) in her new book Making Spaces Safer: A Guide to Giving Harassment the Boot Wherever You Work, Play, and Gather, recently published by AK Press. It’s a great read and if you haven’t had the chance yet I highly suggest checking it out, but the main focus of her seminar was the Five D’s of Bystander Intervention, the five steps to be taken in the event that someone is being harassed in front of you: Direct, Distract, Delegate, Delay, and Document (the last one to be used as a last resort if one or more of the others have failed). Being from Baltimore I’ve had the opportunity to hear Shawna speak on this topic several times, but I can’t stress enough how worthwhile these strategies and techniques are. Big ups to Pouzza Fest for kicking off their festival by giving attendees tools to use throughout the weekend to help keep each other safe.

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Cold Wrecks: at Foufs Garage, Pouzza Fest, 5/17/19
Pouzza veterans Cold Wrecks played the first set of the fest, but even if they hadn’t, I still would have gone out of my way to catch them. The four-piece band released their second LP This Could Be Okay just a few months ago and you could feel the hype in a packed Foufs Garage. Even with a fill-in lead guitarist and the fate of their beloved van (RIP Van Michael Vancent) uncertain and weighing on their minds, Cold Wrecks was able to bring the pop punk energy which set the pace for the rest of the weekend. Very few bands do jump-worthy, high-energy songs about the anxieties and frustrations of life in the 2010s as well as these four. They rounded out their set by playing ”Montreal,” furthering their successful efforts to make themselves mainstays of all the best festivals by writing songs about their host cities.

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Sarchasm: at Foufs Garage, Pouzza Fest, 5/17/19
Hot on the heels of Cold Wrecks was the East Bay’s Sarchasm serving up their specific brand of “intersectional bummer punk pop.” True to form, their most recent album on Asian Man Records was called Beach Blanket Bummer Pop, and in all honesty I struggle to find a better description for their sound. These are upbeat summer jams about dark topics, like being scared for your life at a protest or contemplating suicide, a musical dichotomy that I might have been skeptical about prior to hearing them absolutely nail it. Sarchasm seems to feel their music in every fiber of their being; stumbling, jumping, and writhing around every inch of the tiny Foufs Garage stage with reckless abandon whether they’re belting out their own powerful lyrics or absolutely slaying a cover of Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer.”

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Choked Up: at Foufounes Électriques, Pouzza Fest, 5/17/19
Brooklyn-based four-piece Choked Up was in the middle of their sound check when we got to the main stage at Foufs, but it was hard to tell because the band was so in synch they were playing what sounded like full songs already. As a warm-up it was impressive, but not nearly as impressive as their full set. There are clearly miles and miles of meaning behind Choked Up’s songs, which shouldn’t come as a surprise since they’re fronted by the prolific graphic novelist and illustrator Cristy Road. There’s a cohesion to Choked Up that’s hard to find in bands that have been around three times as long and the crowd was very clearly there for the understated shredding, the gritty edge of Road’s vocals, and the lyrical content that backs up Choked Up’s mission statement of, “Queer POC to the front! It’s okay if you feel awkward. If you got into punk rock and you don’t feel awkward, maybe rethink your choices!”

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Bad Cop/Bad Cop: at The Beer Garden, Pouzza Fest, 5/17/19
For the first of many times over the course of Pouzza Fest weekend, the main stage in downtown Montreal came alive for the powerful trademark harmonies of Bad Cop/Bad Cop. These West Coast punks have been on the rise for the last few years and it’s easy to see why. Between the aforementioned harmonies, the syncopated no-frills guitar, and a message that has never been more prescient, Bad Cop/Bad Cop playing “Womanarchist” was easily one of the stand-out performances of the entire festival. And speaking of “Womanarchist,” their flagship song felt especially relevant in the wake of the Alabama abortion ban passed just days before Pouzza Fest, and as they launched into it the field in front of the stage became only a mass of bodies jumping and beer cups raised high as the words “it’s my right to choose!” echoed across the entire city of Montreal.

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Early Riser: at Foufounes Électriques, Pouzza Fest, 5/17/19
Between Brooklyn mainstays Heidi Vanderlee and Kiri Oliver’s dual vocals and cello/guitar respectively, Mikey Erg of every band ever on drums, and proper.’s Natasha Johnson filling in on bass, I think it’s safe to say that Early Riser has officially achieved NYC supergroup status with their Pouzza 9 set. I most often hear Early Riser categorized as a folk punk band, but I don’t think that moniker really does justice to their legitimately beautiful songs. In a scene filled with people screaming into microphones and pounding on their instruments, it’s so nice to occasionally just sit back and hear some happy songs accompanied by warm cello music and soft harmonies. It was the only time all weekend I got to see how the acoustics in Foufs did with anything other than punk vocals and they did not disappoint.

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Save Ends: at Foufs Garage, Pouzza Fest, 5/17/19
We were a little late getting into Save Ends’ set in the smaller half of Foufs, but that didn’t diminish my excitement at the opportunity to see them again. Day one of Pouzza was proving to be full of atypical punk acts and Save Ends was no exception. On top of guitar riffs and baselines that range from pop punk to emo to truly heavy, the real power behind the Boston five-piece is the interplay of vocal accompaniment between their co-vocalists: guitarist Christina Atturio and keyboardist Brendan Cahill. Both have wholly unique voices in the world of punk, and together they elevate Save Ends into a whole different weight class. This was the first set of the weekend where I saw people singing all the words to the songs back at the band, and judging from expressions, I saw I’m sure more people will be joining in the next time Save Ends plays Pouzza Fest.

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Abertooth Lincoln: at Turbo Haüs, Pouzza Fest, 5/17/19
Stepping into Turbo Haüs is kind of like stepping into another world. After passing through an entirely nondescript and unsuspecting bar, I entered through a door into a room completely bathed in red light and full of drunken punks all speaking rapid-fire French, where a band that looked like the crew of a cruise ship was tuning up on stage. From the side of the stage entered a person wearing a wetsuit, and they took a microphone in hand as the rest of the band launched into some of the hardest metalcore I’ve ever heard, complimented by 8-bit interstitials from a lone keyboard player. The band in question was Abertooth Lincoln from Dayton, Ohio, though during this particular set they identified themselves as Space Force, after the eponymous anti-nationalism single they released just a few months ago (and also a flash game of the same name they made to go along with it). Words cannot do it justice but safe to say everyone in attendance was entirely floored by the sheer energy and powerful voice of frontperson Ashley Pooler and the brutality of the rest of the band, myself not the least among them.

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Dead Bars: at Katacombes, Pouzza Fest, 5/17/19
If a group of your thirty-something friends listened to an Iron Chic record and decided to start a band with a vocalist doing his best Lawrence Arms impression, then invited you over for a band practice where they were absolutely hammered, you’d have a pretty good sense of what seeing Dead Bars live is like. They are a no-holds-barred, true-to-form pop punk band out here singing love songs about sharing earplugs and I could not have enjoyed their set more if I tried. From the balcony of Katacombes I had a front row seat to watching the front rows rip themselves into a frenzy over a repeated chorus of la-la-las and the stumbling antics of vocalist John Maiello that threatened to consume the whole crowd. It was already 11:00 PM by the time they went on but no one was holding anything back on night one, least of all Dead Bars.

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Arms Aloft: at Katacombes, Pouzza Fest, 5/17/19
Where to begin with Arms Aloft? I could write about them for pages, so it’s hard to try to isolate this down to just the bare minimum. I’d be hard pressed to try to think of a band that inspires me more with the things they say, not just through their music but through their staunch anti-capitalism, anti-fascism, anti-shitty-people platform as well. Sonically, Arms Aloft is Midwestern punk at its best: raw, fast, and honest, completely lacking any guile whatsoever. Seth Giles’ gruff voice was in rare form on night one, especially while crooning the title track and my personal favorite from their last album What a Time to Be Barely Alive. Arms Aloft ended their set with an impressive display of Midwestern manners; lots of compliments and gratitude for Pouzza Fest itself. Just because you’re punk doesn’t mean you have to be an asshole, and no band exemplifies that ideal better than Arms Aloft.

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Spanish Love Songs: at Katacombes, Pouzza Fest, 5/17/19
This wasn’t my first Pouzza Fest so I knew to pack extra clothes because there is one universal truth to surviving in Montreal venues: no matter what the temperature is outside the inside will be very, very warm. Couple that with the fact that we were closing out the night with the undisputed champions of heartfelt party jams Spanish Love Songs and I knew not a single one of us would be making it out of Katacombes with our clothes dry. Spanish Love Songs absolutely destroyed the crowd in the best possible way and I can only imagine what we must have looked like from their perspective: a constantly shifting sea of sweaty faces screaming their songs, fists raised high into the air, with people practically hanging off the balcony to point their fingers back at them. Their mid-set rendition of new single “Losers” was a Pouzza Fest highlight for me and a perfect end to the night.

POUZZA FEST DAY TWO, 5/18/19

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Grand Slam 4 Baseball Tournament: at Lafontaine Park, Pouzza Fest, 5/18/19
Day two of Pouzza Fest started with a long search for what might be the most unique aspect of the whole festival: the Saturday morning baseball tournament. Punk and baseball have a long history of intersection but Pouzza Fest takes the relationship a step further and lets bands, sponsors, and partners form teams to compete against one another in a bracketed tournament, complete with hot dogs and beer for sale, a live announcer, and (naturally) loud punk music blasted from giant speakers just to complete the authenticity of the experience. I got the impression that this is one of the better kept secrets of Pouzza Fest but I genuinely hope to see it grow in the future as it was a very relaxing way to pass a sunny morning in Montreal before the music started.

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The Anti-Queens: at The Beer Garden, Pouzza Fest, 5/18/19
The Anti-Queens used to bill themselves as “four tits and a dick” but these days they’ve swapped the dick out to realize their final form: “eight tits and some instruments.” I caught The Anti-Queens last year at Pouzza Fest but this year they took the main stage by storm first thing on day two, immediately winning over the audience by dedicating a song to “anyone here who’s on their period right now!” Even though it was obvious that a lot of the crowd were battling hangovers and just starting their days, the Toronto band still brought the energy and rallied the assemblage with thirty minutes of blistering garage punk fit for any early ’90s college basement show. The open-air venue allowed the three-part harmonies of the band to really shine where last year they were a bit overshadowed by a smaller space, which is way more of a testament to how hard they wail on their instruments then it is a criticism of their voices or the acoustics at other Pouzza venues. With this fest under their belts The Anti-Queens may have fully graduated to headliner status, and I hope to see their name at the top of more lineup announcements soon.

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Alex Brown And The Hepcats: at The Beer Garden, Pouzza Fest, 5/18/19
I’m a big fan of diversity in my lineups so I was happy to see that Pouzza Fest continues to go out of their way to book acts that I would probably never seek out on my own. While rockabilly certainly isn’t for everyone (I can’t say I’m the biggest fan myself), Alex Brown And The Hepcats were a welcome surprise before a full day of running from punk show to punk show. It takes a lot of charisma to pull off the rockabilly aesthetic in 2019 but charisma is something that Alex Brown has in spades, blending a little punk energy into the genre of a different rebellious age while still twisting, shouting, and shaking like Elvis Presley himself. Once you hear him you might not be surprised to learn that he was a quarter-finalist on the Canadian version of The Voice, and that vocal prowess coupled with some excellent twangy guitar and good old-fashioned charm had people legitimately swing dancing by the second or third song of the set.

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Walt Hamburger: at Théâtre Sainte-Catherine, Pouzza Fest, 5/18/19
Walt Hamburger was probably my favorite surprise discovery out of all of Pouzza Fest. Lorien Lamarr (Aretesophist Photography) asked that we cover him, and when I remarked that I had no idea what he sounded like, she replied simply “good.” Dashing over from the Beer Garden to the tiniest Pouzza venue Théâtre Sainte-Catherine meant that his set had already started, but walking into that crowded room mid-song was probably the best introduction I could have gotten. Soulful ballads with heart-wrenching lyrics weren’t really what I expected to hear from a guy called Walt Hamburger, but it’s always nice to be surprised in the oft-predictable punk world. Walt plays some of the best acoustipunk I’ve heard in a very long time and has almost two decades of experience as a musician under his belt, but nothing could have prepared me for the whistling. This may seem like a strange statement, but the man can whistle like nobody’s business and it adds a whimsical counterpoint to what are some of my new favorite “rainy day” songs.

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Direct Hit!: at The Beer Garden, Pouzza Fest, 5/18/19
Direct Hit! writes pop punk concept albums about the nuclear apocalypse and experimental drug use à la Hunter S. Thompson, and even though the thoughtful approach to minimalist storytelling through well-crafted lyrics seems at odds with their “get drunk and party” punk rock approach to music, it has cemented their status as one of the greatest contemporary pop punk bands. I always seem to catch them headlining festivals these days, which isn’t a bad thing by any means, but it does mean that some of the party atmosphere they bring to the table is lost in translation. At the risk of sounding anti-success, I have to say that I vastly prefer the Direct Hit! shows I’ve seen in packed venues, where there’s no barrier and you’re constantly at risk of a stagediver landing on top of you. I don’t even like stagedivers but some bands just call for it in order to get the full experience and Direct Hit! is absolutely one of those bands. That’s not to say they didn’t deliver a quality performance full of energy across an eclectic, discography-spanning setlist (because that would be a lie) but punks have a tendency to get greedy about their favorite bands from time to time and I’m afraid I’m no exception.

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Invaluable: at Katacombes, Pouzza Fest, 5/18/19
Taking a break from the plentiful pop punk of the weekend to catch the much heavier Invaluable from Virginia Beach turned out to be a great decision. As much as I’d been enjoying all of the other bands we’d seen, there was something missing that I found in Invaluable’s shred-heavy, slightly sludge-y melodic punk sound. Once again Pouzza had me covered in terms of variety, and the three-man band’s killer gang vocals complemented their stylized thrashing perfectly and left me feeling satisfied on the metalcore front… for at least a little while.

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Big D And The Kids Table: at The Beer Garden, Pouzza Fest, 5/18/19
As a lifelong ska fan, I have to admit that I was unapologetically excited to see Big D And The Kids Table open up the pit just as it started to get dark in Montreal. 2007’s Strictly Rude was actually one of the first albums I bought with my own money after discovering them on the Asian Man Records’ Ska Is Dead comp, so getting to throw down and skank to “Noise Complaint” along with such a huge crowd took me on a nostalgia trip right back to high school (in the best way, if there is such a thing). Pouzza Fest has always been kind to ska when setting their lineup and this year was no exception. Of course Canadian punk has a long, proud ska history itself and I have to admit that I am consistently impressed at just how diehard their diehard fans are. In terms of performance, Big D And The Kids Table have been at this for so long they’re total professionals these days, and I don’t know if they could put on a bad show if they tried.

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Bike Tuff: at Katacombes, Pouzza Fest, 5/18/19 (by Lorien Lamarr)
Will caught whatever stomach bug was going around and had to skip a set, so I’m filling in. Kamea was one of my favorite records of 2016, but even if you’ve never heard a single Bike Tuff song, you’d feel like an old friend returning home at any Bike Tuff set. I haven’t been to the Midwest since I was fifteen, but I feel like an honorary member of the Midwest scene at a Bike Tuff show. The crowd is the enthusiastic fifth member of the band. When you have a hundred voices screaming “Did you forget about me?”—that really takes gang vocals to a new level. I think it’s the hopeful mood of the surface-level bitter-sad songs that keeps everyone coming back. If that desire to retain your grip on hope feels familiar, you belong at a Bike Tuff set, but honestly, if you show up you belong and that’s goddamn beautiful.

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Sincere Engineer: at Foufounes Électriques, Pouzza Fest, 5/18/19
Let me preface this by saying that I have never, ever seen a crowd go as hard for Sincere Engineer as the packed room in front of the Foufs main stage did at Pouzza Fest 9. Last year frontwoman Deanna Belos played by herself, but it would seem the days of Sincere Engineer solo sets are gone as the four-piece have the Rhombithian setlist pretty much down to a science now. Having been on the Sincere Engineer hype train from pretty early on it’s impressive how much their fanbase has grown in just a few short years. They have always defied easy classification into any of the major punk genres but it’s been incredible watching Belos develop as both a performer and a lyricist/vocalist/guitarist. The band even premiered a brand new track at the end of the set, clearly Alkaline Trio-inspired and full of trademark Red Scare gruffness but still wholly unique. If the rest of the album sounds that good, we all need to start preparing now.

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Bong
Mountain: at Katacombes, Pouzza Fest, 5/18/19
If I’d gone into their set blind I never would’ve suspected Bong Mountain hailed from the frozen land of Grand Rapids, Mich. and not somewhere warm and sunny. I can easily imagine listening to their debut album on repeat during a weekend beach trip, but they exist just slightly outside the pop punk spectrum with guitars just a little too noodley and their song structures just a little too varied to be nearly pigeonholed into that box. Still, the crowd at Katacombes had clearly come specifically to see Bong Mountain, as people were doing backflips (sometimes successfully, sometimes not) off of the stage and into the crowd almost immediately. The area right in front of the stage resembled nothing so much as an impromptu human pyramid as waves and waves of punks leaped and clambered over each other in an effort to sing right into the faces of the band members themselves. We’d all been playing it cool and conserving energy in preparation for our evening’s must-sees, and almost universally it seemed we all decided that now was the time to let it all out for Bong Mountain.

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Ramoms: at Café Cléopâtre, Pouzza Fest, 5/18/19
Are the Ramoms a gimmick band? Yes, of course they are, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have all the stage presence and musical ability of the band they’re named after and then some. Let’s face it, The Ramones were never considered one of the greatest punk bands of all time because of how well they could sing or play their instruments, and in this category at least, The Ramoms have them beaten in my opinion. Still, they say imitation is the highest form of flattery, so adaptation must be up there as well. The Ramoms were the last stop of my night, and as far as closers are concerned it would be hard to top hearing some of the songs that first got me into punk but with fresh twists on them; for example how the four moms transformed the Ramones classic “Judi Is a Punk” into “Gritty Is a Punk,” a love song to the giant orange nonbinary icon, avowed antifa member, and current Philadelphia Flyers’ mascot Gritty.

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The Dopamines: at Katacombes, Pouzza Fest, 5/18/19 (by Lorien Lamarr)
Will was once again down with the sickness, but luckily for me, with the exception of gluten, I have an iron stomach impervious to any illness. I say “luckily,” but I suppose that’s a matter of perspective. I love The Dopamines, but a Dopamines show is uncannily like giving your fun uncle who gets mean when he’s drunk a microphone… except there’s four of him. It’s like being consensually verbally abused in a quid pro quo exchange for earwormy punk. For an added twist, although their lyrics are often still angry, they are also introspective and honest, which always makes me wonder, “How much of this stage behavior is bravado or do they really live that stark of a dichotomy everyday?” True to form, The Dopamines brought three beers a piece on stage with them and greeted the audience with, “Why aren’t you all at Iron Reagan, you posers. We’re The Dopamines from Ohio. Fuck you,” and launched into a set heavy in tracks from Tales of Interest. The audience, myself included, cheered. Two songs in, when we were still there, one of those beers was spat directly at us, almost like a dare to stay. Not only did we stay, that was when the pit opened up. Punk don’t back down from a dare.

POUZZA FEST DAY THREE, 5/19/19


Rayner: at Foufs Garage, Pouzza Fest, 5/19/19

Rayner from Las Vegas has been on the periphery of my awareness for awhile now, but Pouzza Fest was the first opportunity I got to see them play live and I’ll be honest: over the course of a twenty-ish minute set I completely fell in love. Their specific brand of pop punk isn’t the frenetic high-energy speedway that’s come to be defined by the genre, instead their songs invite the listener to slow down and consider the world around them. This is particularly true of my favorite track off of their 2017 release Disasters, the cleverly named “Blurred Limes” which challenges our modern day notion of success and offers an alternative: “live your life like it’s one big show.” Unendingly humble and grateful to Pouzza Fest for having them all the way out from Las Vegas, Rayner closed their set with a hilarious tongue-in-cheek cover of Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville” that was still an absolute bop and caught the crowd up with its infectious energy.

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Guerilla Poubelle: at The Beer Garden, Pouzza Fest, 5/19/19
It’s never easy to write about a band that sings in a language you don’t speak, but French anarcho punks Guerilla Poubelle have crafted such a clear thesis statement between their music and message that even a casual listener can grasp the gist of what they’re trying to say: namely to wake up, see the world around you, and acknowledge the way it and the people who live in it are being treated by those in power. It was a message that Pouzza Festers were more than willing to listen to, as hundreds gathered in the pouring rain to bask in the group’s gravel-mouthed vocals and driving guitars. It was the first time in my life I’ve ever seen a mosh pit full of umbrellas, which struck me as very fitting for a band that deals in existential philosophy as much as Guerilla Poubelle does.

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Andrew W.K.: The Beer Garden, Pouzza Fest, 5/19/19
When I saw the full lineup announcement for Pouzza Fest I was excited for a lot of reasons, but I was only surprised for one: Andrew W.K.’s name at the top of the headliner list. Pouzza has always managed to grab one or two headliners that completely defy expectations, but seeing Andrew W.K. play an outdoor beer garden in the middle of downtown Montreal was an experience I knew I wanted to be a part of. Looking back on it now, I’m happy to report that it did not disappoint in the slightest. With a thunderous sound setup, a professionally-designed and coordinated light show, and no less than four guitarists all shredding at one time, what other set could compare to the sheer party energy that Andrew W.K. brings everywhere he goes? When we talk about punk, I think it’s important to remember that sometimes we have to throw our heads back and scream, and there’s no one Pouzza Fest could have gotten to better remind us of that than Andrew W.K.

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The Penske File: at Foufounes Électriques, Pouzza Fest, 5/19/19
Just hours before their Pouzza Fest set, The Penske File discovered that their van (along with all of their gear and personal belongings) had been stolen from where they were parked behind Foufs. The call went out, with images of the missing van and all of their gear quickly spreading all over social media in the hopes that anything would turn up. Despite these tremendous setbacks, The Penske File would not be deterred. They borrowed gear from other bands, took the stage as expected, and delivered one of the most incredible sets of pure, undiluted pop punk I have ever seen. Seemingly channeling all of their frustrations and anxieties inwards, all three members, jumped, lunged, and roared with a passion that I’ve never seen from them before. I have said before that The Penske File is the only presently touring punk band that is entirely made up of frontmen, and nowhere was that more on display than on Foufs’ main stage on the third night of Pouzza Fest.

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Kill Lincoln: at Café Cléopâtre, Pouzza Fest, 5/19/19
Any time hometown ska heroes Kill Lincoln from Washington, D.C. play I do my damndest to be there front and center, and I wasn’t about to let Pouzza Fest be the exception to that rule. Even with some of their regular lineup missing in action, Kill Lincoln still treated the late-night Café Cléopâtre to a full set of good old-fashioned East Coast ska punk. If you’ve ever wondered what Less Than Jake would sound like if they’d had a hardcore phase, you should absolutely check out Kill Lincoln. They are one of the most innovative and hard-working ska punk bands out there now, and in a world where ska is mostly treated as a punch line, they’re worth defending. Ska MVP award for Pouzza Fest goes to trombone player Yasutaka Umemoto, who dominated the stage with some of the most impressive vertical jumps I’ve ever seen.

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MakeWar: at Katacombes, Pouzza Fest, 5/19/19
And finally, after three days of an absolutely unreal Pouzza Fest experience, I was fully ready to close out the weekend with some MakeWar singalongs. The NYC three-piece was more than ready to acquiesce, launching into their set with little preamble (“We decided not to get drunk before our set and I think we did a pretty good job. We didn’t succeed, but we did a pretty good job.”) but plenty of energy. It seemed like they’d been storing it all up over the course of the fest, and now it was ready to be unleashed upon the Katacombes crowd in one furious assault of fast guitar, heavy bass, and pounding drums all almost drowned out by the strength of Jose and Edwin’s dual vocal prowess. For the last time of the weekend I watched the crowd go wild for an absolutely incredible band, and the longer the set went on the more we all collectively fought against its inevitable conclusion, perfectly willing to live in this moment as long as we could.

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Will Malkus is a writer, librarian, and concert photographer based out of Baltimore, Md. You can check out his photography and writing portfolios at charmcorephoto.com/.

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BAND REVIEW SUMMARY

FRIDAY, MAY 17
Women in the Scene Panel @ The Beer Garden
Anti-Harassment Seminar and Q&A with Shawna from War On Women @ The Beer Garden
Cold Wrecks @ Foufs Garage
Sarchasm @ Foufs Garage
Choked Up @ Foufounes Électriques
Bad Cop/Bad Cop @ The Beer Garden
Early Riser @ Foufounes Électriques
Save Ends @ Foufs Garage
Abertooth Lincoln @ Turbo Haüs
Dead Bars @ Katacombes
Arms Aloft @ Katacombes
Spanish Love Songs @ Katacombes

SATURDAY, MAY 18
Grand Slam 4 Baseball Tournament @ Lafontaine Park
The Anti-Queens @ The Beer Garden
Alex Brown and the Hepcats @ The Beer Garden
Walt Hamburger @ Théâtre Sainte-Catherine
Direct Hit! @ The Beer Garden
Invaluable @ Katacombes
Big D and the Kids Table @ The Beer Garden
Bike Tuff @ Katacombes (by Lorien Lamarr)
Sincere Engineer @ Foufounes Électriques
Bong Mountain @ Katacombes
Ramoms @ Café Cléopâtre
The Dopamines @ Katacombes (by Lorien Lamarr)

SUNDAY, MAY 19
Rayner @ Foufs Garage
Guerilla Poubelle @ The Beer Garden
Andrew W.K. @ The Beer Garden
The Penske File @ Foufounes Électriques
Kill Lincoln @ Café Cléopâtre
MakeWar @ Katacombes