’77 Festival @ Parc Jean Drapeau – 26th July 2019

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In the dead of winter (February 26th, to be precise), there was something both infuriating and reassuring about that Instagram post that ‘77 Montreal released: “150 days.”  That’s how far away this years 3rd edition was.  It’s infuriating, as it’s still freezing and icy outside (and that’s before the horrendous Spring season even started), and yet reassuring to know that you’ll be “punkin’ in the park” again eventually – my cheesy expression, but I like it. 

And then here are we are, in the newly renovated Parc Jean Drapeau, in the blazing sunshine.  The seasonal contrasts of this city never cease to amaze me.

Vans Warped Tour may have quit visiting long ago, but the punk scene in and around Montreal still thrives.  At the ‘Marche Aux Punx’ on-site, various festival representatives are around from Rock La Cauze, held in Trois Rivieres in a couple of weeks (and headlined this year by Moist and Sum 41), and Music 4 Cancer, coming up in St. Therese this September (headlined by Anti-Flag, Me First and the Gimmes Gimmes, and Good Riddance).  All of this, of course, in addition to the regular club shows we get all year round.  This really is a great place to live if punk is your thing.

The Dirty Nil

I arrive just as Hamilton’s The Dirty Nil hit the stage, who kick things off with the invitation from frontman Luke Bentham: “Montreal, let’s go to heaven!”  Clad in a somewhat garish cowboy shirt, both he and Jerry Seinfeld lookalike bassist Ross Miller bound around the stage for the duration of their 40-minute set, and clearly enjoy the step-up in stage size from their previous visit (at the minuscule Bar l’Escogriffe last November).  New song Astro Ever After gets its ‘Quebec debut’ (their words, not mine) right after a furious run-through of Smoking Is Magic before Ross implores the crowd to pogo before Pain Of Infinity.  Most decline, electing to conserve energy under the blazing sun so early in the day, but a few give it a shot.  A spot-on cover of Metallica’s Hit The Lights wraps up proceedings.  Luke had thanked everyone at the start of the set: “Thanks for coming to the Dirty Nil rock concert, you made a good decision!”  He was absolutely right.

The Dirty Nil Setlist

  • 1.       Always High
  • 2.       Bathed in Light
  • 3.       That’s What Heaven Feels Like
  • 4.       I Don’t Want That Phone Call
  • 5.       Smoking Is Magic
  • 6.       Astro Ever After
  • 7.       Wrestle Yü to Hüsker Dü
  • 8.       Pain Of Infinity
  • 9.       No Weaknesses
  • 10.   F***in’ Up Young
  • 11.   Evil Side
  • 12.   Hit the Lights (Metallica cover)

Scranton PA’s The Menzingers are up next, here in support of their upcoming 6th album Hello Exile.  A huge chunk of the crowd sing along to opener Tellin’ Lies, the weirdly profound chorus of “Where are we gonna go now that our twenties are over?” resonating with punks young and old.  That singalong gets even louder during the opening bars of Good Things, as frontman Greg Barnett’s softly sung lament “I’ve been having a horrible time / Pulling myself together“ is roared back with gusto.  Obituaries remains one of the most joyous pessimistic choruses you’ll ever hear.  Lookers is another slow burner to begin with, that soon erupts into another big singalong, with a good slice of the crowd defying the heat and pogo-ing along.  Greg salutes the crowd one last time with “thanks for hanging out with us!” before closing out their 40 minutes with the awesome In Remission, and the genius hyperbolic bridge is roared back at deafening volume: “If everyone needs a crutch then I need a wheelchair / I need a reason to reason with you!”  Another fantastic set from The Menzingers.

The Menzingers Setlist

  • 1.       Tellin’ Lies
  • 2.       Good Things
  • 3.       House On Fire
  • 4.       The Obituaries
  • 5.       Anna
  • 6.       Thick as Thieves
  • 7.       I Don’t Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore
  • 8.       Lookers
  • 9.       After the Party
  • 10.   Nice Things
  • 11.   Burn After Writing
  • 12.   In Remission
The Menzingers
Pulley

California’s Pulley have a tough time with technical difficulties to begin their set.  After a blazing Cashed In, the mic cuts out on frontman Scott Radinsky, then the sound in general starts to intermittently switch between too quiet and too loud, but thankfully nothing deters the veterans…not even the guy who keeps requesting a song that they already played!  Scott reminisces over past shows in Montreal at the long-defunct Spectrum and Metropolis, and a couple of Ten Foot Pole covers keep the nostalgia trip going.  Fun fact I didn’t realize until writing this review: Pulley was formed when Scott left Ten Foot Pole in 1995 to play professional baseball, and then he later joined Pulley.  Crazy!  Scott jokes with the crowd: “The Offspring are up nextoh wait, sorry, Off!”  Huber Breeze and Working Class Whore conclude the throwback set.

Pulley Setlist

  • 1.       Cashed In
  • 2.       Crawl
  • 3.       Wok Inn
  • 4.       Hooray for Me
  • 5.       Soberbeah
  • 6.       Gone
  • 7.       Never Look Back (Ten Foot Pole cover)
  • 8.       My Wall (Ten Foot Pole cover)
  • 9.       A Bad Reputation
  • 10.   Second Best
  • 11.   No “I” In Team
  • 12.   Different
  • 13.   Huber Breeze
  • 14.   Working Class Whore
Four Year Strong

Worcester MA 4-piece Four Year Strong aren’t ones for needless chit-chat, ferocious right off the bat and screaming between the songs as well as during them.  Find My Way Back is a set highlight, with the duelling vocals of guitarists Dan O’Connor and Alan Day whipping the crowd into a frenzy, which then erupts into a huge circle pit for the last song Wasting Time (Eternal Summer).  I only really know a couple of songs beforehand, from assorted Spotify playlists, but I’m massively impressed, and it’s easy to understand why there is an army of Four Year Strong shirts at the festival.

Off!

Thanks to the kind of scheduling conflict that gets you at every Festival you go to, I have to choose between Quebec City punks Mute, and hardcore punk supergroup Off!  I can’t choose, so I elect to watch half of each set.  Mute draw a HUGE crowd at the Garden Stage and sound a lot like old school Offspring.  They succeed in getting a pretty intense circle pit going, too.  I return to the West Stage as Off!’s 64-year-old frontman Keith Morris is paying contrasting tributes to Justin Trudeau (“he is evil!”) and JFK (“he would have fixed everything!”).  The circle pit stays pretty busy throughout before the set ends pretty abruptly.

Mute
Wavves

And then we arrive at the two bands who seem a little out of place on a punk/hardcore bill, being pretty indie/alternative in nature.  For me, its wonderful, as I love that scene too, so it’s a welcome change in direction for my day.  First up its San Diego’s Wavves, and their unique brand of “surf rock/noise pop” (Wikipedia’s description, not mine).  Coming right after Off!, I am curious to see how such a drastic switch in sound will be met.  The band definitely don’t pretend to be anything they are not, either, bounding out in tie-dye tees, Hawaiian shirts, and Wayfarer sunglasses.  After frontman Nathan Williams excitedly proclaims “we’re Wavves, thanks for coming!”, they barrel straight into the epic Way Too  Much, and it becomes immediately apparent that they do actually sound much more punk in the live setting.  Bassist Stephen Pope flails his huge hair at every opportunity, and Nathan occasionally swigs a bottle of Jameson between songs, which looks pretty punk in itself!  My pleas for King Of The Beach are quickly granted too, which sets off a circle pit to my right.  It’s official: Wavves are definitely punk after all.  I have wanted to see them for a long time, and I’m kinda devastated to tear myself away 20 minutes into their set, but thanks to another irritating scheduling conflict, I have no choice if I want to see Charly Bliss over on the Garden Stage.

Charly Bliss

Upon arrival there, the stage is pretty empty, and I am a little worried how the Brooklyn 4-piece will be received at a punk festival.  Again, there are no phoney punk outfits:  the guys come out clad in white jeans and shirts, and frontwoman Eva Hendricks is wearing the most outrageous dress; basically, she looks like a giant glittery koosh ball on legs.  Opening song Blown To Bits maintains the glam with a huge synth intro and Eva bounds around the stage from start to finish.  She switches from synth to guitar on the epic Percolator, throwing shapes with guitarist Spencer Fox at the song’s conclusion (another fun fact: he is the voice of Dash in The Incredibles movies!).  Heaven is a much more chilled proposition, with a mellow wandering bassline that really showcases the kitschier side of Eva’s voice, and as I look around the crowd which has been growing steadily throughout, its clear that the punks are into it.  I spot punks with shirts of Streetlight Manifesto, Cancer Bats, NOFX and even Nails bobbing their heads along! 

Eva heads back to the synth for Bleach, sounding a little like Grimes in the vocal before guitars erupt midway through.  Capacity is true power pop perfection, with its spooky synth intro over a squelchy bassline that morphs into a carnival vibe towards the end as Eva hammers away at a single drum set up in the middle of the stage.  Chatroom closes out the stellar set, with its unashamedly dance beats.  Not even remotely punk, not even trying to conform… which actually makes them pretty punk, right?!  A fantastic set from top to bottom.

Charly Bliss Setlist

  • 1.       Blown to Bits
  • 2.       Percolator
  • 3.       Hard to Believe
  • 4.       DQ
  • 5.       Heaven
  • 6.       Under You
  • 7.       Young Enough
  • 8.       Bleach
  • 9.       Capacity
  • 10.   Chatroom
Sudden Impact

I return to the main stages to catch the final 20 minutes of The Exploited, which is about as old school punk as you could hope to get.  Frontman Wattie Buchan laments “we don’t have enough time to play all the songs we wanted!”  Having formed in 1979, that’s 40 years on the scene, and they are still pretty angry about most things, most notably, the USA, and “the system.”  Wattie defiantly announces “people said 40 years ago that Punk was dead… but we’re still here!”  Punk Is Dead follows before the set wraps up with Sex And Violence, and the most immense stage invasion you have ever seen, orchestrated by Wattie himself.  Bodies fill the stage, as the mic is passed from person to sing the mantra-like chorus.  Its quite the spectacle to behold!

I elect to watch Bigwig from a little further back as I refuel with a jumbo hotdog for the rest of the evening.  Frontman Tom Petta challenges the crowd “no standing around, let’s move this sh*t!”, and they duly oblige, going pretty crazy right out of the gates.  Last Song Last Call is the most furious ska number I hear all day, and Girl In The Green Jacket draws a thunderous singalong, as the crowd emphatically completes the line “I try to talk to you / But the words all come out wrong” which Tom starts.  The set finishes with a furious 13 after Tom registers his appreciation: “thanks for sticking around guys, this was a blast man!”  

The crowd is ready and waiting for Pennywise long before they actually take to the stage, pre-emptively singing the trademark chant of Bro Hymn a full 10 minutes before their allotted stage time.  After the classic introduction, you always get at a Pennywise show (“we’re Pennywise from Hermosa Beach, California!”), set opener Peaceful Day is anything but, and when frontman Jim Lindberg implores the crowd “faites du bruite, make some noise!”, they are already doing so in abundance.  Fight Til You Die still sounds incredible all these years later and packs a serious punch. 

As serious as Pennywise are, though, they like to joke around a lot too.  Jim grabs the video camera from the guy patrolling the front of the stage and goes for a wander with it around the stage area (cameraman nervously in tow), and then soon after, after giving a shout out to a group who came from Labrador for the show, he adds “we came a long way too, but we’re not bragging about it!”   Right after the classic Perfect People, he takes aim at the VIP terrasse: “hello VIP section, aren’t we special??  Can someone from there bring me a Rum and Coke or a Champagne??”  Being Jim’s birthday, a birthday cake is brought out for him, which guitarist Fletcher Dragge attempts to throw into the crowd… and fails spectacularly, landing about 2 feet past the stage.  Unfazed, Jim asks a member of pit security to scrape a piece up for him to eat… and he does!  Gross.  But kinda cool too.

After having some fun with a few truncated covers of Black Flag, AC/DC, and Beastie Boys songs, things suddenly get serious again with the thunderous Society, which is blasted out at breakneck speed.  During an extended bass breakdown, Fletcher incites the crowd to “go nuts for the last chorus!”  They most certainly do.  F*** Authority is equally anthemic.  The traditional punked-up cover of Stand By Me gets even more love, with even the Pennywise non-fans (if there is such a thing here tonight!) able to join in.  A seismic Bro Hymn closes out the set emphatically, with another stage invasion to close out the party.

Pennywise Setlist

  • 1.       Peaceful Day
  • 2.       Fight Til You Die
  • 3.       My Own Country
  • 4.       Rules
  • 5.       Same Old Story
  • 6.       Perfect People
  • 7.       Violence Never Ending
  • 8.       Nervous Breakdown (Black Flag cover)
  • 9.       TNT (AC/DC cover)
  • 10.   (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!) (Beastie Boys cover)
  • 11.   Pennywise
  • 12.   Society
  • 13.   Live While You Can
  • 14.   No Reason Why
  • 15.   F*** Authority
  • 16.   Stand by Me (Ben E. King cover)
  • 17.   Bro Hymn

Streetlight Manifesto are a worthy addition to any festival line-up, and especially when the fatigue starts to kick in after it starts getting dark; their energetic brand of ska keeps things bubbling along nicely!  Again, I’m not overly familiar with them, so take in their set from a little further back, but it’s clear that they have a massive following here today.  The song Watch It Crash is my personal highlight, with a full brass section blowout midway through, and they crack a few jokes of their own too; “what’s up Toronto?” definitely gets the loudest ‘BOOOO!!!’ of the day!  I should definitely get myself prepared for the next time they come to town, which, happily, will be in November (https://www.greenland.ca/event/view/streetlight-manifesto-lolympia-montreal-2019-11-16-tickets-4442)!

Bad Religion

And suddenly, we reach the last band of the day: the mighty Bad Religion.  I’ve been jinxed the last couple of times they came to town, having tickets and then having to sell them again for whatever reason, so I am buzzed to finally see them again almost 10 years to the day since the last time.  Frontman Greg Graffin definitely looks a lot older now, but my oh my, he still sounds exactly the same as they tear through Them And Us to open the set.

And what a set!  27 songs crammed into 80 minutes, drawing from 14 different records in their colossal discography.  The crowd energy is relentless, the singing is deafening, and it really is the perfect way to close out a day at ‘77.  After the timeless Stranger Than Fiction, a couple of guys in wheelchairs crowd surf to the front during The Dichotomy, which is an awesome sight.  One song often merges into the next to the point where my brain can’t even process it fast enough, it’s so awesome!  I Want To Conquer The World crashes into the stellar 21st Century Digital Boy, both to enormous singalongs.  Right after, Greg jokes “we could end it there on a high!  But we have a few old ones left…”, at which point the band then blaze through Modern Man, No Control, and Generator in quick succession.  It’s hard to find the words to describe it, especially at this point in a review when I have mostly run out of fresh adjectives to use, but for sure, it’s unforgettable.  Sorrow, from The Process Of Belief record that really opened my eyes to the band back in 2002, closes out the main set in euphoric manner.  An encore consisting of Infected and American Jesus stirs up one final round of singalongs and circle pits, before the show, and indeed the Festival closes out for 2019.

Bad Religion Setlist

  • 1.       Them and Us
  • 2.       End of History
  • 3.       F*** You
  • 4.       Stranger Than Fiction
  • 5.       The Dichotomy
  • 6.       Recipe for Hate
  • 7.       Chaos from Within
  • 8.       Los Angeles Is Burning
  • 9.       Anesthesia
  • 10.   My Sanity
  • 11.   Atomic Garden
  • 12.   Lose Your Head
  • 13.   Suffer
  • 14.   Automatic Man
  • 15.   Skyscraper
  • 16.   I Want to Conquer the World
  • 17.   21st Century (Digital Boy)
  • 18.   Modern Man
  • 19.   No Control
  • 20.   Generator
  • 21.   New Dark Ages
  • 22.   You
  • 23.   Do the Paranoid Style
  • 24.   F*** Armageddon… This Is Hell
  • 25.   Sorrow
  • Encore
  • 26.   Infected
  • 27.   American Jesus

Safe to say, the 3rd edition of ‘77 is another resounding success.  The 6,000 attendance is a little down compared to the 8,500 who came last year, but you absolutely wouldn’t know it from the energy and fervor of the punks who came out today.  I absolutely cannot wait to be punkin’ in the park again in a years time for the 4thedition!  Just another winter and spring to deal with first…

’77 Montreal Festival

Review – Simon Williams
Photos – Kieron Yates

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