’77 Montreal 2018

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Rise Against 77 Montreal

So here we are again, punkin’ in the park almost a year to the day since last years inaugural edition of ’77 Montreal last summer. And what a different summer this has been! In contrast to the washout of last year with just a few bright spots (of which this festival thankfully fell on one), this summer has been blazing for weeks now. Until this week… storms each day have been threatening to spoil things all week. But again, ’77 gets lucky, and the weather clears up wonderfully. Osheaga would be so jealous…

David Bowie punk 77 Montreal

Upon arrival at the festival site, it’s clear that one of the big annoyances of last year has been resolved in a big way. Whereas last year there were just 3 or 4 food trucks for the entire site (which started to sell out midway through the day…), this year there is an entire village of food vendors, with the brand new third stage in amongst them. Appropriately termed the Garden Stage, it’s surrounded by lush trees and takes you back to those tiny stages of Osheaga from 10 years ago, before that went massive. Right away, full of shady spots among the trees to relax and enjoy the bands, it feels like a wonderful place of solace from the insanity of the main stages. Being in among the food vendors provides a good chunk of people for the smaller bands on this stage to play to, while they eat. Well played, festival organizers!

Seaway 77 Montreal

It’s on this stage I catch my first set of the day, in the form of Oakville ON’s Seaway. They’ve drawn a decent-sized crowd for a 4pm slot too, and already have a devout following on the fence singing along from start to finish. Vocalist Ryan Locke sounds a lot like Get Up Kids frontman Matt Pryor, but musically they remind you more of the Fuelled By Ramen or Drive-Thru Records roster. Ryan revels in the sunshine as much as we do: “we were supposed to get crappy weather, I guess they got that wrong! We’re gonna play a song called Apartment, LETS GET SWEATY!” The crowd duly obliges. The chilled vocal intro of Slam is sung with gusto by the devout followers, before the song bursts to life… and so does a circle pit. That theme continues right through Best Mistake. Ryan enquires “who are you guys looking for are to seeing today?” When one of the devoted fans responds “just you!”, he laughs back: “woah, there are some way better bands than us, I’m not afraid to admit it!” They follow that up with a note-perfect cover of Weezer’s Buddy Holly, which, bizarrely, is the only song of the set the hardcore Seaway fans don’t know the words to. After inviting all of us their show in Quebec City next weekend, they close out their set with the bouncy Lula On The Beach.

Anti Flag 77 Montreal

I make it to Anti-Flag‘s set about 15 minutes late, and of course they are already tearing up the West Stage like the world is ending with the anthemic Turncoat. As always, they maintain the sense of community as well as any punk band around, constantly referring to the crowd in familial terms like “brother” and “sister.” Circle pits are summoned either side of the divide that splits the crowd down the middle from front to back, both of which explode into life on the epic This Is The End, which then goes right into the furious Die For The Government and the fun punked-up cover of Should I Stay Or Should I Go by The Clash. As is Anti-Flag tradition, drummer Pat Thetic and bassist Chris No. 2 set up in the crowd for set closer Power To The Peaceful, and unquestionably have the crowd eating out of their hand by the end. Epic as always.

Heading over to the opposing East Stage, New York hardcore legends Sick Of It All notice the crowd is initially holding back a little. Frontman Lou Koller addresses that before any songs are played, inviting us “don’t be shy, bring it in!” They do. “You want that old school stuff?!” They do. “We’re gonna play New York hardcore, which means we play what we want, we play fast, we don’t sing pretty!” The crowd roars in approval, and SOIA proceed to raise the metaphorical roof of ’77 Montreal for the next 45 minutes, similar to the way fellow New York hardcore legends Madball did here last year. The water cannons installed either side of the stage, whilst helping to cool down the furious crowd, also serves to turn the mosh pit into a mud pit very quickly, so it gets pretty gross, pretty fast. Still, the crowd is not deterred. No Cure from the 1994 Scratch The Surface record sees Lou separate the crowd, left and right, to set up their famous ‘Wall of Death’ before jokingly adding the disclaimer “I know a million bands do this, but WE INVENTED THIS!” On Lou’s cue, both sides run at each other, and the pit continues. Legends.

Interrupters 77 Montreal

It’s hard to imagine anyone making more effort to be at this festival than LA’s The Interrupters. Two days ago, they played on the Warped Tour near Buffalo, NY, then took a flight to LA to perform a couple of songs on Jimmy Kimmel last night. And now, here they are, back on the East Coast today. Guitarist Kevin Bivona admits “we’ve had about 3 hours sleep, but it was worth it to be here!” As evidenced by an invitation to Jimmy Kimmel, The Interrupters are breaking out in a big way right now, and the massive crowd waiting for them shows that the repeated visits to Montreal, most recently to Club Soda last December, have paid off. After Ghost Town by The Specials heralds their arrival on stage, A Friend Like Me and By My Side ignite the skank pit in a big way, before new song She’s Kerosene blazes out and already sounds like a bona fide classic in the set. Frontwoman Aimee salutes the number of kids in the crowd (under 10s get in free here, which makes for a family-friendly day out), agreeing that “there’s no age range for punk rock!” Things get particularly raucous on new song Gave You Everything, and one girl behind me profoundly regrets buying two brand new 12″ vinyls at the ‘Marche Aux Punx’ earlier in the day and bringing them to the front of the biggest stage at the festival. I would love to know if either survived intact by the end of the day… After throwing Popsicles into the crowd (I caught a cola flavoured one! Result!), Family closes out the epic 50-minute set in a fine manner.

kids 77 Montreal

The Interrupters Set List

A Friend Like Me
By My Side
She’s Kerosene
Take Back The Power
She Got Arrested
Haven’t Seen The Last Of Me
Treat The Youth Right
This Is The New Sound
Easy On You
Gave You Everything
On A Turntable
Sound System (Operation Ivy cover)

me first gimme gimmes 77 montreal

I’m pretty sure I sweated out a few pounds during The Interrupters set, so I decide to recharge my batteries at the back during Me First And The Gimme Gimmes. They’re always a fun show, built exclusively on punk covers; indeed they jokingly introduce almost every song with “this is a cover!” Offerings today include Leaving On A Jet Plane, Sloop John B, All My Loving, Jolene, as well as a couple of solo efforts by frontman Spike Slawson (armed with a ukulele) in the form of I Believe I Can a Fly and Hats Off To Larry. They jokingly antagonize the crowd too; after asking them to make some noise, Spike appraises the effort: “you sound like Ottawa or Toronto!” Joke-boos echo around the crowd in response. Definitely a fun addition to any festival, let alone a Punk one.

afi davey montreal

Weird to speak of AFI as being “old-school,” but having formed in 1991, they most certainly are at this point. Frontman Davey Havok is an iconic figure in the punk scene but has changed so much since the last time I saw them, way back in 2003. Back then, Davey cut a truly Gothic figure, with long scraggly hair and a black mesh shirt, but now, he’s clean-shaven, with a slick haircut and a leather jacket… for want of a better comparison, he kinda reminds me of Adam Levine! Still, as soon as the opening chords of Girls Not Grey play out, its evident that the sound hasn’t changed at all, and the crowd sings along with vigor throughout the 12-song greatest hits set. Between songs, the crowd chants “AFI! AFI! AFI!,” to which Davey beams “merci beaucoup!” Love Like Winter sounds amazing, and soon after, Snow Cats sets a rumbling mood, which goes well with the fading light at sunset and the stage lights which suddenly start to stand out. The set ends with the phenomenal tandem of The Days Of The Phoenix and the timeless Miss Murder before Davey abruptly slams down his mic on the last note and the band leaves the stage hurriedly. Brilliant.

afi 77 montreal

AFI Set List

Girl’s Not Grey
So Beneath You
17 Crimes
This Celluloid Dream
Love Like Winter
The Lost Souls
Paper Airplanes (Makeshift Wings)
Of Greetings And Goodbyes
Snow Cats
I Hope You Suffer
The Days Of The Phoenix
Miss Murder

Suicidal Tendencies 77 montreal

OK, now its time to join the stampede back across the site for Suicidal Tendencies, and by the time I get there, it already looks nuts up front – I elect to cower at the side for this one. Prior to War Inside My Head, frontman Mike Muir explains “this isn’t a singalong, its a feel-along!,” before inciting a massive circle pit on Subliminal, with fill-in drummer Dave Lombardo stoking the fires (yes, the Dave Lombardo, of Slayer fame). A massive singalong soon follows anyway, on I Saw Your Mommy. After yet another giant circle pit for Cyco Vision, the set closes with Pledge Your Allegiance and a huge stage invasion from the crowd, all chanting “ST! ST! ST!” in unison.

Suicidal Tendencies stage invasion

Suicidal Tendencies Set List:

Suicide’s an Alternative
You’ll Be Sorry
I Shot the Devil
Two Sided Politics
War Inside My Head
Possessed to Skate
I Saw Your Mommy
Cyco Vision
Pledge Your Allegiance

rise against 77 montreal

And suddenly we reach the last set of the day! And another band I’ve not seen in many years, Chicago’s Rise Against. I remember seeing them play tiny basement shows in my home city of Manchester, England, way back around the time their 2001 sophomore record Revolutions Per Minute was released, so it’s incredible to see them now as festival headliners in front 8,500 people. They open with new song The Violence from their most recent Wolves record (their 8th overall), and its met with a huge singalong, as is Satellite, which follows. Frontman Tim McIlrath is quick to heap praise on the gathering: “Thanks for the love, we’ve had some amazing times in this city, we’ve had some amazing times on this island!” After dedicating I Don’t Want to Be Here Anymore to Anti-Flag, he announces “you came to a great festival today, you made some good decisions!” He continues to spread the love, dedicating Help Is On The Way to AFI who graced this same stage right before them. The guitar is exchanged for a megaphone on new song Megaphone (see what he did there?!), allowing him to patrol the stage just like old times, and ultimately ends up standing on the front fence singing into the adoring crowd by the time he reaches the end of the incendiary Give It All. There are a few laughs in the lead-up to Blood-Red, White And Blue, as Tim encourages a circle pit either side of the crowd divide with the disclaimer “yeah I know Sick Of It All invented this!”

After blazing through a furious Savior (which is almost 10 years old now, insane!!!), the band departs momentarily, before Tim returns alone with an acoustic guitar to slow things down for a while. Lighters, phones and hundreds of singing voices fill the night sky throughout Voices Off Camera, People Live Here, and Hero Of War, but of course the biggest cheers are reserved the stellar Swing Life Away, which still elicits goosebumps, even now.

Tim leaves the stage briefly again, before returning with the band for a triumphant encore. Make It Stop is thunderous, before the unmistakable bass intro of Like The Angel, the song that hooked me almost 20 years ago, evokes mass hysteria. The frenetic Prayer Of The Refugee brings the curtain down on the set and the sophomore edition of ’77.

rise against band

Rise Against Set List

The Violence
I Don’t Want To Be Here Anymore
House On Fire
Ready To Fall
Help Is On The Way
Give It All
Blood-Red, White & Blue
Re-Education (Through Labor)
Voices Off Camera
People Live Here
Hero Of War
Swing Life Away


Make It Stop (September’s Children)
Like The Angel
Prayer Of The Refugee

And what a day it was. My step counter tells me I’ve done over 25,000 steps by the time I hit the hay that night, so I am absolutely destroyed, but without question, it’s my highlight of the Montreal Festival calendar and will continue to be for the foreseeable future on the strength of today. And massive kudos to the organizers for ironing out all of the wrinkles from last year! Well organized, well planned, and a killer line-up. This evening, Tim McIlrath proclaimed “we’ve had some amazing times on this island!”

The 8,500 punks who came today can certainly say the same thing now.


old punks never die shirt

Review – Simon Williams
Photos – Steve Gerrard

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