A Cool Move, Montreal Indie Hardcore Fest, Brings Eclectic Punk From Across North America

What Four Days of Punk & Friends Can Do for a Community

The band Torpor performed at Casa Del Popolo. Courtesy Yannick Pereira Bajard

Between May 1 and 4, Plateau venues Casa Del Popolo and La Vitrola were filled with the heavy sounds of hardcore punk as the independent festival A Cool Move returned to Montreal for its second year.

The festival’s inclusive representation of punk subgenres paired well with festival organizer and bassist Clementine West’s choice in curating a festival full of her close community of Ottawa and Montreal-based acts, while creating a welcoming environment for out of towners.

Bringing a variety of punk sounds from across North America resulted in a successful underground festival as well rounded and unique as the climate of contemporary punk music itself.

A Cool Move pulled together 18 acts across three evening shows and a matinee. Some of the musical acts arrived from as far away as Olympia, Washington as was the case for the five-piece Lower Species.

Closing the first night was Spell Runner, a touring band from Albany, whose set fuses hardcore with elements of rockabilly and goth.

Ben Fredette, Spell Runner’s drummer explained that it’s this blending of punk sounds within the genre that results in Spell Runner meeting difficulties finding their place in the music community in Albany.

“That’s what’s really great about A Cool Move, is that if this were back home, none of these bands would be playing together,” Fredette continued.

Fredette believes that bringing in an eclectic mix of acts from around North America to play together is a great way to repair the fractures that have developed within subgenres of punk and grow a stronger community.

Fredette explained how independent festivals that invite musicians to play in different cities provide artists with the opportunity to grow their audience and connect with other acts, and this plays a crucial role in bringing a scene together.

“Creating those relationships is really important for getting the chance to play in different places, and expanding the community.” — Ben Fredette

“We found out about the festival from our friends in Doxx, who we got to play with in Ottawa last year. Creating those relationships is really important for getting the chance to play in different places, and expanding the community,” Fredette said.

For Fredette, a notable element to his enjoyment of the festival was the small size and its sense of closeness, something he attributed to not only West’s curation of the fest, but also the size of Montreal itself, which reminds him of the close community in Albany.

The festival also drew in Canadian talent, as Halifax’s Pale Ache drove 14 hours to play the opening and final show. A number of Montreal bands also filled the festival bills, as did groups from Montréal’s punk sister cities Ottawa and Toronto.

Friday night’s performance was loaded with a diverse range of punk from local acts, as the traditional, second wave punk tones of The Hundred Steeples began the night. They were followed by Toronto-based five-piece Raze, who opened the pit to attendees with their distinct style of hardcore that proved danceable while still remaining heavy.

The band Wax, emerging Montreal favourite, continued the evening, bringing the infectious energy that encourages active participation from even the most seasoned toe-tappers. Weird Star, another Montreal band, followed, demonstrating the variety of Montreal homegrown music with a brand of poppy, “party punk.”

West set out to produce the independent festival last year to fill the need for a hardcore festival in Montreal. Montreal’s current punk festivals, Not Your Babe Fest, which took place between February 28 and March 3, and Varning Festival, which happens in October, felt as though they still left room for a hardcore-focused festival, West said.

That, and she “honestly just wanted to see the bands [she likes] play in the city [she lives] in and didn’t want to wait for someone else to make it happen.”

As each band in the festival closed their set, they were sure to thank West for putting together A Cool Move and inviting them to play.

Montreal hardcore band Prowl concluded the festival. Courtesy Yannick Pereira Bajard

West’s own band, Gazm, played the well-attended, sunny Saturday matinee show at Casa Del Popolo, stacked alongside Ottawa bands Doxx and Torpor, as well as Montreal’s own Spacers.

When asked what she was looking for in bringing together talent, West discussed her freedom to organize the shows to her own taste by keeping the festival small, leaving her as the sole curator in approaching each band.

“I am also always looking for hardcore bands that aren’t completely made up of cis, straight white dudes,” West continued.

Each show from A Cool Move cemented West’s mission of inclusivity, as out of the 18 bands scheduled, over half who played featured women, trans and non-binary members. This includes the final show, which took place on Saturday night at La Vitrola.

Ottawa’s Liquid Assets—a band comprised of members from Torpor and Doxx who had all made the trip to the festival together, played alongside Corrode from Western Massachusetts.

The evening concluded with The Fight from New York and Montreal hardcore band Prowl. Once again, the diverse blending of punk genres that had been dominant throughout the festival programming returned, while also demonstrating the spectrum of gender representations who, refreshingly, have come to play significant roles in contemporary punk.

This week, West has been resting up from the exhaustion that comes from self-organizing a four-day festival while being a student and working in a bakery.

“I’m so tired I could never go to a show again in my life, but we all know that would last about five days,” West wrote in a Facebook post, which she concluded by announcing Gazm’s LP release on June 10 with a show at Le Ritz and promises of more to come from A Cool Move.