Real Cool Time: The BCASA house show + PUP @ Gabba Hey!

It was decided that Friday night was going to be a multi-venue punk marathon for me, seeing the BCASA and PUP at different spots on the same night. Why not? Although timing would be tight, nothing was going to stop me. Not Supershredder, not Vanilla Ice ‘rapping’ on stage, and certainly no inept, bug-eyed Foot Clan member I could have encountered along the way. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then you may have a more difficult time grasping BCASA. But for those of us who have fond memories of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (old school cartoon and movies), still remember right button combos for Mortal Kombat finishing moves, and also happen to love some good ol’ punk music, BCASA is a Montreal punk band that is ahead of its time.

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Photo: POP Montreal

I’m not going to lie, I didn’t really know too much about BCASA until recently. I found out that it stands for the Bill Cosby Anarchist Society of America. I found out they use the word ‘fuck’ more often than most bands, in a good way. I found out that they evoke nostalgia within me. They have a song called ‘The Ballad of Casey Jones’ (video below), who just happens to be one of the meanest, badass vigilantes ever written into a story. EVER. I mean, there’s a lot of music out there and I probably should know the Montreal scene better than I do. Better late than never, as they say. Their newest album is called Fuck You Shredder and after a few listens you can really get an idea why these guys are widely loved. They’re also on Stomp Records in Montreal, which used to be the home of some great ska bands like The Planet Smashers and SUBB.

The whole experience at this house show was pretty incredible. I wan’t sure if I’d know many people coming in, but I said hi to a few guys I knew and got nestled into the basement where BCASA was getting set to play. I sadly missed the openers Average Times, which sucks because they’re a really great crunchy local garage-punk band. The stone-walled, gloomy basement was brought to life by christmas lights and a shitload of people ready to go off. Once the band started playing, the rest of the set was pretty much a blur. People were moshing without general regard for their well-being. A few guys fell so hard that I could hear their bodies slap the cement floor over the loudness of the music with my earplugs in. There were visible signs that this pit was a good one – sweat, intense faces, blood and cuts, and of course people helping people get up when they fell.

The crowd was so consumed by BCASA that fans screamed in the microphone, crowdsurfers managed to succeed at their mission despite air ducts trying their best to get in the way, and one guy even spent the majority of a song hanging from the wooden support on unfinished basement ceiling. The lights were accidentally turned on a few times, leading many to look around in a hazy and confused state for a few seconds. The booze was flowing and the party did not stop for the entire set. It’s shows like this that keep me going. Just all out warfare. The crowd left with cuts and bruises, but ultimately it’s the communal act of letting loose and not giving a fuck that makes this kind of show the most fun to go to.

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Look at that air!

The time came to jump in the Batmobile and move on to the next venue, Gabba Hey!, where PUP was taking the stage shortly. Again, I missed the openers Yes Please & Thank You and Those Gulls because I was tight on time between shows, not because I’m a complete asshole. PUP is a Toronto-based punk band that is really making a name for themselves, containing former members of the band Topanga. This year PUP has gotten some serious love from the likes of Exclaim!, Stereogum, Brooklyn Vegan, AUX, The Grid TO, amongst others. I would say that this is part of the reason for their recent success, but I would be wrong. Hype is only justified insofar as the artist can back it up by putting all they have into proving their abilities in songwriting and live performance. Stefan Babcock, PUP’s lead singer, captures the true punk rock ethos that many in the music industry seem to lack:

We wanted to make an album that captured what we do live.  We recorded mostly live off the floor and there are a lot of mistakes on the album, but they’re real and awesome, and it sounds like us, playing our songs. That’s all I’ve ever wanted out of a punk rock record. (Tumblr)

Not only is their debut S/T album beyond great, their live show is that X-factor that makes them stand out from the rest (in my humble opinion). They command the same kind of energy that a band like METZ exudes — that unrelenting, unwavering free-for-all kind of energy. PUP has been signed in Canada on Royal Mountain Records for a while now, but just got picked up in the US under L.A.-based Side One Dummy. S1D is responsible for the release of records from bands such as  Anti-Flag, Gogol Bordello, Flogging Molly, The Gaslight Anthem, and more. So, needless to say, these gentlemen are deservedly being recognized for their work by a pretty great label.

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The atmosphere at Gabba Hey! is always neat, with tall shadows cast on the unfinished drywall and dim lighting. Just before they started to play, Stefan urged everyone to get closer. Sometimes local shows can be like a grade 8 dance, where the crowd is the awkward pubescent kid and the band is that popular chick with nice hair that everyone is intimidated by. But once he broke the ice and got everyone settled nice and close, things picked up fast. The bumping and grinding began, so to speak.

This is where that X-factor comes in. The crowd was relatively calm and even seemed a little uptight before their set. But once PUP launched into their songs, there was a definite rise in the crowd’s enthusiasm. Heads went from bobbing up and down to bodies moving and hitting each other. The band played some great songs like ‘Lionheart,’ ‘Resevoir,’ a Jay Reatard cover, and many more to get the crowd up to their level of intensity. Stefan poured beer on his bandmates, who did not at all seem adverse to alcohol in their bloodstream or their hair.

Stefan jumped on the kick drum and moved wildly in front of the crowd while singing with every ounce of energy he could muster from inside. The strobe light got us even more excited, and then things got wild. Between songs Stefan paused for brief public service announcement. “There’s no way in hell that I’m going to let this be the only show on tour that I don’t crowdsurf,” he says with conviction.

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Photo: Ming Wu

This is the point where the show hit a fever pitch, a critical mass of energy involving us coming together and Stefan crowdsurfing while singing his heart out. The band pretty much said “fuck it” to walking off the stage and back again for an encore. The absolute highlight of the night was when PUP concluded their set by covering Fucked Up’s ‘Queen of Hearts’ as well as ‘Sabotage’ by Beastie Boys. Both were perfect. The show ended with us all crowding around and belting out “LISTEN ALL Y’ALL IT’S A SABOTAGE!” I met Stephan after the show and he said that a while back Damian of Fucked Up asked them if they knew how to play Queen of Hearts, and at that time they didn’t. They learned the song in an hour and joined Fucked Up on stage to play the song, which is why they play it so damn well. So all things considered, the answer is yes. Their hype is unequivocally justified.