There’s a side of Montreal that nearly no one knows about. While people get up, go to work, take their kids to Build-a-Bear and eventually go to bed, Montreal’s underbelly writhes with life, completely out of sight and mind. Fattal Loft is some sort of warehouse-turned-apartment complex in the bowels of St. Henri’s industrial area, infested with punks, anarchists and anyone who doesn’t want to be found. I went there this Saturday to check out the sixth annual Fattalfest, a two day free music festival. Bands were set up in people’s living rooms, in courtyards, and in nearly every corner of this grimy, dilapidated area. Boy, was it awesome.
You know you’re at Fattal by the sheer amount of graffiti over everything around you, shoes hanging from powerlines, and punk rockers covered in spikes and dyed hair, sporting public canned beverages. I waded through these people and their dogs to the central courtyard where a band performed on a small stage, surrounded by people cheering. The band screamed, roared, and the audience slammed into each other as if they had electricity within themselves and had no way to get it out- all they could do was jitter and shake and smash into their friends who were doing the same. The sound was grimy and gross in the best way possible. The band onstage was Montreal’s own Act of Disorder, a thrash-punk band with infectious attitude. I caught site of my friend Mosquito Mike in the audience and saw he was leaving for an alleyway into the labyrinth of shanties of the complex. I followed.
We squiggled between a brick wall on one side and a wiry fence on the other, and over pallets and people sitting all over the ground. Suddenly there was a great clamor from our right and a train passed beside us, right on the other side of the fence. On my left we passed numerous doorways, all open with people fleeting freely in and out. These were people’s squats, and makeshift stages were set up in some, while all hosted sketchy individuals partaking in sketchier activities. We took a door on the left into a large room, completely painted and graffitied called “Death House.” Onstage the band Cuntagious were performing. I believe the song was “Fuck My Dick (Chop It Off)” but I could be wrong. People were squeezed in tight, slam dancing and cheering their asses off.
I must confess that as what seemed to be true for many of the other visitors, for me much of the night had a spastic, blurry quality to it. I now in retrospect have a certain amount of difficulty unscrambling the scrambles. I was in one place and another and another in some sort of loosely-related storyline. I remember seeing Mosquito Mike’s band “The Barrel Heads” up on Death House’s stage. Mike had a fiery demeanor and performed as always in a half Henry Rollins half Iggy Pop angry sexhead frenzy. The crowd went wild and people were throwing each other as other watched from the balcony in awe.
My girlfriend and I wandered into some people’s squat and danced to Irish folk music. A young man and a dog named Storm lay on the couch and the dog’s tail kept flitting the man in the face in a comical way as he slept. He twitched each time. Above them, a large group of people stood in the kitchen debating about anarchism. A large portion of the people here considered themselves as anarchists. The owner of the squat, “Dboss” enlightened us a bit about anarchy and showed us vinyls from his band, Riot Porn. The name of their band refers to how watching riots and violence on television can give you a rush and be addictive, he said. He told us how a member of his band was having a baby and how they’ll be one of the many children raised in Fattal. I thought that was neat and imagined what it would be like, and what you’d do for fun as a kid there. We pushed past some guy selling coke and other drugs and left.
My girlfriend and I wandered through the alleys and streets, talking to people every now and again and learning how friendly they all were. We walked beside a crumbling graffitied wall and above us there was a cute black kitten on top. She followed us back and forth, whichever way we’d walk, watching us from above. She didn’t want to leave her perch though and didn’t follow us back into Death House. Lightbulb Alley played inside, with a psychedelic-tinged rock sound, and they were dressed in a hippiesque fashion. They were good but I was tired and we headed out. We walked past drunk punks lining the path out, speaking and sitting and spitting and smoking. We went home.
Fattalfest most definitely isn’t for everyone. However, for me, the sense of community and freedom at this place are and always have been palpable and alluring. If you’re into letting go for a night or weekend and enjoying the sets of extremely passionate musicians and meeting interesting characters, Fattalfest is an annual party you don’t want to miss. Hopefully it’ll exist for many years to come. Thanks to the wonderful organizers and musicians who put on this festival, while getting no money in return. It really says something when these people can put together something more enjoyable for a certain demographic than expensive music festivals like Osheaga or Warped Tour can ever be. Keep it up guys, keep the Montreal underground alive.
Our part 1 on Fattal Fest can be found HERE.