The end of August marks one of the biggest annual punk gatherings in Canada, known as Fattal Fest. The two-day music festival takes place in a closed off parking lot in St. Henri and is completely free to the public. Out-of-town punks arrived in packed vans, or hopped off passing freight trains, many with nothing except their clothes and backpack. Never have I seen so many mohawks, natty dreadlocks and face tattoos in one place.
By the time I arrive for the first band, there were already a dozen punks passed out on the hard concrete. Homeless sympathy dogs roamed freely without a leash in search of their masters, who neglected all responsibility in exchange for blissful unconsciousness. The collective smell was overwhelming, a mix of body odour, vomit, dog urine and stale beer. Crushed beer cans were scattered across the parking lot. Food Not Bombs provided a free meal of salvaged dumpster food, though a lot of it was later regurgitated onto the ground once mixed with booze.
Organizer Jennifer Bobette was seen wobbling on a cane, having been released from the hospital a week prior. However she didn’t let her condition slow her down and made sure the show ran smoothly. She was surrounded with a community of local volunteers, helping her with everything from building the large stage the day before to setting up equipment between bands.
By 11 p.m., the music moves from the outside stage to a small, cramped loft. Every year, I’m amazed by the number of people that are able to cram into one room. Musicians are in direct contact with the audience because there is no stage, which creates a high risk of songs being cut short due to damaged equipment. Toronto’s Big Brother managed to handle the crowd more so than the majority of local acts. They were pushed right up against their amplifiers, yet still got through every song with minimal complication. Anyone on the floor was eventually soaked in beer and sweat, and anyone who fell to the ground came in contact with shards of broken bottles and black grime. Orally Fixated handed out free CDs and t-shirts after playing their last show, not wanting to be burdened by an excess of merchandise.
Those who didn’t pass out in the parking lot the first night stayed up all night, long after the last band played. I eavesdropped on a few late-night conversations and heard many accounts of struggles with debt and addiction. Fattal can be a very depressing place at times, being populated with people who have hit rock bottom more than once. The next day, the parking lot is full of worn-out faces as folk-punk band Hard Up attempt to soothe everyone’s hangovers. Their banjo-player, known simply as Wawa, played in four different bands this weekend, performing day and night on both Friday and Saturday. Somehow he seemed to have more energy than most single-band musicians.
Rumours circulated that Vice News was present among the chaos. They recently posted an article comparing Fattal to an anarchistic post-apocalyptic setting from a movie. Personally, I like to think of Fattalians as modern-day pirates, with their disregard for authority or proper hygiene. Local thrashers Dealer seemed to attract the most press, with their blistering guitar solos and a homemade canon that launched shirts and stickers into the audience.
Cops lurked around at every corner outside the parking lot. Police are not allowed to enter the Fattal area by law without a warrant, unless someone calls for them. Locals make sure to remind them that they are not welcome by spray-painting anti-cop slogans on the sidewalk. Unfortuantely, a fight broke out at the end of the night and an emergency phone call was made, and the closing band was cut short. By this time, it was already four in the morning, so I took this opportunity to walk home. I received many dirty looks from officers posted up outside, but I knew I wasn’t doing anything wrong. On my way home, I passed by the 18th century ruins that were recently discovered when construction workers dug up St. Remi. It made me wonder that maybe in a few hundred years from now, scientists will by chance unearth remnants of an ancient punk civilization once known as Fattal.
Stay tuned tomorrow for our second installment on Fattal Fest.