Punk rock as a musical genre is an uncommon choice for First Nations musicians. A trio of Kahnawake-based bands set out to change that notion August 2 when Montreal’s TRH-Bar hosted the first-ever First Nations Punk Show to be held in the city.
Featuring Once Were Warriors, Skid Mark and The Whiskey Chase, the show took place during the First Peoples’ Festival, though Montreal-based Cider Punk Productions organized the event independently with sponsorship from Beesum Communications. TRH-Bar, on the city’s Boulevard Saint-Laurent, is a unique venue in that it contains an active skateboarding ramp and skateboarders ride the bowl while the bands provide a soundtrack.
“I’m sure when people think of Natives, punk rock isn’t the first thing that comes to mind,” laughed Whiskey Chase guitarist Johnny Aroniente Montour after the show. “But we all come from the same reserve, and we all know each other one way or another. So it was pretty cool to have a whole show of just Native talent. I felt proud that we were a part of it, and that we could call it a First Nations Punk Show.”
Being a Native guy involved in punk rock doesn’t seem that far out of the ordinary for Montour – particularly in Kahnawake, which is so close to Montreal.
“We’re just like everyone else and our people are diverse when it comes to doing what you do,” Montour said. “Living on a rez 10 minutes from a big city, you’re introduced to so many different cultures and sub-cultures that you’re bound to find one that inspires you. We all like different types of music, but playing punk is what we like to do. Punk rock is just another genre of music, a different outlet of getting emotions out through music.”
The camaraderie of the punk-rock scene and the shared enjoyment of the music brought together the different members of all of the bands, he says.
“Having people come out to see your shows, getting to meet new people and having them know that you’re Native – that can take off some stereotypes about your people and show that we’re all just the same.”
Members of Skid Mark responded as a group to questions from the Nation. The idea for the “all-K-Town [Kahnawake] punk show” occurred, they said, “after we played a Tuesday night show there. The venue is awesome because it had a skate bowl inside and we always wanted to play at a place like that – because almost all the bands grew up as skater punks in Kahnawake. It seemed to be too good to not set a show there.”
The bonus, said the members of Skid Mark, was that playing a show in Montreal is bound to draw a crowd of locals – plus Kahnawake is close enough that friends and fans from back home can easily make the trip to offer some hometown support.
“Playing shows in the city is always better, because there’s a big punk scene in Montreal and we seem to get the punks moving at all our shows,” they said. “We actually had a big crowd show up – mostly from Kahnawake, and all the other punks in Montreal that know these bands.”
Aroniente Montour was equally enthusiastic about the reception the three bands received. But the fact that all three bands were composed of Native musicians didn’t ultimately make that much of a difference, he noted.
“It wasn’t really any different from playing another show except for the name on the flyer. This wasn’t any of the bands’ first show – we’ve all played many shows before. It’s just this time we were all booked on the same one, which was a first in Montreal, so it was pretty cool. Hopefully we can do it again.”