Pouzza Fest – Guilhem Benard

Pouzza Fest

Pouzza Fest - Guilhem Benard

  • May 10, 2019

May 17th will see the 9th annual Pouzza Fest take over downtown Montreal. With 180 bands playing across seven venues in three days, the punk rockers are living the high life. In anticipation of the festival, we spoke with Pouzza‘s booking aficionado and shareholder Guilhem Benard to discuss the festival, how he picks who to book, and who’s must see this year. 

First off, Guilhem, for those of us who don’t know – can you introduce yourself and what you do with Pouzza Fest?

Yes. I’m Guilhem. I’m one of Pouzza’s “shareholders” and I’m in charge of booking the bands on the festival. 

How’d you meet Hugo and get involved with Pouzza?

I met Hugo in 2007 when I booked his band in my hometown (Rimouski). I was 14 back then and it was crazy for me to book a band that got signed on Fat Wreck in my small town. 

Pouzza FestYears later, when Hugo founded Pouzza with Helene, I moved to Montreal. I actually moved on the same weekend as Pouzza in 2011. 

I started getting involved in 2012. I was driving bands. I drove a lot of bands that I loved back then (Lawrence Arms, Hot Water Music, Less Than Jake, etc.) and it was aweome!

The year after, my band Lost Love started so Hugo got us a spot on the festival and I started managing one of the venues during the festival (Theater Ste-Catherine). 

In 2014, I think I started booking a little bit and the year after I started booking more and more. 

In 2015, Hugo and Helene wanted to either call it quit or “sell” their shares to some people (amongst those people are Stomp Records and Graeme of the band Leatherface).

So I’ve been one of the owner since 2015-2016 technically and I deal with all the 180 bands every year. Yey!

You’re doing triple duty on the festival – playing the acoustic BBQ on Sunday and then with Lost Love opening for Bad Cop/Bad Cop  and Against Me! on Friday all the while also doing your Pouzza Fest duties – think you’ll be able to manage it all?

Of course. I don’t do that much DURING the festival. It’s mostly a lot of stuff BEFORE the festival. And playing music is something really fun in my book so I’ll have a good time 🙂 

You’re also in charge of a lot of the booking for the bands – do you try to find bands that are already touring and slot them in or do bands plan their route around Pouzza being a central stop?

Bands usually plan their tour around Pouzza I would say. 

If you’re an up and coming band, how would they go about trying to get on to the roster?

Bribe me. Give me your record and buy me a shot. No Jack Daniels please. 

Just kidding. There’s no specific way to do it. Just try to get out and play as many shows as possible. Get some good songs recorded. Send them to our booking team. And if we like, we will probably book it. Though, there are only 180 spots every year, so we might not book you even if we like your band… Maybe try to distinguish yourself with a cool gimmick like “everyone is wearing a mask and we’re all criminals” or maybe something like “Everyone has a Richie Rich mask except the singer”. 

Pouzza FestHas there been any bands you’ve tried to get but unable to lock down? Or, who has been the easiest to secure over the years?

There are definitely some bands that are really hard to get, especially because we are not a “big-sponsored” festival, so we often don’t have the money that other festivals do with all their grants and sponsors. 

What do you look for when you’re booking someone to play?


Who do you consider a must see band this year?

Harsh question. Too many bands for me to just choose a few. But hey, let’s pick 5:
1. Big Loser 
2. DeeCracks
3. Proper
4. Pretty Boy
5. Pity Party

STOMP, your label, has always been a huge promoter and partner for Pouzza Fest.  How important was it for you to get the Planet Smashers to launch their album release tour at Pouzza?

Very much. It’s probably one of the biggest show these guys can get at home too so it’s great for them. Our outdoor site is free, so every broke punk can come and pick it up. 

Pouzza is, of couse, pizza and poutine combined.  How often do you eat it outside of Pouzza fest? If you could combine any two fast food delicacies – what would you combine and why?

Never. Probably Burrito + Poutine. A Pourrito*. (*another invention from the culinary genius Hugo Mudie)

Pouzza takes place over three days, across multiple venues in the blistering heat of Montreal. Do you have any advice for festival goers? What should they do to enjoy the festivities the best that they can?

Heat? I think it’s actually going to be cool this year. Like weather wise. But also coolness wise too. Cool festival, you know what I mean?

Advice for the festival goers? Enjoy Montreal and try to discover some new bands. There are some pretty cool small bands that are playing Pouzza. Check ’em out. 

One thing that makes Pouzza stand out is the fact that it’s in beautiful Montreal. But unlike, say, The Fest – Montreal doesn’t really notice Pouzza. The Fest takes over Gainesville and everyone is there for it. For Pouzza, if you walk a few blocks of Saint Catherines Street, you’ve moved away from it. Do you think that’s also an appeal for the festival? To be able to have an escape and see the city for five minutes if needed?

Definitely. Gainesville is not a fun city at any other time of the year I think… but what do I know, I’ve never lived there! But I know Montreal is a really cool city if you like to do stuff other than stay at home.

Pouzza has a bunch of extracurricular activities. Pouzza Bambino for kids, the barbecue at Foufones, the baseball tournament, Yoga For Punks. Will you be partaking in any of the non-musical activities?

Yeah! I play baseball with the POUZZA TEAM. I’ll also be at the Merch Mall. So no Yoga unfortunately. 

Guilhem BenardIf you could add some non-musical extra to Pouzza, what would you add?

Mmm Poutine Eating Contest. We did that 4 years ago. That was cool.

Speaking about all the extracurricular activities – what made you and Hugo add them to the festival?

It’s not just Hugo and me, we’re like 12 people, but we thought it would be great to have diversity in terms of what people can do during the festival. 
Hugo’s a huge fan of sports, so the baseball tournament came from that. 

At what point did you decide to make the outdoor venue a free show? How has that impacted the festival do you think?

The outdoor venue has always been free (I think?) but the main reason why is that it’s in the middle of Montreal and that it draws 5x more people than if it was surrounded by barricades. 
We count on people to drink TROU DU DIABLE and BEAU’S beers during the festival. That’s how we manager to stay afloat. So please, drink. 

I remember my first time to Pouzza was Pouzza 2 during the student protests in 2012, and we got locked in a smaller venue because the cops weren’t letting anyone else on the streets. That night another one of my friends saw someone’s eye pop when they got shut in the face with a rubber bullet. What can you say is the craziest thing that has happened at Pouzza?

Yeah that was a crazy year eh? I can’t really tell the craziest thing. That would illegal I think. 

What is your favourite music festival memory, be it Pouzza or otherwise?

My memory’s bad so I will say: that one time I played music in front of some people at a festival.