Featured in issue 3 of Marker.
The punk rock scenes worldwide are notorious for housing the outcasts and “weirdoes” that find comfort in alternative lifestyles and a community where being different is embraced and being yourself is welcomed. Edmonton hardcore/punk is no exception and, with that, takes on a lot of the same struggles that many other cities find themselves facing. Edmonton has a constant desire for bigger turnouts in the face of some of the most talented, hard working, committed bands in Canada. Despite the quality of the entertainment, this problem persists. Edmonton has lost a lot of venues due to careless and inconsiderate show-goers, and it can be a real challenge convincing touring bands to venture so far north. There are, however, a number of dedicated and entrepreneurial young folks taking big risks and accomplishing a lot with selfless goals of strengthening the community, supporting bands and creating something to be proud of.
In a modern era of internet-based promotion, there are still those that look for something physical and tangible. Whether it’s a warm summer day where the patios are full and the streets are well trafficked, or a frigid night where the snow won’t stop falling, if there’s a show to be promoted, you’ll find hard working people pacing the streets with posters and flyers trying to put some money in bands’ pockets. A fleet of promoters in the city, though sovereign in their endeavours, work together to get the word out, and it’s only getting better. Mattie Cuvilier of Clean Up Your Act Productions and John Kennedy of Back From The Underground are two of the better known go-to-guys if you’re looking for a show. Along with these two, there are a lot of other heavily involved, passionate people making things happen, and the scene is slowly building momentum as a result.
Andrew Benson, another local promoter, hosts an annual festival called Ghost Throats. The fest consists of two days of overdriven amps and venom-spitting vocalists, merging several genres and spotlighting some of the area’s best bands. The festival has spread to Calgary for a bonus day of gritty, distorted tunes, opening doors for bands from all over North America. These guys aren’t the wealthy elite; the vast majority of promoters in Edmonton have to balance a budget to bring these events to life. Needless to say, that can be stressful. When asked why he does it, especially with all the obstacles in the way, Benson responded, “It’s easier to do it myself rather than wait for someone else to and then be mad because they didn’t do it right.” His response serves as another example of how driven the community is and the commitment it has to the quality of the shows.
Though it’s true that without promoters the music scene would surely suffer, there is no short list of bands that deserve much of the credit for making Edmonton punk rock what it is. High Jinks are often regarded as one of the best hardcore/punk bands to have existed in the city. As a fast but heavy take on ‘90s era East coast youth-crew, they have a lot to say. They changed the landscape and forced the rest of the locals to look inward and work harder. Their song Violins targeted the violent behaviour and bullying that had become a point of contention in the punk rock scene, and the song’s lyrics had a profound impact on the community. Don’t look twice, don’t make the wrong move, because me and my friends we like to beat up kids like you. If that’s the message that we send, then I’m afraid for the shows because if everyone’s afraid then nobody goes. Since High Jinks called it quits, a series of awesome bands have absorbed members or sprouted from the ashes, including MAUS, No Problem, Tempest (Vancouver) and one of Edmonton’s best combinations of punk roots meets classy rock and roll, Stepmothers.
Todos Caerán, a melodic emo band drawing influence from bands found on Level Plane (a retired record label out of New York), is taking the world by storm. They have done splits with bands from the United States, Tasmania, Scotland, Ukraine and Spain, toured most of Europe and Canada, and released a full-length record with another one coming this winter. They’ve also released a compilation dedicated to covering songs by a well-respected band called Orchid (also found on the aforementioned label), featuring bands from around the world. Todos has accomplished all of this with a lot of hard work and a tireless commitment to writing new, interesting music. And they’re only getting started.
You can find Secret Rivals, a band born of members of The Smalls, E-Town Beatdown, Savannah and Ten Second Epic, playing most weekends in Edmonton. There are a number of other locals with a lot of character that you can likely find gigging in and around the city if they aren’t on the road. Exits, Ringleader, Contention, Mahria, Rude Geeks and Spaewife are all worth mentioning, but if you’re a fan of heavy, aggressive, passionately loud music, Edmonton has a lot of bands for you.
The do-it-yourself ethic is strong in the city, and that ethic shows in the way the bands, labels and promoters conduct themselves. Labels rarely get involved, and when they do they’re relatively small and it’s usually a very symbiotic relationship. Bands usually pay for recordings, record pressings, merchandise and tours out-of-pocket, and the labels do what they can to help the bands book tours, spread material and distribute merchandise. Promoters put a lot of their own time and money into the shows without the promise of it yielding a profit. Occasionally it does, and that usually results in the bands taking a little more home or the paying the next out-of-towners for their gas. Though this has worked so far, there’s always room for more help, more bands and more people at shows. If you’re wondering how you can get involved, take a peek at the posters on Whyte Avenue or Jasper Avenue. Most shows won’t cost you more than ten dollars and, considering what the community has to offer, that’s a lot of bang for your buck. If your weekend is looking dull, make your way down to the punk show — you may never look back.
It’s in the way that you cannot sit still / Chewing on words but spitting out actions / Fire the fire that burns so deep inside / The fire that keeps hardcore alive
Bane, Every Effort Made. From the album Holding This Moment.
By Andrew Elter