[Well, a year and a half ago. I started it, abandoned it and have decided to revive it for Canada Day.]
…Rufus mentioned that his band, The noble savages, were asked to open for Forgotten Rebels. This is pretty monumental. Forgotten Rebels have been a part of the Canadian punk scene since the first wave of Canadian punk, and rightfully so:
When you start poking around the annals of first wave punk rock, you can find some interesting gems. Nomeansno is just one of such gems. This isn’t speed-induced screaming songs of the Sex Pistols or the 1-2-3-4 straight-up two minutes of fun you’ll get from the likes of The Ramones. No, this is prog-punk.
Here’s an 8-minute track they did with Jello Biafra:
Of course, if we’re talking Canadian punk rock, we probably should have started with D.O.A., the godfathers of the genre. Now, there’d by nothing more fitting for Canada Day (I guess) than to show a video for their cover of Takin’ Care of Business in which they play hockey, but it’s not their best song, so here’s World War 3, instead:
Post-first wave but still a seminal band in the Canadian punk scene is SNFU (Society’s No Fucking Use–by the way, it’s punk rock; let’s just consider the whole post NSFW). SNFU have been around in one form or another since the second wave of the punk scene in the early ’80s. Eventually being signed by Epitaph Records, SNFU was one of the highest profile Canadian acts during the 1990s. I spent a lot of time in the mid and late 90s going to punk shows (and occasionally playing them), but somehow I never actually caught them.
For a while, they flew under my radar, and I couldn’t say how. Eventually, I knew them more by reputation than by their music… that was until a friend of mine, who was far more dialed-in to the scene, put “Painful Reminder” on a mix tape for me (yes, this was back when we all listened to mix tapes).
It’s an atypical punk song, but SNFU were an atypical punk band. Their singer, Mr. Chi Pig–as much an artist as a punk rocker–led a troubled life, growing up in a dysfunctional family, being diagnosed schizophrenic and battling drug addiction, and it could not have been easy to be a visible minority living in the closet in the early 80s.
I’ve talked about Propaghandi before, and I’ve even posted this video before, but when it comes to Canadian punk, you just can’t ignore them. They’re not my favourite, but for some righteous political anger, you needn’t look past this:
My main beef with Propaghandi is the clear heavy metal influence. It’s just not my jam. I much prefer punk that’s a real throwbook to the roots of rock n roll, and so I give you Beaconsfield’s Asexuals.
One of the more interesting aspects of playing in the punk scene was getting the chance to actually meet some of the bands. Their stage personas, drenched in sweat and anger, didn’t always make them the most approachable. The music, the lyrics and the look were generally loud, frenetic and in-your-face. The Almighty Trigger Happy was no different. Not only were they all of that, they all yelled and swore at one another, generally treating each other like shit.
They were, however, quite nice to everyone else. One of them even lent me a patch chord when mine was dying.
At the very same show was a Winnipeg called Guy Smiley. Their singer put a knee brace on for their sets; this told you much of what you needed to know about their shows. This was a band you needed see.
And afterwards when they were at their merch table, they would thank everyone personally for coming out, making sure everyone got tons of free stickers. They acted as though we were all doing them a favour coming to the show, when they’d just metaphorically bled out on stage, giving us everything we could have asked for in a 40 minute set.
If you were relying on television to bring you some good ol’ punk rock in the early 90s, you weren’t really going to find very much. However, there was Gob. They were able to get consistent airplay throughout the 90s and, at least early in their career, they were pretty straight-up punk:
The Asexuals’ front man, John Kastner, would soon leave the band, but he’d remain a mainsty in the punk scene, moving on to front the popular, and poppy, 90s punk band, Dougboys.
…And I have two personal anecdotes about Kastner. First, years ago I was at a Doughboys show. It was a good pit, but there was a lot of stupid crowd surfers. Hey, you want to stage dive, then get passed to the back of the pit and dumped, that’s totally cool, but I’ve got no time for wannabes who start crowd surfing from the back of the pit, kicking the rest of us in the head…so me and some friends started pulling some crowd surfers down.
(One friend may have done more than that, but I was never violent.)
Well, there was one person that came by, kicking me for the umpteenth time, so I decided I was taking pulling him down. Unfortunately, he started to surf away from me, so I tried to pull off his shoe. I got it most of the way off when he was almost out of reach, so I just swung to knock it the rest of the way off.
Apparently, I connected.
My cousin told me that the shoe went flying across the pit, and Kastner briefly stopped singing, rather surprised to see what had gone airborne.
They were a good band.
A few years later, I was at another show. I think Millencolin was headlining, and Kastner’s new band, All Systems Go!, was opening. As happens when a successful musician leaves one band and starts a new one, the crowd was calling out for the previous band’s hits. In this case, Shine.
Kastner wasn’t taking the recommendation. And, honestly, it seemed impolite to be calling out for this band to play some other band’s song, so when there was a little pause in the crowd noise, I yelled, “Doughboys suck!”
Kastner looked at me, pointed, and responded, “you’re right man,” and launched into the next song on the setlist. They, too, are a good band.
Remember that band Simple Plan…or was it A Simple Plan…MTV never seemed particularly sure. They were possibly the poppiest of punk bands ever. They weren’t really punk, at all, I guess. But Reset was.
(Points for jumps and spins.)
The proliferation of pop punk on the airwaves in the 90s was a bit much, but it did give us The Killjoys:
And Bif Naked:
So that can’t be all bad.
A buddy of mine joked that we should start a band called Men-O-Pause…like a bunch of guys taking a break. We never did, for obvious reasons. But Montreal did produce Men’O’Steel:
I’m going veer away from the obvious bands right now. The very first punk show I went to was California’s Face To Face. It was a great show. Strungout was on the undercard. There was a third band on the bill, too, but I can’t remember who it was. You see, they couldn’t make it, so the promoter had find someone else.
Enter Shades of Culture.
This isn’t a punk band; it’s a hip hop act. And I don’t mean it’s some Crazy Town/Linkin Park/311 rock band with rapping over top. This is straight-up hip hop. Apparently, they were a mainstay in the punk scene (I would see them at a few more punk shows in the coming years), and they were just adored. The crowd went pretty wild for them.
I’ve been a tad remiss. I’ve been focusing on English-language punk bands. Sure, some of them are from La Belle Provence, but there were definitely some good francophone punk bands, too.
For instance, the very Canadian-named Les Dales Hawerchuk (seriously, you want to watch this video):
And I’m not writing this post without including Groovy Aardvark:
But let’s bring this all back to where we started, Rufus’ band the noble savages. We shall end this Canada jukebox with some Hamilton, Ontario, punk rock: