Memory Laniacs – Musical objects may appear distorted in the rearview mirror.
L’Etranger (and how cool was that to have a Clash-like punk band named after an Albert Camus novel, and by its original French title, no less!) had been one of many featured bands at a 1982 rock festival featuring the crème de la crème of the Toronto Indie rock scene, centering around a grass roots fanzine called Sounds From The Streets, which was spearheaded by a snotty-nosed, young idealist named Dave MacIntosh, whose standing came largely from both his enthusiasm for the local post-punk new music scene and his authentic-sounding British accent (which was fine because he was in fact a British ex-pat).
The Sounds From The Streets festival was held over several nights at a dodgy post-punk “club” called 100 Bond Street, in the downtown Toronto area near Dundas and Yonge streets. My band at the time, Disband, was among the cluster of bands featured on one of the nights. Other bands included Diatribe, Conditioned Response, Dub Rifles, Vital Sines, Rent Boys, Inc., The Dave Howard Singers, and of course L’Etranger. Everyone probably remembers their scene as the “greatest generation” or something like that, and I generally even discount my own nostalgia as nothing more than mixed smoke signals from a distant fire. But this really was a great scene. And I’ll tell you why. We were both world aware and totally naive – all at the same time. We were getting our information largely from the UK, maybe we were misunderstanding it somewhat, but the message was “Make up your own shit!” “Do it yourself” “Follow us by not following.”
It was a musically diverse scene, not that you’d call it “diversity” by today’s definition of the word, although on that note, I recall we’d all been keen supporters of Rock Against Racism and played shows to rally around social causes. Of the music though, there was a decidedly individualist streak to all the bands. And we all kind of dug each others extremities, even if we didn’t always like the bands.
Chuck’s Facebook thread awakened a bunch of us to come out and share our memories of a scene many of us had pushed to the background of our minds, the thread was like an impromptu high school reunion and at last count had over 120 added comments. I usually avoid high school reunions, and have always found them sad, but this was different. I think it was because none of us has rose coloured glasses about those days. All the old rivalries and misunderstandings are still there but the difference is time. Time and maturity. Who knew we’d grow up? Some of us anyway, as there have been some notable ghosts cropping up the posts, the dead who never made it out of their 20’s, and never made it to the “other side” where you can stop for a second and realize that the temporal pain and conflict of a young person is all part of the sine wave of life.
The nostalgia hasn’t stopped either. An organic reaction of some of us has been rattling the virtual halls of this cyber building. Simon and Nick White, who was then known as Nick Smash of the Rent Boys, Inc., had a photo show opening last night at Steam Whistle Brewery up in Toronto. It’s called Toronto Calling: Photographs of the British New Wave as it happened in Toronto 1979-1981, and if features their shots from “back in the day.” So, while I was stuck down here in Berkeley, California, my pals up there, Michael, Carl and Bruce, sent me messages from the gallery. Here’s two cellphone camera snaps I got in real time last night…
Then there’s this YouTube video from the second Sounds From The Streets festival, a year later. By then, Disband had disbanded and I had been welcomed, like a refugee, into Diatribe (you see me near the beginning of this clip, with a loud white blazer at stage right).
This time, Dave MacIntosh had gotten some media attention for SFTS, now held at the Rivoli club/restaurant on Queen Street. The clip was from the popular program The New Music, hosted at time by Daniel Richler, which originated at City-TV (the program later became a feature on MuchMusic). Check out how idealistic Dave Macintosh is in this clip. And how sure everyone is that this is the only scene that matters.
Then there was my band just before Disband, simply called space INVADERS (yes, the video game was new, as were most video games come to think of it). Last week, Bruce Meikle found some mp3’s he’d made of tapes recorded by Michael Philip Wojewoda, and he sent them to me. Then, today, Carl Hamfelt just sent me files of photos he took of our last show at Toronto’s Scadding Court community centre as part of the Funnel Experimental Film Theatre benefit. Here’s one of those:
I’ll write about that band in another post, though, stay tuned, memory laniacs.