Guelph’s old punk scene bands together for festival on Saturday
By Ned Bekavac
Hundreds of lovers of punk rock will converge on Riverside Park this Saturday to party like it’s 1989.
The 519 Punk Reunion is bringing together many of the musicians and fans who were hard into the local punk scene in the 1980s and 1990s.
“Guelph used to have an amazing punk scene,” says Matt Granger, one of the organizers of the event.
“It’s like a reunion of old friends. That was the idea at first, to do a reunion and get everybody from the scene back together.”
Granger reminisces about those days. And nights. The Guelph scene was particularly buzzing from around 1981 to 1995, he says. There was the presence of the local punk bands, and then there were visits by storied acts like Fugazi, fIREHOSE, D.O.A. and The Forgotten Rebels.
Granger writes that it was “an almost endless stream of music, which at the time was only listened to by a select few kids, who once outside the show, stood a pretty good chance of being beaten up.
“Aside from that, we were incredibly lucky to have such a great scene.”
About a year in the making, the 519 Punk Reunion first got its legs via Facebook, when the “old punks, freaks and weirdos” got talking, says Granger and fellow organizer Jim Hare, during a chat at the Riverside Park bandshell, the site of Saturday’s festival.
Things really got going when Granger posted a reunited photo on Facebook of his band, ACME. The group had its heyday almost two decades ago, but the photo, of them practising, was new.
“Everybody just started talking about it,” says Granger.
“Everybody was like, ‘We should do a reunion.’
“It just kind of swelled.”
This past December, ACME played its first gig together in 12 years. It took place at The ANAF Club on Gordon Street and served as a fundraiser for the big 519 Punk Reunion party that had been dreamed up.
Saturday’s festival is a licensed, all-ages event that starts at noon and features more than 10 bands. Six hundred tickets have been made available, and Granger expects a capacity crowd.
Topping the bill is American band GWAR. Known for their elaborate stage masks and costumes, the band is playing unmasked as RAWG (GWAR backwards). Also performing are influental Hamilton punk band Teenage Head, The Asexuals, Take Drugs, The Nasties, ACME, The Dead Souls, Big Foot, The Beat Downs, King and Academy, and Nate Coles.
All profits from the event support the Guelph Food Bank. The cause is particularly dear to organizers.
“They had a rough year,” says Hare, who will play for two local bands at Saturday’s festival: The Nasties and The Dead Souls.
Granger recalls playing and seeing shows at the Guelph Food Bank many moons ago.
“They used to have that warehouse back there and they would open it up and we used to play gigs back there. We’re talking late ’80s,” he says.
“There would be a cage and a wall full of food that no one could get at – cuz they would have (laughs) – and bands would be playing there. It was great.”
The 519 Punk Reunion is the baby of four main organizers: Granger and Hare, along with Mike Granger (Matt’s brother), and Hare’s wife, Monica Rosati. (The Granger brothers, who are Vancouver-based filmmakers, are the sons of Bill Granger, colour analyst for the Guelph Storm’s broadcasts on Rogers TV, Cable 20.)
But it took many helping hands to turn the reunion festival dream into a soon-to-be reality.
“It’s amazing the people who have come out of the woodwork to help out,” says Matt Granger.
Folks are coming from far and wide for the festival. San Francisco and British Columbia, among other places, will be represented.
But the cake-taker is one Bart Sullivan.
He was part of the scene back in the day and now lives in Africa. Yes, he and his family are headed here for the big bash.
“He wins the longest trip award,” says Hare, with a laugh.
There will be food, drinks, vendors, tattoos, a kids’ area and a whole host of other activities at Saturday’s party. And, of course, there is the music.
“It’s gonna look and sound like a big punk show, it’s going to be fun,” says Granger.
Headed into the festival, we fired a handful of Qs Granger’s way. He obliged and added he hoped it wasn’t too “Matt-centric, considering everyone involved.”
Tickets for the festival are $35 in advance. Remaining tickets will be $40 at the gate. Kids 12 and under are free. For information or to buy tickets, visit 519punk.weebly.com.
• • •
Q: Touring bands have great road stories. ACME: Can you relay a particularly neat or nutty road story?
A: Few that don’t require the presence of a really good lawyer – but I’d say that finding myself hanging out in the studio with Frankie Venom from Teenage Head as Burton Cummings told really bad jokes was a big highlight for me. I may not have sold three bajillion records, but at least I’ll always be funnier than Burton Cummings.
Q: What are the three most-played songs on your iPod?
A: Stripper Christmas Summer Weekend by GWAR; Rubberband Man by The Spinners; Brother Rat/What Slayde Says by No Means No.
Q: The Trib’s paying the tab. What’s your tipple?
A: Fava beans and a nice Chianti.
Q: How often do you get back to Guelph and, aside from visiting family and friends, what are three must-do things for you upon return?
A: I get back to Guelph about once a year. Without fail, I wind up eating Sun Sun on the curb at 2 a.m. If you’ve never done that, you’ve never experienced Guelph. This often follows my first destination – the Albion patio. Then, on the way out of town, Jimmy (Hare, friend), Mikey (Granger, brother) and I will stop at the Dutch Toko deli for a Seabiscuit and a box of Nobo Spritz.
Q: You and your brother have quite a filmmaking career going. Can you humour us with a cool story on that front?
A: There are about a million cool stories over the years, but I have to say the coolest moment was when Harrison Ford appeared in one of our early short films, EPIC: The Worst Movie Ever Made.
Q: Alive or not, who are three people you’d like to have over for dinner and drinks?
A: Mitch Hedberg, Alan Shepard (to discuss moon golf) and Jack Nicholson (although throwing Rasputin into the mix just to see what would happen could be fun too).
Q: It’s a random Saturday night and you’re doing nothing music nor movie related – what might you be up to?!
A: Mikey and I are obsessed with BBQ. On pretty much any weekend, you will find us hosting one of our grand, open-invite ’Qs at Casa Del Granger in Vancouver, which inevitably ends in numerous people dancing to Jungle Love by Morris Day in our living room. If this sounds fun, you’re all invited. Our address is . . .
Q: Where do you see yourself life-wise, film-wise and music-wise in, say, seven years?
A: Seven years is longer than most film or music careers, but if I happen to make it that far along, I think I’d love to keep making edgy comedy films, heavier music and be married to Zooey Deschanel, Katy Perry or the girl from that Malibu Rum commercial. I’m breezy on that one.
Q: Thanks Matt. Below are 11 either/ors . . . hoping you can state preference:
• Draught or bottle? Bottle – you get the deposit back.
• Long drive or short flight? Long drive. Planes are for businessmen.
• Coffee or tea? Coffee. Numerous.
• Ping-pong or pool? Pool.
• Black Sabbath or Iron Maiden? All my Sabbaths are Black.
• Hockey or soccer? Hockey.
• Fries or onion rings? Onion rings.
• E-mail or telephone? Email – unless it’s my Mom.
• Spring or fall? Fall
• Friends or Seinfeld? I’m proud to say that I’ve never seen an episode of Friends. Seinfeld forever.
• Chocolate or chips? Chips. Especially those yam tortillas. Man, thems is some good eatin’.
• • •
Friday: Dance the night away
A St. George’s Reunion Dance takes place Friday July 13 as part of this weekend’s 519 Punk Reunion.
The dances were a central point in the late ’80s and ’90s for teens interested in alternative music, art and politics, said a news release. DJ Brad Howell will be spinning tunes at the event, which takes place in Mitchell Hall behind St. George’s Church (99 Woolwich St).
The licensed dance supports the Wyndham House and start time is 8 p.m. Tickets are $20. For info visit stgeorgesdance.com.