Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s of Rock’n’Roll – YYZ

CamLast week I wrote about my love for Halifax and their vibrant music scene and their all-around damn fine people. It is without a doubt my second favourite city in the country and only takes the silver to the golden one I call home, Toronto.

I have lived in the same neighbourhood for my entire and it is a two minute walk to the house that I was born in. I went to the same high school as my parents and both of my children both spent time at the same school. When I walk the streets I am just as likely to see an industry friend as I am to see an old school pal. I know my neighbours and we think nothing of shovelling each other’s walk or bringing their blue bins up from the street. It still feels like a small town. The security guard, who watches over the construction of the condos at the bottom of the street, stops me to talk about football every time I walk by as he once noticed my Arsenal jacket. It can be a friendly place if you let it.

TriumphBack in the seventies high school dances were an important part of discovering new music (amongst other things). I remember the Friday night ritual of arriving early and hoping to catch a glimpse of the band loading-in and maybe even having a quick chat or scoring a pick or drumstick. Most bands played a combination of covers and originals and would usually perform at least two sets. Some had primitive pyro and I believe it was Triumph who once set off the fire alarms. Bands such as Brutus, Devotion, Steel River, Dillinger, Max Webster, Moxy and A Foot In Coldwater all rocked our gymnasium stage.

Concerts at that time were events that were held at The CNE, Maple Leaf Gardens, Massey Hall, The Masonic Temple, The Victory or the summer outdoor shows on Centre Island and the The Forumfabulous revolving stage at the Ontario Place Forum (where I worked in the summer and had total access to). There were no all-ages shows at venues and if you wanted good seats for a Maple Leaf Gardens show you would grab a sleeping bag and wait all night outside of your favourite record store/ticket dealer and get the best available ticket. If it was a Gardens show you know if you had a great seat by the colour of the ticket. If you wanted to be close to the stage at a CNE show you had no qualms about spending the night before in line with hundreds of other like-minded partiers. After a hard night outside many a concert goer would be passed out for the entire show and after the show it was your job to get them home in hal;f decent shape.

DBAWIS NickelodeonThe drinking age in the seventies was 18 in Ontario and all you really needed for an ID was a birth certificate, and, nine times out of ten this usually got you into a club. Yonge Street was the place to go and The Piccadilly Tube, The Colonial, The Gasworks, Nickelodeon and Yonge Station were easy bets to get into. If any of the group were denied you could always spend a few hours playing pinball on the strip before you tried the next club. In those days bands were playing often for the entire week and performed as many as four sets a night. A weekend could easily be spent seeing six sets by the same band (usually with the exact same set list) drinking quart bottles or cheap pitchers.

When the punk scene took off in Toronto new clubs such as The Crash’n’Burn, Club Davids, The Beverly Tavern, Larry’s Hideaway, The Turning Point, The Edge and The Horseshoe. In Larry's Hideawaymy hanging out with Segarini phase we could often be spotted at The Jarvis House, The Rondun, Hotel California and even The Queensbury Arms. Scarborough was still the place to be for hard rock and nothing rocked harder than the old Knob Hill Hotel.  The place for record company showcases was always upstairs at the El Mocambo. Queen Street west came a part of the scene with The Big Bop and The Bovine taking people as far west as Bathurst.

R and R HeavenFor a few years Rock’n’Roll Heaven was the place to be seen as every up and coming hard rock played there. It was one of those places you could just show up to and always find a couple of people to have a few beers with. Manager and booker Gareth Brown always knew how to take care of his regulars and many an early morning was spent playing backgammon with him long after the doors had closed.

CopaAround this time clubs like RPM, The Copa and The Diamond appeared on the scene and now underage kids had a place to see bigger bands in an intimate setting. The Diamond is now better known as The Phoenix and RPM was where Kool Haus is now located. Of course I remember going there when it was Fresh and before that I think it was called Thursday’s Child.

Clubs come and go in this city but we are still lucky to have such great venues as The Horseshoe, The Bovine, Cherry Cola’s, Lee’s Palace, The Garrison, The Dakota, The Drake Underground and hundreds of smaller more intimate venues right across the city.

SlaughterIn the next couple of months I will be visiting many of them as we gear up for Canadian Music Week and the 20th anniversary of NXNE. This weekend I will probably be seen at The Rockpile East as my pals Slaughter are in town and on April 17th will be front and centre at Dakota’s as Allan Snoddy officially releases his “Shot of Rhythm” EP. Alan will be doing double-duty that night as he will be performing with his own band as well as the cover band “Tommy Youngsteen” who perform nothing but songs from Tom Petty, Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen.

Here are ten of my favorite Toronto bands from then and now.

A Foot In Coldwater – (Make Me Do) Anything You Want

In honour of Frank Davies who started the Daffodil label and signed the Toronto band. Frank was presented with a lifetime Juno award last weekend and is one of the true gentlemen in the Canadian music business. I saw this band both at high school and The Piccadilly Tube and various other venues.

Moxy – “Can’t You See I’m A Star”

A band that got so very close but never quite cross over to stardom. From The Gasworks to The Knob Hill these guys always delivered live.

Goddo – “So Walk On”

I first saw Greg Godovitz perform with Fludd and kept an eye on his career when he formed Goddo. Hell, “Sweet Thing” is about a girl from my high school.

Max Webster – “High Class In Borrowed Shoes”

We were so enthralled with Max Webster that we used to follow them from school to school. The original line-up were manic on stage.

Triumph – “Rock’n’Roll Machine”

Triumph always had the most lights, pyro and PA of any of their contemporaries. Gil also rocked the biggest drum kit. Their shows at the old Ontario Place Forum were epic.

The Standstills – “Good God Damn”

I count them as Toronto even though they are from Oshawa. Mainstays on the Queen Street West scene and one of the most powerful two-piece bands out there.

Pup – “Reservoir”

Maybe Toronto’s next big breakout band.

Jessy Lanza – “Kathy Lee”

This was one of the finalists for the 2013 Prism Award for best Canadian video. Love the video and the song.

Jerry Leger & The Situation – “All Over Again”

Jerry and the band have been making their mark at venues such as Castro’s Lounge, The Dakota and The Horseshoe. Could be the heir apparent to the Ron Sexsmith crown.

Alan Snoddy  – “Valentines Day”

A little taste of what to expect later this month at the Dakota.


Cam’s column appears every Wednesday.

Follow Cam on Twitter @CC59.

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Cam is very anxious to plant his butt on the roof of the Bovine and soak up a few rays. Soon.

The ABC’s Of Rock’n’Roll are proud to be presented by The Bovine Tiki Bar and The Bovine. There are heaters on the Bovine patio and great bands downstairs at the legendary rock bar. Fill up next store at The Rock Lobster and then get your rocks off at The Bovine. 

DBAWIS ButtonCameron Carpenter has written for The New Music Magazine, Music Express, The Asylum, The Varsity, The Eye Opener, The New Edition, Shades, Bomp!, Driven Magazine, FYI Music News, The Daily XY, New Canadian Music, NXNE Magazine and Don’t Believe A Word I Say.


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