Anarchy in Kawartha Lakes: Part two of a short history of local punk music
“I took Punk to be the detonation of some slow-fused projectile buried deep in society’s flank a decade earlier, and I took it to be, somehow, a sign.”
― author William Gibson
Invasion 77, Lindsay’s third self-identified punk band started over a game of golf, if you consider driving golf balls into the mighty Scugog River golf.
I know — that’s not so environmentally cool now. (Those balls are still one of the least toxic things at the bottom of the Scugog, but I digress.) Without resorting to “it was a different time” and avoiding the slippery slope of ‘presentism,’ we could just give them a break. We are talking about school kids in early-80s Lindsay — drawn to the mayhem and camaraderie of punk rock.
“I was in a punk band before I could shave,” declares Todd Gallant, founder of Invasion 77. The band had its genesis at St. Mary’s Catholic School and would form at Central Senior Public School. It was the 80s and punk was a thing here: Punk, which would go on to inform all of modern culture, was happening in Lindsay in the 80s, arguably more than in other towns its size.
As documented in episode one of this occasional series, punk erupted in Lindsay around 1979-80.The first punk show in Lindsay involved cops, a mini-riot, thrown drinks, broken glass and the bar shutting down: the infamous Lindsay Huns gig at the (now long gone) Central Hotel. It would be more than a decade before a self-identified punk band could get a Lindsay gig.
The history of punk is complicated in part because of the anti-authoritarian ethos at its core. Punk doesn’t do rules very well, if at all. To be sure, certain sub-genres briefly had dress codes, but that didn’t really last. The repugnant Nazi-punk movement was stomped out, almost always by other punks. The story of punk changes as fast as the music itself.
It sub-divided into many sub-genres and would become known as much for its influence on other genres as the amazing music produced within the genre itself. Within a few years of the start of punk an incredibly important (although loosely defined) movement started: post-punk. Musicologists throw a bunch of different bands into this catch-all for certain types of 80s music (my favourites being Bauhuas, The Cure, New Order and the Smiths to name just some.) In fact, some music historians have punk starting in 1975 and post-punk starting in 1976.
As in the wider movement, post-punk was germinating in Lindsay at the same time as punk was. Opening for the Lindsay Huns at both the Central Hotel gig and the Wagon Wheel (shows that still live on in Lindsay music lore) was local band Remote Control. The band was founded by Jef Knight, who is recording and releasing music to this day.
“We not only started at the same time as The Huns, but being friends of ours, we played a lot of shows with them, including the notorious Wagon Wheel and Central Hotel shows of which I have live recordings,” explains Knight.
The band, which featured Jef Knight on guitar, Kevin Parker on vocals, Brian King / Jimi Baldwin on bass and Lyle Fraser on drums, would play several Toronto shows and be a runner-up on Toronto’s Q107 ‘Homegrown’ contest. They would go on to record two independent albums and record over 40 songs.
That constant evolution and mixing of punk and post-punk with other genres was happening in the Lindsay scene right from the start. Knight, reflecting on this time, says that, “we thought we were a punk band, primarily because we just played [really] fast, but we were actually a post-punk/progressive rock thing.”
And like punk scenes everywhere else there was an interconnection of members. Lyle Fraser from Remote Control played briefly with the Lindsay Huns.
As Fraser recalled to the Advocate, “I was in high school when the (Lindsay) Huns grabbed me from my attic, and threw me on the drums. It was fast. I couldn’t recognize the songs from one another, so they drew hieroglyphs to help me. I saw stuff that I can’t say. They were tough scary partiers, but always made me feel welcome. I didn’t join them (the Lindsay Huns), mostly because Jef Knight (of Remote Control) was allowing me to input my style of drumming with his song-writing. I had started Finster which Jef named and then he started Remote Control. Jef could write and play any genre, and fortunately, he wrote many punk-type songs.”
And the connections don’t end there. Fraser’s brother Glen Fraser was the guitar player for Lindsay’s second punk band the Slam.
The Slam, with their crazy fast punk backbeat, followed the insanity of the Lindsay Huns. I mean, the Slam opened for the Forgotten Rebels, punk rock royalty in my books. As recalled in part one, Slam bassist Steve Carpenter talked about there being about 300 Lindsay kids at that Oshawa Forgotten Rebels show: Proof positive that there was a real punk scene in the 80s in Lindsay.
By 1984 Lindsay kids had for years made the trek to Minden to see the now-legendary Canadian punk band Teenage Head. (The Minden Arena and Minden’s ‘world famous’ Rockliffe Tavern — may it rest in peace — was where local kids and adults in the early 80s could see bigger shows without going to Toronto). So that summer four LCVI students (Michael Cayley, Ted Hill, Brad Wright and Marc Tapper) formed a promotion company and brought Teenage Head to the Lindsay Armoury. The popularity of Teenage Head by this point speaks to how more mainstream punk had become. As Cayley notes, “Teenage Head had riots at the Horseshoe in 1978 and Ontario Place in 1980. By ’84 they were in the movies.”
As Cayley explains Wright was also a fan of punk rock and was social convener at LCVI in 1984. “He was showing me the ropes for booking bands.”
In the summer of 1984 they decided to book Teenage Head who were on their “Endless Party” tour at the Lindsay Armoury.
“We promoted it all over with tickets on sale at local shops in Fenelon Falls, Bobcaygeon, Little Britain and at Van Halteren’s in Lindsay. Gerald Van Halteren’s band Preying Mantis was the opener,” say Cayley.
The show was promoted in true punk rock style. “I think they [the booking agent] gave us about 10 posters. So we photocopied hundreds of our own on the L.C.V.I. photocopier. Leading up to the concert there were a few times where we would grab a case of beer, hop in the car and just go on tour all over the place. We put up posters randomly everywhere, even on the quiet side roads,” recalls Cayley.
“We sold 900 tickets making it a sold-out show. We had arranged for high school football players and hockey tough guys as security. There was no bar, no fights or problems”, recalls Cayley.
Lindsay’s smaller music scene has always meant that bands from different genres end up playing together and this show was no different. Van Halteren remembers the gig fondly.
“It was a great gig. We had a blast. Mantis was an original /cover band, playing more progressive hard rock tunes. So we were a little bit of a clash compared to the Head. But we had a lot of friends, family and fans there to support us. Oh, how we rocked.”
The sold-out show was not without a few wrinkles. “It was our version of the Lindsay Bullfight…I remember scrambling at the last minute to get liability insurance in place for the show. Teenage Head brought their own security: bikers. The bikers seized everyone’s alcohol at the door. I thought there was going to be a riot over that because everybody was pissed off,” recalls Wright.
For many who grew up in the 80s they know that trying to sneak alcohol into an event was treated like an Olympic sport, but this was not to be the case at this Teenage Head show, thanks to the bikers. Explains Wright, “I think we were too young to apply for a liquor license so it ended up being a dry event. Between no liquor license and all the booze being confiscated [by the bikers], it was probably the most sober crowd ever at a Head concert.”
“At the end of the night I remember Frankie Venom [the lead singer of Teenage Head], the rest of the band and the bikers piling into the alcohol that had been seized. Frankie was wasted.”
So after almost a decade, punk had reached a certain level of mainstream acceptance among kids, after starting out on the very fringes of popular culture. But unlike some other genres that came after it — and despite the many diverse punk ideologies that emerged — there was always an element of anti-authoritarianism embedded in the larger movement.
A small lunch-time concert by the Slam at LCVI in 1985 highlights this ethos. Cayley had taken over from Wright as student council social convener and booked the Slam for a mid-day punk show at the school. “The way I remember the Slam show was that one of the guys had quit or been kicked out of school so it was an anti-authority statement to have them play.”
“A bunch of us had run as a block to take over the student union. We had a good relationship with the administration who were very supportive of almost everything we wanted to do. But they didn’t see this coming,” recalls Cayley.
Cayley remembers the Slam as loud and fast with very little gear, “They played for maybe 20 minutes but all the punks in school were dancing in a little mosh of slam dancing that broke out. There was some gear knocked over on stage and some thrown drumsticks. It was a shocker. It was a zap that felt like it could have been an out-of-control bad scene but was really just a great little punk rock show that was part of bringing the spirit inside.”
Clearly the administration would get over the punk thing. Later that same year, fundraising records would be smashed at LCVI when, after meeting certain fundraising thresholds, honour student and student union president Ted Hill and grad-class rep Jin Chong Chung got punk rock haircuts on stage. (Fact: what we called those haircuts at the time was a mixture of cultural appropriation and cultural ignorance. Another fact: punk evolves faster than any other art form, and was it political from the start — but it wasn’t always right.)
Slam bassist Steve Carpenter remembers a time when these ‘kids’ started showing up to their practices. Carpenter referred to them as ‘the baby punks.’ The ‘baby punks’ Carpenter refers to would eventually become Invasion 77.
Last spring I sat down to a meeting with all the members of Invasion 77. The band, which was originally formed as a threesome, would eventually become a five piece: Duane McDonald, bass; Julien Wakelen, drums; Todd Gallant, founder and lead guitar; Scott Parker, rhythm guitar; and Mike August on vocals. “They [the original trio] needed more people to split the PA cost,” jokes Parker, to the laughter of the rest of the band.
The band also laughs when I repeat Carpenter’s ‘baby punks’ reference, even though the band evolved from The Blades, which some members formed in Grade 7. “That’s funny, that’s what we called the kids that came after us,” says Wakelen.
Like every local band I’ve interviewed for this series, Van Halteren’s Music Centre comes up, proving the importance of a local music store to a local music scene. “Van Halterten’s were good to us. They knew our parents and would let us rent a PA. I have a memory of us taking a PA in a shopping cart to Duane’s garage in a snowstorm. It didn’t occur to us that we could have taken a cab,” jokes Gallant.
The name Invasion 77 implies, by the mid-80s, a kind of retro punk, probably resulting from the members’ individual early exposure. For Gallant, it was being introduced to the Sex Pistols by an older sister. Gallant remembers it sounding, “cooler than anything I’d ever heard.” August had turned Parker onto the Forgotten Rebels: “It was bad and cool. And it had swearing,” jokes Parker.
For these kids, the original Lindsay punk band was just something that they heard about. “The Lindsay Huns were like a rumour or fable,” explains Gallant.
The band started out playing covers by acts such as English punk band GBH, but quickly moved to original material. “It was just easier to write our own,” notes Gallant, perhaps jokingly explaining half of the entire punk canon. Their originals would include such songs as “F*ck the Government”, “Me and My Chainsaw”, and “Fortune Teller” which saw the band moving into hardcore punk from their more retro beginnings.
As for live shows, Invasion 77 played wherever they could. They played the I.O.O.F Hall — one of the few places where punk bands could play in Lindsay at the time and Peterborough’s Art Space and Necropolis. “We played a lot of parties as well… and at Duane’s garage,” adds Gallant.
There was also the mysterious sounding “paint party gig” which may or may have not resulted in a member or two being suspended from school for a few days. But such is punk rock.
Despite a lack of venues in Lindsay that would book a punk band, there was an active scene in Lindsay and it seemed different and better than other places. McDonald recalls coming back from an Art Space gig, listening to Trent Radio: “I remember thinking that the Peterborough punk scene was so lame.”
But why did punk take off in Lindsay? The answer of course, at least in part, is because that was what was going on everywhere, although that is not the whole story. I can’t prove it, but not every town had this scene to this level. Growing up in Fenelon Falls (just 30 kms away) around the same time, there were only a couple of us into punk. Most of the other outliers were into New Wave or post-punk in general. And still at this time in Lindsay, LCVI was the punk high school. According to many people I have spoken to about Lindsay’s early punk scene, if you were one of the few punks at I.E. Weldon, you hung out with LCVI punks.
Derek Emerson and Shawn Chirrey’s recent award-winning book on the Toronto 80s punk scene, “Tomorrow is Too Late,” may provide an answer for the popularity of punk in Lindsay when they describe punk as “folk music for ugly people.”
Larry Switzer, of the fabled Lindsay Huns, cited boredom in part one of this series as a reason for punk in Lindsay.
“There was nothing to do in Lindsay. And besides, this town was becoming way too disco. So we started a punk band.” Invasion 77’s Gallant — who credits being from a working class family for liking bands like the Clash and Stiff Little Finger in the first place — seems to agree with Switzer when he describes punk as “a way to get away from your town when you couldn’t get away. It was a way of being different.”
The Slam’s Carpenter describes the scene as a way to be different together. “In Lindsay, punk was a mix of smart kids and drop-outs. Jocks, honour roll students, rich kids and those from blue collar families, rejects and army cadets. It was a different kind of clique. If you liked the music you were in,” says Carpenter.
Invasion 77’s Parker agrees, saying that “it was just the music.”
“I was a lucky kid but there just was something about playing this music. The punks in Lindsay created an environment that you wanted to be around. There was an acceptance about it. That was Invasion 77.”
Invasion 77 would write about 100 songs although not much of it survives today, save the odd live-off-the-floor cassette and videotape. But it’s clear that this band — who still get together and play when time and schedules permit — are still affected by their time together growing up and playing punk in Lindsay.
As Gallant says, “punk changed my life. It made me realize I can do things for myself. Sometimes for the worst, but I still think like that.”
Invasion 77 would wind up in 1988, around the time some members started going to college. But every member, to this day, considers themselves punk. Because punk is as much about attitude and approach as it is about chords and words. As Gallant notes, “Every punker ends up liking Johnny Cash.”
Along with Lost Generation and Deliberate Insanity, Invasion 77, would be the last of the first wave of Lindsay punk. Punk would die out in Lindsay in the late 80s as metal and thrash metal became more popular.
But it wouldn’t die out for long. In about five years would come The Fheds — perhaps the finest punk rock to ever come from this area and possibly any area. They would be followed by the innovative Fat Chance, who would become the first Lindsay punk band signed to a record label.
But that — as Hammy Hamster used to say — is another punk rock story.
Have a memory of the punk rock scene from Lindsay? Or other genres (metal, folk, country)? Share them with Trevor Hutchinson for future stories in this series: , twitter @twhutchinson.