December 14, 2018

The Waterloo region is full of surprises and one of them is that punk music around here is more accessible than most people know.

Even though it is really common to go to big cities, such as Toronto, for a good concert, the public should consider that the Tri-Cities have a huge punk music scene. Despite the smaller venues and fame, local concerts have their advantages.

According to Brian Scheid, who plays in Bad Egg, Flat Out F*cked and Sum Runners — three bands from Kitchener, Ont. — it is great to see the bands grow and realize how the Tri-Cities have a lot of talent to offer.

“It is fun and it is more genuine than having it at a venue with barricades and $10 beer,” said Scheid.

Most bands also seem to think that the Waterloo region is a good place to start their musical career.

The musician Jaysin Closs, who plays for Scream Bloody Murder (see the video below), a band from Kitchener, Ont., said that he believes that the region is a nice location to start.

“I found some talented musicians living here,” said Closs. “I don’t think me being anywhere else would have formed Scream Bloody Murder.”

About the local punk scene, Scheid said, “I think it has a decent amount of attention and is in a better spot than a few years ago, when scenes were more isolated between groups and friends. The Tri-Cities page has done a great job of getting people together to make the more local shows bigger and more well attended. . . . As a new punk band, between local promoters and house shows, it’s pretty easy to get shows.”

In the view of a promoter such as Kyle Wappler, everything is more complicated. Wappler runs Have Hope, a full-service booking agency for bands in the K-W area.

“There are always new bands popping up and new projects beginning in the region. I think in that aspect K-W is a great spot to start a band,” said Wappler. “There’s a lot of creativity in the city and lots of people willing to contribute. That being said, K-W is one of the hardest cities to actually play in Ontario. Venues are few and far between, all-ages venues are virtually non-existent. . . But I think this also adds to the underground community. It forces us to be creative and find interesting and unique settings to play, which keeps things interesting.”

As much as the punk music has grown a lot in the past years, the local scene is still looking for support.

This year’s Hope Fest happened in September and helped local bands get more visibility. Photo courtesy of Have Hope.

“Having a broader reach through independent press, especially in the colleges and universities, definitely helps,” said Wappler. “I think the community papers have started recognizing us more and it has certainly helped increase our reach.”

When asked how the cities could help support the local bands, Wappler said, “There’s a lot. They don’t seem to like us very much. It’s not uncommon for the police to walk through or sit out front of our shows. It’s also next to impossible to book community spaces funded by the city. . . I think the city could have a massive impact if they were willing to support our community the way they do with the local blues and jazz communities.”

According to the head of Have Hope, they have used the slogan “We refuse to let this die” on some merch products and that represents everything, since Wappler couldn’t imagine where he would have been without the punk scene. Have Hope is also responsible for the Hope Fest, which features more than 20 local bands.

Finally, Wappler added, “I think it’s important to preserve it for future generations like us. . . Take a chance on someone. The amount of talent that comes through the region is amazing and there’s something for everyone, if you are willing to look. Find a band, promoter, venue that you like and support it. Tell your friends. Bring your younger siblings and cousins and friends. Punk and alternative scene in this city is more than just a concert series. It’s a family where many of us involved have found ourselves and developed friendships that will last a lifetime.”

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