Someone got creative with this sign!
FIVE BUCKS AT THE DOOR – THE STORY OF CROCKS N ROLLS (2020)
Directed by Kirsten Kosloski
When she was a kid, it was director Kirsten Kosloski’s job to spend the weekend taping albums for her thrifty dad, who was always borrowing records from friends. With a floor full of tapes and cases, Kosloski grew to love music in that intimate way that only true music fanatics can relate to. She felt like a bit of an outsider in Thunder Bay Ontario, but her love of music helped her bond with some local punks. The place to be was Crocks N Rolls. She walked up to the entrance. Owner Frank Loffredo sat in the booth. Five bucks at the door. Kirsten had empty pockets. Loffredo gestured for her to go in anyway. A life was changed that night. She became a music journalist. The dream job she didn’t know existed until Crocks N Rolls opened up her world.
Five Bucks at the Doors – The Story of Crocks N Rolls is a uniquely Canadian documentary. You quickly realize that Crocks N Rolls could only be the result of Canadian geography and personalities. We joke about Thunder Bay being isolated (though it is said that their landfill hosts a treasure trove of 80s cassette tapes), but the truth is far deeper than simple stereotypes. Yes, Thunder Bay is eight hours’ drive away from the big cities, but it also occupies a unique crossroads on the Canadian roadmap. Touring bands from Ontario and further east had to go through on their way west. Western bands also had to pass through the crucible. The only place to play was Crocks. Most importantly, it was the right place to play.
Sook Yin Lee (Bob’s Your Uncle) calls it a “wonderful enclave of freaks and weirdos.” Frank Loffredo was just a music fan. He’d drive to Toronto to see a show. He dreamed of being in the New York or London scenes and drinking up the rock and roll. Instead he did something better and he brought that vibe to Thunder Bay for everyone to share. Bands started coming through. Great bands, bad bands, mediocre bands. Even if they didn’t sell tickets, Frank would book them a second time. It wasn’t always about the bottom line. He would live and sleep in the bar to make it work. It was about Canadian rock music. It was about making life bearable for the kids of Thunder Bay who dreamed of getting out. To Frank it was like “one long day,” but to the kids it was another home. There were no fights. It was a melting pot of acceptance and ideas.
Bad Brains, 13 Engines, Razor, Sacrifice, DOA, Henry Rollins…Rollins on a spoken word tour no less. Five Bucks at the Door is loaded with stories and the best has to be about Henry Rollins and being short changed $10 by Frank Loffredo. Hank didn’t notice, but Frank had to make it right. He asked a friend to repay the $10 that Frank accidentally owed him. He also insisted on photographic evidence of the transaction, and that evidence is part of this smorgasbord of punk rock history.
Dave Bidini (The Rheostatics), Bob Wiseman (Blue Rodeo), and many more Canadian artists have acres of stories to tell. A bunch of tree planters and a canoe? From Frank’s mom’s home-made spaghetti dinners for the tired band members, to the name of the place. It looked like an Italian restaurant and the logo looked like it had a bowl and a spoon. “It was a dumb name,” says Frank. But the important thing was that “the audience was as much of the show as the band.” That’s clear by the testimonials and amazing black and white photos. Scratched and unretouched.
Crocks closed in 1996. It was no longer sustainable, and then as if adding insult to injury the original place burned down. But in 2007, Loffredo gave it another go. Naming it Crocks N Rolls flat out indicated this was to be a continuation of the original. As before, it’s all still in the family, with a new generation now working with Frank in keeping the rock rolling in Thunder Bay.
Five Bucks at the Door is a refreshing reminder that there are some crucial things we need in life. Connection, belonging, and music. Frank brought all three to the teenagers of Thunder Bay that longed for it. It’s a story that needs to be told, and you owe it to yourself to check it out. It’s available for streaming for free until September 20, 2020.
Thanks to Rob Daniels for not one but two awesome lists, and terrific co-hosting duties! The knowledge of this man is unsurpassed. Down to microscopic detail, Rob is able to discuss virtually any soundtrack on a dime. This show was long overdue! It was the Nigel Tufnel Top Ten Soundtracks with lists from:
My hope is that this show will give you some new music to check out, I know I’ll be adding some discs to my wishlist. You’ll have to watch and see!
An extra-special thanks to Dr. Kathryn for her first video appearance and an awesome list! Apologies for the technical issues, such is the nature of live streaming. It only gets harder when I’m on location. The LeBrain Facebook page lost its feed close to the end, but if you missed anything it’s all on Youtube below.
Also thanks to Holen, Erik, Frank, Meat, Chris, Candace and everyone else for your great comments!
This long-delayed instalment of LeBrain & Friends (temporary title) is brought to you by the power of soundtracks!
Due to scheduling, this episode has been pushed back a couple times. If I’m doing soundtracks, I have to have ‘Mister Soundtracks’ on the show himself. That would be Rob Daniels from Visions In Sound. There are very few people who know more about film, TV and video game soundtracks than Rob, so prepare to be educated!
The weather looks good but can sometimes mess with the internet. If I am unable to go live tonight then I will reschedule the show.
Tonight Rob and I will run down the Nigel Tufnel Top Ten Soundtracks! Everything is fair game. In fact my understanding is that Rob will be bringing us two lists: scores, and standard soundtrack discs! Participants include:
- Dr. Kathryn Ladano
- Aaron aka Mr. Books
- Rob Daniels x 2 lists
Tune in tonight, September 11 at 8:00 PM E.S.T.
This has to be one of the rarest items I own. I have acquired the only remaining cassette copy of the first Max the Axe release, a five song tape called Bodies of Water. In a rare move, the cassette had the bonus track rather than the CD. Back in 1995, Max the Axe didn’t have a drummer so the drums on this release are programmed. That lends it a streetwise but quaint mid-90s nostalgia.
Opening intensely with “Hard Drive”, Max the Axe’s music defies genres from the first track. Heavy sludge riffs, flute, saxophone, a keyboard orchestra! Lead vocals on this track by Pam Hammond leap beyond expectation as she bellows powerfully over the complex track. You get more sax (courtesy Rockin’ Randy Harrison) on “Where’s Pablo?” featuring Mickey Straight on lead vocals. This has a cool, dirty street vibe groove.
The cassette bonus track “Guns To Iran” is dead center, and features “Max the Swinging Axe” on distorted lead vocals. Pure metal on electronic steroids. I’m immediately reminded of “Manic Mechanic” by ZZ Top, but a thrash metal version.
“I’m Glad Now” has another singer, Tim Rolland, and a completely different vibe. Straight noctural, memorable melodic hard rock with a growly singer. But then the screamer “Fair Ophelia” ends the cassette on a seriously heavy note. Pam Hammond and Max the Axe return on vocals, assaulting the ear with aggressive heaviness. Max does the metal grunting while Hammond sings in classic screamin’ metal style.
This is good stuff and surprisingly well preserved 25 years later. Max’s sharp jabs of guitar solo adrenaline still rock the speakers with intended impact. Maybe the Axe will remaster and reissue his early tunes so the rest of you can hear them too.
The Meat Challenge: Listen to an album we’ve never heard before, and write about it while listening for the first time on headphones. I was given Sexdwarf by Meat.
No background, no story, straight into the songs. The only disclosure I owe you is that Meat and I both know the lead singer of Sexdwarf, Chris Boyne. I briefly worked with him at the Record Store, but I am putting that completely out of my mind for the sake of the purity of this first listen. Let’s go.
“Thomasina” – A slinky, 70s jazzy piano starts us off but then a solid beat gets the feet moving. This kicks. I could dance to this. Great lead vocal, Killers-like with slight distortion. I keep coming back to that catchy piano bit. It’s disco and it’s rock and it’s brilliant.
“Love is a Boner” – Ah, I’ve been waiting a long time to hear a song with “boner” in the title. I am not disappointed. I didn’t expect a Beatles-like psychedelic rock gem. If the Beatles did a 14th studio album, I hope “Love is a Boner” would have been on it. There is even a dual lead vocal, perfect for Lennon and McCartney. Paul would sing the higher part.
“Spazzy” – Not as “spazzy” sounding as I expected. Great guitar tones here. This is the kind of stuff July Talk is doing now. It’s frantic but well-constructed.
“Tear It Out” – “I think I’m gonna break your fuckin’ heart again,” goes the opening line on a song that reminds me a little bit of Jellyfish. This one seems to be about one of that asshole manipulative boyfriends that everybody hates. It has one of my favourite guitar solos on the album.
“Young Girls” – Acoustic guitars now, and a fun little keyboard riff. Excellent, summery tune you could party to. I hear the quirk of the Kinks.
“People in Trees” – The first…ballad? Sparse, quiet, atmospheric, bird-like guitars. And there’s people in trees, apparently and they live to be free. Hold on — well, that picked up. Drums, guitars, all fuzzed out. Everything is fuzzy and it’s beautiful in the headphones. The ending is like listening to a moon landing.
“Paid Me for Sex” – See, this is more the kind of song title I’m expecting from Sexdwarf. Back to a vintage bopping pop rock sound. I prefer this kind of stuff. The whole album so far is covered in this fuzzy vintage amp kind of sound that makes it easy to imagine it was recorded in 1971.
“I Don’t Think About People” – A surprisingly warm song about a cold antisocial character. “I don’t think about people, they’re assholes.” Brilliantly melodic and simple.
“Gold Rush” – Echoey acoustics and then crashing electrics. Slow and mournful, with a nice noisy Neil Young guitar solo. Not as outstanding as some of the previous songs but it could be a grower.
“Centre of it All” – A nice grand chorus, lots of crashing drums…sure, I like it. The vocal arrangement in the chorus is quite excellent.
“Magnolia” – Jazzy piano and bass again, and then the guitars kick in. It’s another good song in the Sexdwarf vein — which I am hopefully describing to you well enough. Jangly guitars give way to an awesome solo bit that is the highlight of the song.
“Therapists” – Loud bangy drums. A strange combination of sounds from the 60s, 70s and 90s. A ballad by the Ronettes on acid? Who knows. It’s Sexdwarf. It’s its own thing.
“Mystic Dawn” – Finally we arrive at the end after a frankly trippy 50 minutes of quirky music. Meat insisted we had to use headphones to write these reviews and this time it’s perfect because there’s a bit where the mix bounces back and forth from right to left. This finale has everything from Black Sabbath chords to trippy Yellow Submarine passages, and then straight into a racing Deep Purple instrumental section. This, people, is how you end an album!
Sexdwarf, where you have been all this time? Why have you not been in my life? Well now you will be — forever and ever.
GETTING MORE TALE #858: School Days
Did anybody really enjoy doing speeches in school? I dreaded them year after year. Pick a subject, write a speech, memorize it, time it right, and then it’s showtime. My first speech was an award winner. In was in grade three, and I wrote a speech about falling into the Athabasca glacier on my summer vacation. It was a hit. But that didn’t get me off the hook. Year after year, you had to keep coming up with new speeches.
Grade five was Pac-Man, and it didn’t do as well. Not that I minded. I wanted to do just well enough, not so well that I had to do it again in a semi-finals. I was obsessed with Pac-Man that year. I truly had Pac-Man fever. In my speech I discussed sequels like Ms. Pac-Man, and how the Atari 2600 version was such a disappointment.
In eighth grade I changed things up considerably and did my speech on Kiss. I can tell you that the teacher Mrs. Powers visibly reacted every time I said the words Hotter Than Hell. My speech was like a condensed version of Kisstory, a predecessor perhaps to what I like to do today. It was actually really good although it was mostly off the cuff. I knew I wasn’t going to get a good grade because of the subject matter, and I knew a speech about Kiss wasn’t going to make it to any kind of semi-finals, and I really knew they didn’t like the word “hell”. Name dropping Mick Jagger didn’t help. But it was really good, natural sounding and I only stumbled a couple of times.
The teachers didn’t really want you to do a speech about rock bands, but I was determined to express myself. I didn’t want to spend five minutes talking about, I dunno, making steak sandwiches. I could have whipped up an easy speech on Antarctic exploration or World War II, and gotten a better mark. The more I look back, I guess I was a teeny tiny bit of a rebel. But it was the teachers who gave me shit about my Judas Priest shirt that brought it on.
In grade nine I did my speech about Iron Maiden. I should have diversified. I could have spoken about nuclear power, Baron Von Richthofen, or Wrestlemania. To my credit I was always good at telling a story, and I made them interesting. I just tried to squeeze music into my schoolwork any chance I could. If the jocks could do a speech about baseball, I should be able to do one about heavy metal. I do remember one guy had a really well written comedic speech about a blind date. If I knew fiction was a category I would have tried a hand at that!
In later years I did more expansive independent studies on other subjects, but still managed to work in music. I did it for a sociology project and a few English ones. And why not? I couldn’t do that in algebra, physics, chemistry, or calculus.
These little acts of rock and roll rebellion didn’t get me an A, but I did well enough to be admitted to Wilfrid Laurier University in 1991. So: no regrets. I can still write about Manfred von Richthofen if I want, and I’m fortunate enough that you would probably still read it. I’ve written about history (tied into music) here a number of times. I’m sure I’ll do it again. And why not? It’s easy to tie this stuff to music; Iced Earth have a song about Richthofen. Queen have a song about Robert Falcon Scott. Iron Maiden have songs about everything that ever happened. The field is wide open.
Just looking for ways to get some local bands heard. Seems a drive around Kitchener-Waterloo is a good video background for a band from Kitchener-Waterloo called Max the Axe.
From their sixth record Status Electric comes “Scales of Justice” written by Mike Koutis and Eric Litwiller. The lyrics tell a truthful tale of why only a fool owns a deadly snake let alone two.
This video is sped up 10x and was filmed on Saturday 9/5/2020 in the afternoon.
I’ll admit it, I’m a bit of a pest. Sometimes when I’m out with Jen, I’ll sneakily reach over and tickle her while pretending I did nothing. It drives her nuts, but it used to make her mom smile. When I used to drive them around, Jen’s mom would sit in the back. When I was stopped at a red light I’d sneak a tickle. Jen would scold me and then her mom would say “Listen to Jen, Michael.” Then I’d turn around and she’d wink at me and whisper “Do it again!” So I would, and Jen wouldn’t believe me that her mom was encouraging me!
Jen’s mom was a special lady. We only lost her two years ago, so I’m always happy to share those stories that make us smile.