Crocks N Rolls

MOVIE REVIEW: Five Bucks at the Door – The Story of Crocks N Rolls (2020)

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.

5/5 stars