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.
And make no mistake, Meat wrote every word. No messing around from me. Enjoy!
PET SOUNDS– THE BEACH BOYS (1966)
When The Beatles released Rubber Soul in 1965, Brian Wilson heard something that inspired him to try and make his own masterpiece. The result was Pet Sounds, which saw The Beach Boys discard their typical surf-inspired ditties and create an album that will always be a classic. I remember when I first heard this album I was completely blown away that it was a 1966 album. The overall sound of it is so full and rich, and it’s funny how everyone thinks The Beatles main influence for Sgt. Peppers was drug-related, and I am sure it was, but that classic would never have been without this classic album first. Do yourself a favour and re-discover The Beach Boys by checking this out.
QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE – QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE (1998)
There are a lot of people that think that the QOTSA album Rated R, is the band’s first release. In all reality it is their third release if you count the Kyuss/Queens of the Stone Age EP. However, it is a shame that this album has been somewhat overlooked. I think it is by far their best album. To gauge just how much I got into this album could never be measured. For years, I stated that this album was my favorite album ever with distortion. Now trust me I realize the exaggeration in that statement (I have since relented) but it doesn’t take away how brilliant I believe this album truly is. This is a true collection of groovy rock songs, so much so that QOTSA could have titled this album exactly that. I have not been a fan of the last few QOTSA albums, and frankly I wish they could harness this approach once again. Check out the included track “Avon”. An absolute air-drumming seminar at its finest!!
ROXY & ELSEWHERE – FRANK ZAPPA & THE MOTHERS (1974)
One of the albums previously on this list, Joe Jackson’s Big World, was a live album containing new material. Considering the content of this particular album, that format was never more impressive or more challenging than Zappa’s album Roxy & Elsewhere. From beginning to end, it’s hard to believe the complexity of what was happening onstage during these recordings. From the colourful vocals of Napoleon Murphy Brock, to the guitar-fueled madness of Zappa himself, this is my personal favorite of all of Zappa’s recordings. Songs like “Pygmy Twilite” and “Village of the Sun” are absolute genius. The concert film of these recordings is STILL in limbo for whatever reason. Included is a clip of the song “Montana”, recorded during these sessions but not included on the album itself.
SCENES FROM A MEMORY-METROPOLIS 2 – DREAM THEATER (1999)
I simply couldn’t do a list like this without including Dream Theater. I like heavy music and I like progressive music. This band combines those two qualities perhaps better than any band ever has, and on this album its done to perfection. This is your classic “concept album” and tells an interesting story that needs to be experienced. But the true experience of this album is that it is a piece of song-writing and musical brilliance. If you have seen Rush’s biopic Beyond The Lighted Stage, you might recognize the now-familiar voice of long-time Rush producer Terry Brown (who also produced the vocals on this album). The album sees John Petrucci and Mike Portnoy at their monster best and requires many listens to truly appreciate. I am not a “Rolling Stone” magazine guy myself, but it does say something that in 2012 they named this album as the Number One all-time progressive album, beating out Rush’s 2112and Yes’s Close to The Edge.
THE ACTION IS GO – FU MANCHU (1997)
This album starts off with a bang, it also ends with a bang and actually this album is just one big resounding rhythmic bang. After a few good, but not great albums (in my opinion), new drummer Brant Bjork was brought into Fu Manchu. This would result in one of the greatest “Stoner-Rock” albums of all time. This is literally the perfect driving album. Sometimes you find yourself emulating driving just sitting and listening to it. You can hear a huge Sabbath influence on this album, at least in the sound of the instruments and the driving low end. Sometimes the vocals can leave a bit to be desired, but it is not really singing in the first place. Almost sounds like a dude talkin’ to himself, which adds to the coolness of this album. One of my favorite albums of the 1990’s indeed.
WELCOME TO SKY VALLEY – KYUSS (1994)
Somewhere around early 1995, I walked into a Sunrise Records where Tom (Tom has been mentioned many times in Mike’s blogs) was working. At this point Tom and I only really knew each other from local concerts we would run into each other at. The second I walked in he begged me to check out this Kyuss album on the listening station. I remember the look on his face when I didn’t instantly “get it”. Years later I had to bow to him and thank him for trying to open my eyes earlier. No one knows how to set a mood quite like Kyuss. The last album listed was Brant Bjork’s first album with Fu Manchu. This album is the last Kyuss album featuring Brant Bjork on drums. No coincidence here. This man knows how to wash songs with a subtle intensity. Check out the song “Demon Cleaner” sometime, with Josh Homme singing and see how Queens of the Stone Age were born. This album has been listed as a major influence for many of the heavy metal greats of the day.
WHALE MUSIC – THE RHEOSTATICS (1994)
The Rheostatics are definitely one of my favorite bands of all time, and the artist I have seen live the most in my life. Any band that calls their first album Greatest Hits obviously has a good sense of humour. There really is no album that quite captures “Canadiana” quite like Whale Music. Not to be confused with the later-released official soundtrack of the same name, this album ranges from the sweet to the insane. Take the song “Queer” for example. “Well the screen door is still broken, since you kicked your Kodiaks through it” and “I scored a hat trick on the team that called you a fuckin’ queer”, are lyrics that paint a Canadian portrait of everyday life. I love this album and frequently re-visit it only to find it gets better with age. Notable appearances on this album are Neil Peart on a song called “Guns” and The Barenaked Ladies (credited as The Scarborough Naked Youth Choir). Included here is the amazing opening track. Check it out eh ….
WHITE PEPPER – WEEN (2000)
Simply put, this is my favorite “Pop” album of all time. I am not a Ween fan per se. I cannot say I have actually connected strongly with any of their other albums. But when this album was introduced to me, it grabbed a hold of me and it will never let go. First of all, the sound on this album is absolutely wonderful. Second of all, the melodies on this album (with sprinkles of Ween weirdness of course) are something very reminiscent of The Beatles. I have always tagged this album as their “Beatles tribute”, and it was pointed out to me by a friend that “The White Album? Sgt. Peppers? White Pepper?”. Now I have not read that in fact that is what the name truly means, but I think that is a very good guess. I have played this album for a few musician friends of mine and the result is pretty much the same across the board. White Pepper simply “hooks” you in, it is that simple. Check out the Trey Parker and Matt Stone directed video for “Even If You Don’t” included here.
UNCHAINED – JOHNNY CASH (1996)
I was working at the “Record Store Chain” Ladano blogs about when I was first introduced to this album. It was instantly a revelation of what I do actually like about Country Music, and was the reason I became a fan of the older-style albums of the genre. Not enough can be said about the genius of Rick Rubin. The man who changed the careers of Slayer, The Beastie Boys and the Red Hot Chili Peppers got a hold of Johnny Cash and re-introduced him as the icon he always was. Hiring Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers as the backing band for the second American Recordings Johnny Cash release was a stroke of brilliance. The opening track “Rowboat” sees Cash cover a Beck song and make it his own. “Sea of Heartbreak” is a melodic ass-kicker. Everyone by now knows of the genius cover of Soundgarden’s “Rusty Cage”, so good in fact that for a long period of time Chris Cornell refused to play it live stating “It’s not our song anymore. It’s Johnny’s now”. No album of this genre has ever sounded bigger, if not any genre. A must have album.
VS. – PEARL JAM (1993)
This album had to be included on this list. I understand that everyone looks at Pearl Jam’s first album as this massive crowning achievement, but frankly I didn’t get it then and I really still don’t. Their second album I think is the best album of their career and probably my favorite “Grunge” album ever. Every song on this album is a classic to me and it does seem weird to call an album that was a Number One album on Billboard for five weeks straight “underrated”. But I truly do feel this album gets overlooked and that’s a shame. I find Ten to be kind of boring and redundant to be honest. This album is still fresh to me. I hope when it’s all said and done that this album is what truly defines them.