I was fifteen years old and quickly being molded by my overweight, slightly slow friend, Colin, to truly appreciate punk rock. Now, suburban Barrie, Ontario, was not the most fertile landscape for hardcore punk, but Colin maintained that this “all ages battle of the bands” on Thursday was going to be “clutch.” It was also going to be “punk,” his go-to, yet highly effective, adjective.
Colin invited me to his abode hours before the battle of the bands was supposed to start. We would walk the 4 kilometres to the community college bar from there. When I arrived at his home he was wearing an outfit that I swear consisted of nearly four ties and his father’s old raincoat, ensconced in safety pins. Aghast at my jeans and hoodie, he insisted I changed into something more “punk.” So he dragged me to his closet and we began to assemble a suitable costume out of his clothes.
Now, as I referenced earlier, Colin was slightly obese, and borderline illiterate. So the only clothes in his closet that fit my gaunt frame, was his cub scout uniform from when he was 10 years old. When I tried it on, and it miraculously fit, he assured me with his wisdom that it was totally “punk rock.” I now know that his “wisdom” was just his “squishy” brain talking.
At the battle of the bands we were affronted with suburban Ontario punk rock. It was not only loud and bad, it was justifiably unpopular. Colin introduced me to “skanking,” which is a form of moshing where you look like a jackass doing it. In no time I was I dancing like a semi-violent jackass (“skanking”) to a band that was literally called “No Fat Chicks.” Suddenly, a large skin-headed man, fueled by rage for my absurd boyscout uniform (as well as his likely complicated relationship with his father), proceeded to hip-check me into the air with his mighty untamed girth.
As I tumbled through the air, before landing and badly bruising my femur on the dive bar’s filthy floor, I took stock of my current life trajectory (no pun intended). Did I want to be a suburban Ontarian — an underachieving sardine in a city with no industry and rampant living costs? Did I want to abandon my horn sections for three chord riffs in a basement bar at the local college? No, I didn’t. I wanted to at least try to get out of this sinkhole of a city. Barrie. My nemesis. After being ejected from the bar by a bouncer who didn’t care I was hurt because I was “dancing like a jackass,” I shuffled home in an existential haze, trying to imagine what Winnipeg was like in the fall.