Our punk rock heritage

One of the posters for Da Slyme’s first show

It was 29 years ago that Newfoundland’s first punk rock band, Da Slyme, first spraypainted their name on record sleeves like Mr. Dressup, Carlton Showband and The Bell Jubilee Sound and slipped a copy of their double LP inside. And it’s been 31 years since their first show.

Punk hit Newfoundland hard and it hit early. Da Slyme were certainly the first, but they weren’t the last.

This year the Rock Can Roll Festival is digging through the past with a closing night conference entitled “Preserving our Punk Rock Heritage.”

David Keating caught up with Liz Solo and Mike Kean to ask them about it.

“They’re talking on TV about our heritage and where we come from,” says Mike Kean. “They don’t know what my fucking heritage is.”

The first story of Newfoundland punk goes way back.

Rock Can Roll festival organizer Liz Solo points to the stories of the “primordial” group Da Slyme in the late 70s as the beginning of the entire movement. Their legendary first show happened on February 3, 1978 in the movie room—a student lounge on the second floor of MUN’s Thompson Student Centre.

“They had their costumes and their personas, but nobody knew what to do. I think it ended up with them breaking beer bottles and the singer cutting himself really badly and I think he had to leave early to go to the hospital.”

“Then the audience didn’t quite know what to do either, so people started throwing things,” she says.

Over 30 years since Da Slyme first hit the stage in St. John’s, punk has been a continuous thread in the local music scene. In conjunction with Rock Can Roll’s Fifth Annual Music Festival, the Independent Artist Co-Op is organizing the closing night conference entitled “Preserving Our Punk Rock Heritage.”

Featuring presentations with members of groups like Dog Meat BBQ, Da Slyme, and Potmaster, the conference is part of a larger ongoing effort to catalogue the history of punk in the province, especially for younger bands who don’t know.

“We want to make people understand that there’s a whole history here that’s decades old—and we want to document that,” says Solo. “Many bands come and go and didn’t record, but that’s changing… We want to create awareness and content to help people understand where the roots of all this are.”

Highlights of the collection that will debut at the conference include hundreds of show posters from every decade of music, as well as early album art. Bios of bands and all of the images will be available to online in a gallery that traces the origins of groups through the members that have spanned the decades.

For Solo and Kean, the story of local punk history is the story of all the grassroots movements in music that have occurred in the half a century of history in the city.

“Ages ago it was all the same scene. It wasn’t so factionalized,” say Solo. “The reggae band played with the punk band. There were shows with just hardcore punk, but a lot of the shows were much more shared… There were fewer venues, and fewer bands. We were all discovering this stuff together and figuring it out together.”

Despite the strides punk has made in audience popularity, number of bands and performance venues, the struggle to make a living in the arts hasn’t changed over the years.

“Musicians are probably the most exploited of all artists here because they are continuously being asked to do everything for free. Nobody wants to pay them. It’s a problem. We have all these amazing working artists struggling with issues of survival,” says Solo.

Along the way, it’s not only the artists that have struggled to survive. Both Kean and Solo mourn the loss of another music festival, the Peace-A-Chord.

Held annually in Bannerman Park, the free community festival with a focus that hovered between social justice and local music faced opposition from others in the community.

“It’s becoming all about greed and property now, “ says Pickard. “The houses around the park, the value skyrocketed so now these people, they say ‘we don’t like this’ and a 25-year festival is cast out.”

Meanwhile, The Folk Festival— louder in decibel level, but not in style—was permitted to continue in the same Bannerman Park location.

As property values and the prosperity of the Have era continue to change the nature of the city, both Kean and Solo see a greater need to hold onto the values and punk heritage that have marked the A1C area code as fertile artistic territory.

“Remember that we have a past… and you don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. So let’s not lose that ‘we’re all in this together’ thing—which I think we do still have.”

The Rock Can Roll Music and Media Festival runs from Friday, September 25th to Sunday, September 27th. Check the listings calendar for details.


  1. Stig Stilletto · October 4, 2011

    The beer bottles flew in only one direction on the evening of Feb. 3, 1978, and that was stageward. Conversely, the only things hurled in the direction of the audience by Da Slyme were insults and the odd gob. But to be fair to the attendees, on relfection, it appears they did not aim to actually hit any of us. We were infants in this punk thing — audience and performers alike — unsure of what the appropriate behaviours should be — so we approximated. And while it’s true that lead singer, Snotty Slyme, did end up in Emergency to be sewn for 11,that was result of pratfall on wet floor exacerbated by the panty hose he was wearing over his pants and sneakers.
    From such modest and beaucolic romps are fables formed.

  2. HBeez · October 4, 2011

    What a crock. A bunch of people who haven’t been relevant in the local punk rock scene in the last 10+ years patting each other on the back and acting as if they’re the ones running the show. And who even played this weekend? Jody Richardson? Mudflowers? No offense to any of these artists, but where’s the relevance?

    Dog Meat BBQ, OK cool, but what about the CURRENT St. John’s punk & HC scene? Where were Weak Link? Icebreaker? Over The Top? At Both Ends? Once Loved? Dig Up The Dead? Where were guys like Rob Forward with his “Species At Risk” zine? Or Steve Renouf who put out a cassette comp last winter of pretty much every band involved in the scene in the last 7 or 8 years? And not to pat myself on the back, but I run a blog called Fogtown where you can go for local punk/HC band & show info. We’re here NOW and we’re doing it NOW. And I don’t think anyone of us are looking for any recognition because that’s really not what it’s about.

    Also, when’s the last time RCR even put out a local punk band’s record?

  3. Rodney Wall · October 4, 2011

    Well..I guess somebody had to say it.

  4. mc · October 4, 2011

    I completely agree with what Hbeez has said. Yes, we get it, it’s important to understand where the roots of the punk rock scene in st.john’s came from, but at the same time, romanticizing about the past isn’t doing any favors to the current scene. It’s all about what is happening now and I was pretty disappointed by not seeing any of the current hxc/punk bands on the bills for any of the shows for the rcr weekend. These bands really bring passion and heart to the scene and are rockin it without the help of folks who evidently haven’t been to an all ages show in how long? Give me a break.

  5. ellis · October 4, 2011

    hbeez hit the sweet spot. theres tonnes of kids busting our nuts to keep this fucking scene alive and you spend all your time chronicling the history of a couple bands who think they’re all that and a bag of chips. nobodies denying the relevancy or importance of bands like dog meat in the integration of punk rock into our society, but youd think with an article (let alone a whole show), theyd merge some more up to speed punk rock with the old stuff
    who are you even trying to appeal with this?
    this is a joke and an insult to all the kids and adults who care about hardcore and punk rock these days
    trivialize our efforts but glorify that of bands who are innaccurate representations of what punk rock has come to be, and never even poke their head in the door to say hi anymore

    lets hear an article about over the top, class war kids, regiment, at both ends, king sized kids, the embarrassments, ICEBREAKER, weak link or sometimes houses like to sleep? THERE ARE KIDS WHO CARE STILL, lets give them some fucking spotlight for once. its hardly ever the punk scene gets any sort of credit in your magazine, so how about when you do, you dont spend the entire time chronicling the history of a band that couldnt give two less shits

    or at least let a hardcore band play the fucking show.

  6. Johnny R. · October 4, 2011

    Preserving our Punk Rock Heritage can be done with an Wiki entry, keeping our punk rock scene alive takes a little more work.

    I wonder if RCR knew that 4 young punk rock bands from Newfoundland, have tour around Canada this summer.

  7. franciswine · October 4, 2011

    Da slyme, dog meat bbq are and were always nothing to the NL hardcore/punk scene. I was there. Tough Justice and Public Enemy are the main bands that started the St.john’s hardcore/punk scene. Before them it was just a bunch of loser art ****, LSPU Hall goofs, MUN/ college art punks.

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