Alex Pierson jams on.
The Jam/Space Continuum
Jam spots have come and gone over the years, lost to the rapid gentrification of the downtown core, but all have been key to the growth of St. John’s music scene. Without ‘em, local bands would surely not have gotten as good as they did, and many would have never even existed.
I decided to have a look back at some of the most important jam spots of the last 15 years or so…
The early 90s saw a jam space/booze can set up in the belly of the old Newfoundland Telephone building (the big white monstrosity across from The Sprout). Made available through the MUN Extension Service, seminal bands Fur Packed Action, Bung and the Gravel Pit Campers jammed here. Theatre troupes, including Codco, used this as a rehearsal space.
By the mid 90s, if you were in a band you probably jammed at 333 Duckworth Street. Known as “The Collective” or, “Halfway to Hell”, this was the place where things started happening for many of the 90’s rock bands in the city- Potbelly, Potmaster, Liz Band, Bung, Hardship Post, Ditch, Necropolis, Potatobug, etc. A lot of the records that came out of the scene at the time were recorded here.
1996. The Tooton’s building (now the Downhomer) on Water St. was home to The Liz Band, Spunk, Hardliner, Potmaster, Bung, FPA, and Necropolis. Filled with old camera store junk, this place was, as Geoff Younghusband put it “killer on the back”, since you had to haul gear up several flights of steps.
The Post Office/Dooly’s building on Water St. came complete with loading bay and elevator which made things a lot easier physically. FPA, Potmaster, Jupiter Landing, Potatobug, Hardliner, Liz Band, Bung, and Spunk shared this huge space from 1997 right up until 2001. Several scenes from Lois Brown’s film The Bingo Robbers were also filmed here.
The old Children’s Rehab Center in Pleasantville lay vacant until Red Ochre Productions leased it for a dollar in the late 90s. Jam rooms for rent, Sandy Morris’ Cool Blue Studios, as well as a sound stage—the TV series Gullage’s was partly filmed here, along with several feature-length films. …The sight of broken wheelchairs and discarded prostheses was unsettling to say the least.
The Independent Arts Co-operative, at Symes Bridge Road was started in 2002. Nearly every band in town jammed here until the City kicked everyone out fearing the possibility of future legal action by potential owners. It has since been razed, and nothing but sod remains. It is, as IAC founder Liz Pickard describes, “… like our little rock and roll graveyard.”
And that brings us to today…
The Turner’s of the tide
There’s hope. Turner’s Tavern at 110 Water Street. I popped in to talk to Gene Browne, who is coordinating the jam space there.
“We know how hard it is for bands to find a place to jam, we’ve had the same trouble,” he says. “We’re trying to bring the bands together, and we’ll do everything we can to help out.”
The b’ys at Turner’s invite bands to come in and jam once a week in return for a regular gig in the bar every month or so without cover. It’s a rehearsal space, with drums and a PA provided, with an engineer on-site. Also, if a band needs a jam space but can’t play a show at Turner’s, they’ve got flexible rates. This is exactly the kind of relationship we need to be fostering with the venues in this city.
The Human Soundtrack set to release debut
Local dystopia-rock act The Human Soundtrack will release their first full-length album Organs for Sale in late-February. Mike Gear recorded the beds in spring 2007, and the album was engineered at Henge Studio by Leo Bruce.
“The band was tremendously involved in every aspect of the album,” says drummer Derek Pink. “We brought in a few friends to fill in some layers and add some textures. Leo Bruce did all the technical work with buttons and knobs and dials and levers and even tossed in a few great ideas along the way.”
No animals were harmed in the making of the album, according to Derek, although a wasp’s nest on the side of Derek’s house was removed at the time. Luckily the wasps had already moved out.
The band is busy putting together their CD release show for Feb. 29 at the Ship. Look for details on the release show in the next issue.
The 20th Anniversary of the ECMAs is fast approaching! The awards will take place in Fredericton, NB from the 7th to 10th of February. The Newfoundland contingent is gearing up to blow minds at the MusicNL Showcase. This year’s roster includes Ron Hynes, Mark Bragg, Duane Andrews, Mary Barry, Hey Rosetta!, and Trailer Camp.
It was also announced that next year, for the first time, the awards will be held in Corner Brook. It came down to a contest between the East and West coasts of the island, with the Brook emerging as the clear winner by unanimous vote.
“The commitments and energy from that community shone through,” said Executive Director Steve Horne. “…we know that it will invigorate the music community in western Newfoundland.”
Go for Brook!