It's now time for our second ever book review at The Sault Metal Scene! After delays from school and other such commitments, I've now been able to sit down and give a thorough read to a book I've had for a while now, and though not metal-centric, is very interesting! The book in question is "Going Underground: A Brief History Of Punk Rock In Small Town Canada", which was written by local photographer Paolo Colasacco and released through Paolo Paolo Media on January 22nd! Printed at Friesens Press, the book features writings from his concert experiences, with the included photos being taken at local concerts, events, and photo shoots from the 1980s through the early 2000s. The book details the stories and images Paolo has about the local music scene (mostly punk, though metal is discussed) during that time period, and clocks in at 408 pages long. "Going Underground" costs $30, and can be purchased at The Rad Zone in their Hole In The Wall section, or you can buy it online via PayPal for $45 ($48 international) at this location. Remember, I'm NOT a professional reviewer by any means, and have no formal experience in literary criticism, so make note of that in case you have critical comments.
I also was neither alive or old enough to experience the events chronicled in the book, so if I make any mistakes or don't add something, I apologize. I admit I'm not the ideal person to review it, but I figured I should give this era and work the attention it deserves, and tell you guys what you should know before you buy it. I'll try to keep comments on each story to a minimum to encourage you to actually buy & read the book as well. With that said, let's begin this review!
The book officially starts with a six and-a-half page story on the "first wave" of the local punk scene in the 1980s, along with Paolo's beginnings as a photographer. He goes into detail about how his love for photography blossomed, his first experiences in getting prints done, and eventually led to how he developed an appreciation of Rush, who friends of his covered in a late 1970s local band named Reefer, leading to some of his earliest band photography. He eventually discussed his experiences surrounding the rise of the local New Wave/punk band The Reggulars, whose hybrid sound wasn't anything you'd hear on the radio, and which quickly gained steam in local music circles. Their rise to playing gigs at the former Centennial Lanes (the old GLOW Nightclub's in that site now) is also followed, which seemed to signal other bands to play there. After brief discussion of slang terms (including calling metalheads "Gorrocks" at the time), Paolo talked about the images and clothing taken on in the early punk years, which was widely diverse depending on the person. He then discussed his first experiences with concert photography and the settings used to get good quality shots, along with his continued evolution as a photographer led to him creating and underground newspaper named "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!", including it's one-off metal parody that didn't work as an insult.
Paolo also added details on it's transformation after being sold, and briefly becoming Zombie A-Go-Go, which had a following but also was more restrictive and had issues with fighting in the crowds. This led into his eventual move to London to study other fields, and the nice re-connection he had with some old band acquaintances that I won't spoil here. The rest of the chapter is basically photos and related captions of the early bands, musicians, and concerts of the time, including such bands as The Reggulars, The Vox, Waldo Pepper & The Shakes, and Final Option, among others. The photos, though entirely black and white, are nice and large, and in good quality despite the age and nature of how many were taken. All of the right-hand pages after the included stories has one of Paolo's photos, while the left-hand pages include captions, credits of which band or musician was included & where, and assorted comments relating to their lineups, releases, shows, debuts, and so forth. Though I can't speak for the accuracy of the captions given that I wasn't alive yet, Paolo does give great detail on these photos, even saying what song was being played in certain shots, which is very interesting! The bands here aren't necessarily all punk, but the chapter gives a good insight into the birth of this scene, and the path it would take, and the photos guide everything really well!
The "second wave" is basically Chapter 2 of the book, which details the punk rock shows of the 1990s, where things get more aggressive and hard hitting compared to the early Centennial Lanes shows. Paolo's story for this chapter is only three and a half pages long, and it starts with Paolo's return to the Sault to study graphic design. He talks about meeting a local guitarist named Jeff Nisbet of the punk band The Spigots, and the rush of a revived punk scene he felt when he first saw them live. Paolo discusses how the "second wave" took place at The Windsor Park Hotel on Queen Street (now Algoma University housing), which had few issues despite it's location and motif. He praised the environment of the Windsor Park Hotel for concerts, as well as the advancement of the bands, who had more structure and professionalism compared to the 1908s bands he followed. This helped lead out-of-town bands like The Ripcordz to shows in the Soo, a development rarely seen from Centennial Lanes bands. Paolo would ten discuss the merchandice factor of this run of local bands, including The Spigots' recording sessions, and how they almost ended in disaster. He wrapped up with discussion of his new photo techniques of the time, the improved crowd environment and how they factored into his pictures, his work as a teacher at Sault College, and the Windsor Park Hotel's end as a concert venue.
Bands included in the photos from the second wave include The Spigots, Room 206, The Kite Eating Maples, The Sugarspun Sister, and more, as you'd expect! These photos are better in multiple ways from the 1980s shots, in both photo quality (newer cameras) and the concert environments, which were larger, had more energetic looking and sounding bands, and had more diverse angles of the crowd and venue! Lots of shots of rowdy and passionate fans rocking out with some very talented punk bands of the time, including a couple with current members of The Inner City Surfers! The 1980s photos were cool, but the 1990s ones made me REALLY wish I could experience the second wave!
The "third wave" is the last and shortest chapter in the book, with it's story only taking up one page. Paolo discusses how the now vacant Club Princess became an active local concert venue for shows in the early 2000s, and it's different environment compared to the earlier discussed venues. He mentions the newer wave of bands and fans and how they were different in approach and age (19+ now) compared to the 1980s and 1990s, and how fans responded to shows there strikes a chord similar to how some are treated at current shows. He also talked about the decline of the punk scene in this wave, with similar sounding bands and shrinking crowd numbers, and closed the story with his nostalgia and rememberances of past waves and their connection to the scene as it then stood. His photos include shots of early 2000s bands like Blend, Suckerpunch, and The Late Night Weirdos, closing with pictures from The Spigots' last ever show. Very nice photos once again, and though the crowds look lively, there's something missing compared to the energy you could detect from photos in the second wave. Best quality photos of the book though, which benefited from newer equipment. The promo photos are great too, though they take up a larger ratio of the photos than they did in the earlier waves.
Paolo closes with two pages of personal reflections on the scene and punk music, including his hope that newer musicians and fans will use "Going Underground" as a do-it-yourself manual to help make an exciting music scene like he experienced locally. I don't know if it will be an instigator for such a revival, but what I do know is that this is a great book and a great time capsule to the local scene's past! You can tell Paolo had a deep appreciation for local music, local bands and musicians, and the punk scene at it's heights! Sure, he wasn't around the metal side of things much, but I give him kudos for mentioning the scene as it existed back then, and I'm sure bands that crossed the metal line played at The Windsor Park & Club Princess at the time! Reading this book, I developed interest in checking out a bunch of these bands, which is a sign that something's working! A few of the included bands have material posted online (Room 206 even have a MySpace page), but many don't have songs or videos that I've seen. Paolo or someone with the right connections should make a "Going Underground" CD about the punk scene, featuring the bands included in the book, I think it'd be successful!
I have some points to stress the book though. Much of the book's layout strikes me as wasted space, as the left hand caption pages are almost entirely blank save for words on the bottom and (sometimes) top. I would have put the captions and comments above & below the photos to save space. I think at least 100 pages could have been shaved if he'd done that. I figure colour photos would have been a good addition if Paolo had them for later shots, but I imagine all black and white would save costs. I also expected to see a wider expanse of bands in the included photographs, with only about 16 getting credited sections in the table of contents. Some names are misspelled as well, like Jeff Nisbet, Dave Bahun, and Brad Lacell, but hey, mistakes happen to us all. The thing that disappointed me the most is the lack of stories. Only about 13 and a half pages of the book feature Paolo's stories on the scene, which seems very small, especially given the fact that portions of a longer Centennial Lanes story were posted by him onto The Internet Archive in 2005, click here to see them (and more photos.) I was hoping to read the missing parts of that story in this book, which suggests that he might have had longer stories about the scene in mind at one point, but the photo heavy nature of it works too!
Still, this is a very entertaining time capsule look at the local punk scene from it's infancy to it's quiet later period, and Paolo offers many well written thoughts and observations from this time period! His photos are great and he helps give a voice and insight into a scene that many newer music fans locally don't know a lot about! Metal isn't the focus, but you'll definitely find connections and references that will get your mind going. I hope this book will encourage fans to get in touch with bands of the past, the musicians that still perform nowadays, how the scene once was, and how we can connect it to the scene of today. Very entertaining book, pick it up today!
That's all for now, but stay tuned for more news tomorrow, and yes, my review of "Soo Stories" by Duane Roy is coming up hopefully this week as well! Thanks everyone!
Posted: Mar 17, 2021
Originally Published: May 16, 2011