Walking up to the little warehouse in the heart of Rock Bay, you would be hard pressed to find any evidence of the hundred or so punks gathered inside the industrial space-turned concert venue. Where was the noise, the underage drinking, directionless vandalism, and A Clockwork Orange-style youth gangs fighting brutal turf wars in the parking lot — all the things that common sense tells us are sure to accompany any attempt at an all-ages show here in the City of Gardens.
Lacking any visible reason why this activity should be acceptable only on the outskirts of town, I turned to the show’s organizer for an explanation. Along with problems of cost, Heather Furneaux cited public perception as the driving force behind the scarcity of venues willing to book all-ages shows.
“I think most of the organizers are on board with making events safe, there just needs to be a little bit more trust,” she says.
The problem of perception isn’t new to promoters like Furneaux and Tyler Pantella. As one community centre explained in reponse to Pantella’s attempt to convince the organization to open its doors: “The problem with all-ages shows is that they are generally geared to underage kids who, in our experience, abuse the rule of law, mistreat the venue, and annoy the neighbours with the activities that go on in the parking lot and park that is not monitored by security.”
Despite further attempts to convince the community centre’s board of directors, Pantella was left with little hope of using the space.
“All ages shows are a great social/community event for kids to enjoy, they contribute to the community arts, and yet so many community centres are not receptive to the idea… [Talking to the board] I felt like I was defending an activity that, to them, was a nuisance.”
The City of Flowers is a myth, a retirement community of tea houses and horsedrawn carriages glimpsed only in the photos we churn out to lure money from places like California and Toronto. Punks, freaks, losers and artists make this city worth living in, and to deny the next generation the space to express itself and continue to explore our culture is to sacrifice the best parts of the Capital. M