The following text represents my opinion and my best recollection of the events that happened 20 years ago. If you were there you may have a different recollection of these events and a different opinion. Scott Juskiw, January 2001.
Our second gig turned out to be at the annual Smoke-In at Borden Park during the afternoon on June 7, 1980. I'm not certain how we landed that gig, but we got on the bill with some rock and folk bands to play to a bunch of pot-smoking head-banging burnouts. No punk band had ever played at the Smoke-In before, as we were to find out. The Smoke-In gig happened to be on the same day as the Modern Minds/Modernettes show (which was in the evening). I remember setting up our gear in the clamshell around two or three in the afternoon, looking across a moat to a bunch of hippies laying around on the grass. We cut into our set and surprisingly got some positive reaction from a few in the crowd. I remember some guys near the front yelling, "All right, rock 'n' roll" in approval. They weren't sure what to make of us; unlike our first gig, nobody introduced us as being a punk band. The rest of the crowd was fairly dormant. We had to stop briefly after Dennis swallowed a fly and had to cough it up, but otherwise things were going well. We almost pulled it off until about halfway through our set when Mike said "Has anybody here heard of the Sex Pistols? This is one of their songs." As soon as he said that I saw about 10 people at the back of the audience jump to their feet and start marching towards the stage waving their fists in the air and chanting "punk rock sucks". As they got closer to the stage more people got up to join them. As the throng reached the moat that separated us from them we were well into the song. They picked up lumps of dirt and whatever else they could find and lobbed it at us as they tried to shout us down with their chants. It was just like our first gig all over again. We weren't intimidated, heck, we felt right at home. We didn't stop playing and by the end of the song there were at least 30 idiots yelling at us. The Smoke-In promoters were concerned about violence and asked us to stop playing. We didn't want to give in, but it was the best thing to do. We packed up our gear and headed over to Riverdale Hall for our third gig.
Realizing that we were about to play a hall party with several other punk bands to an audience of punk rockers Dennis said, "Now if these guys don't like us, then we better quit". We all agreed with him. I note that the following year (1981) there were several punk bands that played the Smoke-In, including the Urban Surfers, Diefenbakers, and Live Sex Shows, and none of them had any problems with the crowd. What trail-blazers we were.
I recall getting to Riverdale Hall and hauling our gear in while the Modernettes were setting up on stage. We watched them do their sound check and then we did a quick sound check (I don't recall seeing the Modern Minds do a sound check). It would be a few hours before the show started so we left to get something to eat and make up a set list. We had been warned by the organizers of the show not to play too many Sex Pistols songs because so many other punk bands had already played those songs to death. So this left us with a pretty short set list of perhaps 10 songs. When we got up on stage, I remember looking down and seeing a whole bunch of people looking up at us with a "who the hell are these guys?" look on their faces. Except for Dennis, we were all a bunch of long hairs who looked very out of place among the short haired punks. We started off with Taxing My System and I was amazed at the response we got. They were actually cheering us on and clapping in appreciation. I was totally stunned, considering the reception we got from our previous gigs. We whipped through our set with no problems whatsoever. When we finished our set, they were asking us to play more. I remember Mike saying, "We don't know any more songs," and someone suggested we play our first song again. So we played Taxing My System a second time as an encore. Afterwards, we hung around to watch the other bands. The Modern Minds were fantastic with Bob Drysdale leaping around on stage like a madman. I remember Ken Chinn (whom we didn't know yet; this was before he was in any band) and other people talking to us and saying "Hi Joey" to Mike. Could it be that we finally found our place?
One moment I distinctly remember about this show was when we played Bodies. We added this bit in the middle where just the bass and drums would play a repeating pattern and Mike would tell jokes to the audience. He had just finished telling the joke, "What's black and blue and hangs on a doorknob? A dead baby." and then he handed me the microphone. I wasn't paying attention to what he was saying because I had heard all of these jokes before. I blanked and said the first thing that popped into my head, "What's black and blue and hangs on a doorknob?" The whole crowd looked at me and said in unison, "A dead baby!" To which I responded, "Oh, you've heard it". I felt like such a goof.
The next few months would be one of the best times of our lives. Collectively, it became known as "Drive-In Summer" due to the amount of time we spent going to drive-in movies. Rock 'n' Roll High School with the Ramones came out in the summer of 1980 and we went to almost every showing, often hiding in somebody's trunk to avoid paying to get in. After that first successful gig at Riverdale Hall we began to make inroads with the Edmonton alternative music scene. We played numerous gigs, at least every second weekend, whether it was a house party or a hall party. We opened for the Pointed Sticks at Dinwoodie, the Modern Minds several times, the Sturgeons, and the Braineaters. We met the Diefenbakers, and the Rock 'n' Roll Bitches and jammed with them. I also recall gigs with DOA and the SubHumans but I don't think we played at those ones. Everyone seemed to tolerate us, but I doubt anyone actually liked us very much. I believe they were just starved for alternative music and there wasn't too much else to choose from.
We also got our hair cut that summer. Ed wasn't much of a long hair, and Dennis already had short hair, but Mike and I were definitely long hairs. One day, along with Anthony, we went down to Keith's and got "punk" hair cuts. I remember the Diefenbakers asking us afterwards why we did it. We didn't feel like we needed to do it in order to be accepted by the other punks; the Ramones were all long hairs. It was just something we wanted to do. I considered it part of growing up.
One gig that stands out during drive-in summer was the "Where the hell is Bon Accord?" gig that we played with the Diefenbakers on August 8, 1980. I don't know why Mike was so interested in hosting hall parties, but I'm glad he made the effort. He was having trouble finding a hall in Edmonton that was available and that he could afford to rent. Somehow he managed to rent the community hall in Bon Accord where he used to live. It was one of the few gigs that we would ever play as the headlining band. Not too many people showed up; it was too far a drive for most people. We were there along with the Diefenbakers and a dozen of their friends. Bob Drysdale was there because we rented/borrowed the Modern Minds PA system. And Mike's mom showed up for a minute to say hi while we were on stage. But that's about it. Since we were hosting the gig, I was able to record it. It's an awful recording to listen to, but I did manage to get a recording of the Diefenbakers, which is a rarity.
For unknown reasons (to me), Dennis decided that he wanted to host a house party that summer when his parents were out of town. I wish I had tried to talk him out of it. I remember setting up our gear in Dennis' basement and noticing that they had a bar with hundreds of tiny bottles of booze. I recommended that Dennis remove all the booze before the party otherwise it would all disappear. The party itself went without any obvious problems. Dennis managed to rope off the main floor and keep everybody in the basement. We played, along with the Diefenbakers, and the Rock 'n' Roll Bitches. There were several cretins in the punk crowd and they were not the most well behaved lot. Many of them were smokers and every bit of ash managed to land on the carpet or furniture. There was lots of beer spilled everywhere, nobody took their shoes off. Someone kicked a hole in the bathroom wall and somebody put empty beer bottles in the dryer. It took Dennis a whole day to clean up the mess but there were some things he couldn't hide. When his parents got home they were furious; they blamed us for the damage and they told Dennis he had to leave the band. This made it difficult for us to practice because Dennis had to sneak around to do it, but we managed to pull it off. Dennis told me that his parents knew he was still playing in the band but they let him do it anyway since they knew how much it meant to him.
By the end of the summer of 1980 we were settling into what would become a regular pattern for us: breaking up and then reforming. I don't recall exactly what the reasons were for the various breakups, but in most instances they stemmed from arguments between me and Mike. We were making the transition from being a joke band to being a real band. When we started out, we were only doing it for fun: the experience was its own reward. But eventually that feeling would pass and there needed to be something more to keep us interested. I began to dread playing live because we always played much better in practice than we ever did in front of people. We were always pushing the envelope and writing songs that were just beyond our ability to perform. Anything else would have been too boring for me. I was quite happy to just write songs, make recordings, and hone our skills. Mike, on the other hand, seemed to thrive on live performance. This would become a point of friction between us and lead to various power struggles and the inevitable breakup.