Vendors attract thousands to small press and weirdo art festival
The first time I tabled at Expozine, I managed to sell enough self-produced fanzines that I could almost pay my rent for the month. I also made several new friends – admittedly, both of these things were somewhat difficult for me to manage while I lived in Montreal.
It was good times. Everyone seemed to be excited about art in a way I had never experienced before. It was a scene filled with creators who supported one another. It was also inspiring times, and I left with more reading material than I knew what to do with. I also made some new acquaintances who similarly shared my interest in cheap beer and conversation.
Then, a few months later, I left Montreal. Also, my cheap rent and a small-but-dedicated cadre of friends.
Fast-forward several year to the present day and I am back in my old chomping grounds. All of my favourite restos are still where I left them, the bars still serving familiar French-named pints. And I’m back at the basement of the Église St-Enfant Jésus – the long-running site of Expozine.
Started in 2002, the small press fair typically sees 15,000 visitors embracing weirdo art – printed books, silkscreened posters, comics, etc. – in all of its glorious permutations. It’s a thing of beauty, or at least as close as you can get when you’re mass-producing you work using an antiquated, overheating photocopier. Or a drippy squeegee.
In addition to once again acquiring another small library of zines to take home, including If Nothing Else the Sky by Dave Roche, I also got to meet several other zinester-types, including Dakota McFadzean, author of Other Stories and the Horse You Rode In On (see you in Saskatoon Dakota!).
Other highlights include the strange, spongey cheese-less pizza along with samosas and cheap beer. Wish I had taken pictures.
Also good: Aaron Cometbus, the great granddaddy of punk rock fanzinedom, giving his first Montreal reading before a packed audience in the Mile End store of Drawn and Quarterly.
Or, if you believe him, his first reading in North America.
Along with host Jeff Miller, author of the excellent Ghost Pine zine, Cometbus was immensely entertaining and endearing, despite pacing around nervously. Call it punk rock anthropology or whatever, Cometbus the zine is a continually fascinating read and its author a compelling figure in both the music and independent writing scenes.
After ending the night with two poems, the Berkeley-native sat down to take questions from the audience.
So what exactly do you ask the man who has authored one of the most beloved and longest-running punk zines of all time?
I had several questions, most of them likely too inappropriate or esoteric – I’ve been something of a fanzine fanboy for the past 15 years. But instead of purposely embarrassing or sabotaging myself I went with the most obvious thing to ask a well-aged punker:
“What would make you quit writing fanzines,” I finally managed to fumble.
“I quit all the time,” said Aaron.