Saskatoon’s Sordid Punk History: Five of the City’s Most Unlikely Rock Venues, Part Two

Some of the city’s most notorious punk venues: now parking lots and flooded-out basements

Saskatoon’s underground music scene has a long history of being forced into unorthodox venues. Promoters sought out strange and out-of-the-way rental spaces – basements, industrial garages, etc. – which typically brought in a bunch of enthusiastic kids and some really amazing bands.

It’s always been sort of funny to remember those now-legendary groups and how they played in some dive. Like some notorious Florida grindcore bands playing in a church basement. Ha! But at the same time I am forever thankful to those promoters who made these shows happen at great personal risk. Your contribution and hard work may have been turned into some weird office space or condos, but some of us still remember getting to see some great music in an unlikely venue. Thank you.

Also, we are eternally thankful that there were documentarians present at these shows. Remember the days when it was digital cameras for some, baggy pants for all?

Once again, the following list is by no means comprehensive, and is likely going to be an ongoing project once we track down some more photos from the murky past.

Click HERE for Part One of our Saskatoon’s Sordid Punk History series.

Also, while it’s cool to look back and remember the past it’s more important to support what’s happening right now.

Go see a show, start a band, start a pit.

the bassement glengarry
– Bassment photo from Flickr user “Jordon” – Creative Commons

The Bassment – 3rd Avenue South

The Bassment was originally started in 1983 by a community-minded group who were interested in promoting jazz. But the venue was equally significant for the underground music scene. And when the original location on 3rd Avenue shut down the city’s all ages scene was never really the same. The Bassment had a unique arrangement that allowed under aged fans to mingle with those who were purchasing alcohol. It was this vibe that gave many music fans both a place to watch bands as well as a forum to create their own music. Furthermore, part of the allure of the venue was that it evolved into an overtly youth oriented scene – the promoters were often the same age as the audiences and the bands. Memorable shows? Too many to mention, although getting to book Against Me there just before they got big was pretty special. I think I paid them $187, in addition to a bottle of whisky and a bag of oranges for the road. You can still attend shows at The Bassment’s new location, but the days of 18-year-olds putting on punk shows seem to be gone forever. Nowadays the location is being used for a storage room. Sigh.

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– Set Aside, photo courtesy of Ryan Jackson

– Tombstone Diaries, photo courtesy of Ryan Jackson

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– Voyd, photos courtesy of Andrew Walls

the shelter 1

The Shelter – 2nd Avenue South

It’s fitting that Saskatoon’s underground scene was more or less cordoned off into basement venues – The Shelter was located below a bank in a dank downstairs hall that was poorly-lit and funny smelling. But even so, it was a great place that hosted the likes of Lagwagon, Therapy? (who played to a handful of people if memory serves correctly), The Queers, Guy Smiley and d.b.s. Nowadays the basement area of the building is locked – apparently some pipes burst there recently. I doubt the landlord would ever consider renting it out again, especially considering the roof was destroyed by the second band to ever take to the stage.

Social Decay, photos courtesy of Jon Friesen

Louis Loft

The Upper MUB – Campus Drive

Nowadays it’s a campus coffee shop and pub known as Louis’ Loft, but The Upper MUB (Memorial Union Building) has a storied history even before the punks started renting it out. Opened in 1955, according to U of S history, the MUB “was designed to serve as a memorial to the students, faculty and staff of the University of Saskatchewan who perished overseas in the First and Second World Wars.” However, in the ’90s the hall started hosting punk shows in Saskatoon, including the first appearance of The Weakerthans. Other memorable groups such as Built in Shellbrook, AFI, Choke, Propagandhi, Chapter 16, Tencount and Junto also played. The space has since changed – at one point housing a bookstore and a coffee shop, but Louis’ still brings in plenty of bands.

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– Junto, photo courtesy of Andrew Walls

– AFI, photo courtesy of Andrew Walls

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Le Relais – 2nd Avenue North

Originally located on the second floor in a multi-use building on 2nd Ave., Le Relais eventually moved a few blocks up to its current location on 4th Ave. Back in the day there were some amazing local shows held here – I remember playing a show back in 1997 here and inviting my parents. Retrospectively I shouldn’t have let them come to a grind show – I remember a toilet getting smashed that night as well. Aiiieeee. Still, it was a pretty interesting place to guzzle alley beers and get pushed around.

Ingravescent Torture, The Radissons, photos courtesy of Jon Friesen

sid's garage sask

Sid’s Garage – 2nd Avenue North

Sid’s Garage used to be one of Saskatoon’s more notorious venues. Now all that’s left of it is a parking lot. Located behind The Pat, which has similarly been wiped off the map, Sid’s was dive-y in a beautiful sort of way, a place where you could scream and howl at blast beats and no one would care. Except for that time in 1994 when a riot broke out during a Cryptopsy show – I wish I could tell you more, since I was there. But me and my friends left during Stronghold to go drink slushies and play hide-and-go-seek in the park. How decidedly un-punk rock. Some memorable shows include Malefaction, Propagandhi, Grade and a whole slew of local bands including Robster Craws, Tubesteak and Morally Sound.

Oh yeah, and a band called Fugazi, who are currently offering a live recording of their show at Sid’s Garage on the Dischord Records website HERE. Definitely worth checking out.

– Propagandhi, photos courtesy of Andrew Walls

kung fu hippies

Kung Fu Hippies, photo courtesy of Brian Jessop – Saskatoon Punks from back in the 90’s