RIP The Sweat Lodge: Photo Essay

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A short history of the life and death of a Saskatoon DIY jam space

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The Sweat Lodge – a Saskatoon jam space that housed some of the city’s finest, and grimiest, bands – was an appropriately named venue if you ever dared venture in during the summer months. Crammed into a strange, second-story office space off Idylwyld and 20th Street, the building was a storehouse of the visceral energy that emanated and dripped off those who played there. Deafeningly loud, at times it was gross, but always magical. Or something like that.

And, as of May 2014, The Sweat Lodge is fucking dead.

Adorned with the usual tapestry of strange graffiti and yellowed, dog-eared gig posters, the space was a chaotic jumble of bodies, discarded furniture and orphaned gear. But it served an important purpose, catering to a city with rapidly increasing rents and a dwindling supply of physical architecture that landlords could entrust to musicians.

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The jam space first came to fruition when Tyson McShane of Slow Down Molasses, took over the Riversdale-area property in 2007. Christening the building Little Pictures Arts Preserve, some of the first groups to claim space in the building were Volcanoless in Canada, Vicious Crystals and others: many of those original groups have long broken up.

McShane also promoted a handful of shows in the venue, hosting Ghost Bees, Snailhouse and Women. (Editor’s Note: In an earlier version of this story we said that Katie Stelmanis played here, but she actually played a house show and not at Little Pictures. Oh messy memory.)

Then came the punks.

But if you want to get technical, or romantic, you could say they never really left.

Back in 1996, the retail space just below the largest room of The Sweat Lodge was home to Pure Hate Productions, a record store that dealt in the crustiest of grind, hardcore and punk. When PHP closed doors, the sports store that owned the place used it as a workshop.

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Rob Barisoff took over the space, which was renamed The Sweat Lodge, before eventually handing over the keys to Mike Lefebrve. And bands like Rehashed, Lady Deathstryke, Old Problems, Weak Ends, Soul Mates and Adoylne made their noise there.

And while it was never billed as a proper venue, The Sweat Lodge nevertheless hosted many touring acts, including Messiahlator, MORTALS, Banderas, Direct Hit!, Weak Link and many, many others, along with the usual local bands that stank up the place on a regular basis. Many of the live shows were sort of greasy in the way that punk shows are meant to be – rushed and reckless like everything was on borrowed time.

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– Thanks to Skot Hamilton, Dan Smolinski and Colin McNeil for contributing show photos. All other photos by Ominocity.