After living in the hardcore and punk scenes of Toronto since 2007, Lance Marwood moved with his fiancée to a small town in England. Intimately familiar with the people, bands, and venues that dot the Toronto landscape, Lance is beginning to familiarize himself with the English countryside. This series shows his attempts at beginning to discover and unravel the networks of hardcore and heavy music in the UK.
A New Approach To NYE:
How I spent New Year’s Eve was as much of a departure from most of my twenties as the rest of 2016 will be: a late night movie with my fiancée in our new home in small town England. I made lamb stew that we enjoyed while watching The End of the Tour, a biopic about David Foster Wallace. As we lay in bed trying to sleep despite the jetlag, we heard fireworks going off and realized it was officially 2016. Together we watched the comforting explosions in the sky, lying in bed, staring out our new bedroom’s window. Quietly, we wished each other a Happy New Year and then fell asleep.
Nothing in that scene could even hint at how I’d spent the past 8 years living out my twenties in Toronto. Where in previous years I’d craved the harshness of noise, the bubbling of booze, and the stimulation of friends, I am now embracing a new and decidedly humble way of life.
It’s all part of a transition that I’ve been going through over the last couple of years. 2015 saw my fiancée get accepted into a prestigious university in the United Kingdom. It saw me recovering from the emotional and social fallout and collapse of the previous year, when I stopped drinking and quit out of social media and social life. And more importantly, it saw me step away from my band and away from music in general.
When I finally went back to playing music, I realized that I could never be away from it. Anyone who knows the joy of music also knows it’s indelible quality, the fact that you become enmeshed in the local fabric of whatever patchwork scene you belong to and love. Stepping away from that is akin to stepping away from your own body. Music is the spirit that guides, and abandoning that is giving up your soul.
Fast Music In A Loud Home:
My soul belongs to heavy music. Before I moved to Toronto, I’d gone through something of an awakening in high school, discovering punk and hardcore and metal. I was enamoured with my friends’ band Hello Beautiful in high school, whose members would go on to such bands as Creeper, Animal Faces and Crimson Shadows. I followed them around, taping them on my DV video camera and helping them with gear. I started growing my hair out, and sporting bandannas, dark hoodies, and black jeans. I began to go out to more and more shows, and when I was seventeen, I went to my first real show in Toronto.
It was back in 2005, at the Opera House on Queen Street East, before it became the Leslieville that exists today. It was Mare, Cursed, Terror, and Converge and it was a life-changing moment. I mean that without any sense of hyperbole. I was immediately hooked into the possibility of moving downtown. Sure enough, two years later, I moved into a house near Dupont and Spadina, at the north end of downtown Toronto, with four other guys.
Later dubbed the “Brohaus” (or as it was sometimes more accurately known, The Rat Spa), we became a small venue and place for bands to crash while they were on tour, playing host to the likes of See You Next Tuesday, La Dispute, Black Ships, and countless others, lasting over the course of two and a half years. Following the connections that I made during those important early years, I became entrenched in the local music scene.
A New Home in the Quiet Countryside:
Fast forward to fall of 2015, and I was getting ready to make another huge transition in my life. But this time it was over the Atlantic, to my ancestral home of England. Both sides of my family originated from this country, and I was able to get a working visa that allows me to stay for five years. Which is fortunate, given that my fiancée is going to be in school here for the next four and a half years.
As soon as I arrived in Buckingham, I realized that I had taken a trip to another reality. Buckingham is far removed from the scream of sirens and squealing of streetcars in Toronto, the home I had grown to love and cherish. “This is good,” I reminded myself, “I need the change.”
And I do. I’ve needed a change of pace for a while now. Ever since facing my alcohol addiction in 2014, I’ve known that I needed to get away from it all. Abandon everything, burn away all the sights and surroundings that reminded me of the joys of drinking.
One would think that moving to a country that seems to have as many pubs as people might have the opposite effect of my intent. But I’m far removed from any social connections out here, my family being located at least a couple hours away, which in UK terms is a prohibitive distance. And my own dedication to abstinence has insured me that no wavering or flirtations with alcohol can happen again. It’s been 1 year, 8 months, and 3 days since my last drink.
The one thing that is missing here is my connection to music. Toronto is a home to music, and while it largely dismisses all-ages venues with alarming alacrity, I’m happy to boast that it does have a large heavy music scene. I was able to move around with ease. I was familiar with the plethora of venues. I knew the bands, the people, the various cliques and groups and scores of connections of movers and shakers. Gradually, this familiarity, along with my own personal dissonance led me to turn away from music when I was at my worst.
When I went back to it, after almost a year of not going to shows, the landscape had changed drastically. Two venues I’d known, Izakaya Sushi on College Street and S.H.B.G.B.’s at Dufferin and Geary, were gone. A host of people I’d once known, I’d become alienated from, and it took a long time before I was able to revive contact with them. Suffice to say, I was already craving a place in music before I moved to a small town in another country on a different continent. And now I am desperate to discover what the UK has to offer.
My first step is to see what Buckingham has to offer. From the looks of the tea rooms and antique shops, I don’t suspect that there’s some underground heavy music scene here. Instead, I believe my hopes need to be directed to the nearest city, Milton Keynes. I’m not sure what I’ll find there, but I remain optimistic that I’ll find some version of what I’m looking for in the U.K. And here is where I will document that journey.
Lance is always happy to hear suggestions and recommendations for towns, cities, and venues to check out. Comment below or Tweet to @LanceMarwood to share what area you think he should visit next, so he may come out and see it for himself!
Be sure to check out:
Hardcore Transition: London Called Me to My First UK Show (Part 2)