A look at Canadian punk legend Art Bergmann then and now

Canadian underground punk laureate Art Bergmann will play The Palomino on November 30 the first time Bergmann has played Calgary since a thunderous show at Republik in 1998. After decades of watching aging music stars stuck in musical purgatory running ’round and ’round stages like hamsters stuck on an eternal wheel can Bergmann at 60 hold onto his punk ethic with grace? Here a look at all things Bergmann then and now.

Home

Then:

An assortment of spaces around Vancouver including a place at Hastings and Main which Art called The Oppenheimer Institute with “lots of people in and out.” Awakening to alleyways strangers and twisted times. Later spent a decade in Toronto.

Now:

For the last several years a farmhouse crammed with books outside of Airdrie Alberta. Awakening to wife Sherri Decembrini various rescued dogs and cats and surrounded by fields and prairie sky. As Bergmann says “It was a huge mental change. At first I wept for days.”

On the road

Then:

Endless touring in an Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser a car without headlights and even Greyhound buses (he was barred from travelling with fellow tour mates Sons of Freedom and Pure on their buses as he was deemed a bad influence.)

Now:

Sporadic gigs travelling with Sherri a toothless chihuahua named Sweetie and a dachshund named Charlie in a minivan negating the need for hotel rooms.

The music

Then:

Bands The K-Tels (later The Young Canadians) Vancouver punk supergroup Los Popularos Poisoned and then an assortment of bands under his own name. Albums produced by legends John Cale and Chris Spedding.

Now:

A crackerjack collection of musicians Bergmann has played with on and off for years with some new blood thrown into the mix.

The industry

Then:

Varied between pissing off and perplexing music insiders who never knew what to do with the talented taloned songwriter. Hot-potatoed between labels Duke Street Polygram and Sony. Juno sold on the black market.

Now:

“Let’s not even talk about music! Let’s talk all about politics nothing about music. As humans we are not even allowed to behave like animals anymore which pisses us off. I just want to get (the gig) over with. I hope to just see if there is any interest in the new material record it and put it on vinyl to keep momentum.”

Live shows

Then:

Ran the gamut from addictively vibrant to unpredictably chaotic. At times it seemed Bergmann was intent on mocking the entire process from labels to recording to performing.

Now:

At Vancouver’s Biltmore Cabaret last month Art and co. bashed out about 20 songs with the same verve he showed at age 26 when The Young Canadians opened for The Boomtown Rats at Calgary’s Max Bell Arena.

Songs

Then:

Dark observations of sin sex intoxicants and interactions.

Songs that were astutely political without preachiness (Like the line “I can’t wait to vote again” which was not a threat but a promise.)

Now:

Still darkly rich and tensely political like new song “Drones of Democracy” where he sings “I am nobody but you call me the enemy/Drones of democracy will kill my home and family.”

Ambitions

Then:

“I always tried to stay down and dirty that’s the task to get the real shit. It’s hard to do without getting buried.” (Said to Jason Schneider co-author of CanRock bible Have Not Been the Same .)

Now:

“That was when I was doing my mental research into addiction. Now I have a broader viewpoint. It’s hard to not be preachy; you kind of do by example and description and make it new. I don’t care about music. I don’t care about bands or a dream revolution that’s not going to happen. Let’s just go over a cliff now and get it over with.”

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