Michael Barclay: The Never-Ending Present • Apr 24


Michael Barclay in Conversation with Stuart Berman
Tuesday April 24, 2018
Doors 7:00PM, Talk 8:00PM
Tickets: Free with Pre-Registration • All-Ages

In the years between the release of their self-titled debut EP and 1989’s Up to Here, The Tragically Hip played their earliest Hamilton gigs in the building that now houses Mills Hardware. Some 30 years later, the band returns to the space thanks to Michael Barclay’s new book The Never-Ending Present: The Story of Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip (ECW Press), the first print biography of the iconic rockers.

Featuring an on-stage conversation between author Michael Barclay (co-author of Have Not Been the Same: The Can-Rock Renaissance 1985–1995) and Pitchfork writer Stuart Berman (biographer of Broken Social Scene, Danko Jones). The Never-Ending Present: The Story of Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip will be available to buy on-site, with a portion of proceeds from book sales going to benefit EcoJustice and Frontier College.

In the summer of 2016, more than a third of Canadians tuned in to watch what was likely the Tragically Hip’s final performance, broadcast from their hometown of Kingston, Ontario. Why? Because these five men were always more than just a band. They sold millions of records and defined a generation of Canadian rock music. But they were also a tabula rasa onto which fans could project their own ideas: of performance, of poetry, of history, of Canada itself.

In the first print biography of the Tragically Hip, Michael Barclay talks to dozens of the band’s peers and friends about not just the Hip’s music but about the opening bands, the American albatross, the band’s role in Canadian culture, and Gord Downie’s role in reconciliation with Indigenous people. When Downie announced he had terminal cancer and decided to take the Hip on the road one more time, the tour became another Terry Fox moment; this time, Canadians got to witness an embattled hero reach the finish line. This is a book not just for fans of the band: it’s for anyone interested in how culture can spark national conversations.


Jon Fine in conversation w/Stuart Berman • Sept 18


JON FINE in conversation with STUART BERMAN
Sunday September 18, 2016 • Mills Hardware (95 King St. E., Hamilton)
Doors 6:00pm, Talk 7:00pm 


“Jon Fine has done something miraculous: he managed to drag me through a time in my life that I hated and made me actually miss it. Both a hilarious personal memoir and an obsessive guide to that weird moment in underground music before the great tsunami of the Internet changed everything forever, Your Band Sucks reminds you that one self-confessed rock-nerd’s journey through rejection, triumph, and cheap motels is as universal as any well-told story.” — James Murphy, LCD Soundsystem

Join Jon Fine — guitarist for ’80s American underground rock heroes Bitch Magnet, and now an award-winning journalist — as he discusses his recent memoir, Your Band Sucks: What I Saw at Indie Rock’s Failed Revolution* (*But Can No Longer Hear) with Pitchfork writer Stuart Berman.

Jon Fine spent nearly 30 years performing and recording with bands that played aggressive and challenging underground rock music, and, as he writes, at no point were any of those bands “ever threatened, even distantly, by actual fame.” Yet when the members of his 1980s post-hardcore band Bitch Magnet came together for an unlikely reunion tour in 2011, diehard fans traveled from far and wide to attend their shows, despite creeping middle-age obligations of parenthood and 9-to-5 jobs.

Their devotion was testament to the remarkable staying power of indie culture. In indie rock’s pre-Internet glory days, bands like Bitch Magnet, Black Flag, Mission of Burma, and Sonic Youth—operating far outside commercial radio and major label promotion—attracted fans through word of mouth, college DJs, record stores, and zines. They found glory in all-night recording sessions, shoestring van tours, and endless appearances in grimy clubs. Some bands with a foot in this scene, like REM and Nirvana, eventually attained mainstream success. Many others, like Bitch Magnet, were beloved only by the most obsessed fans of the time.

Your Band Sucks is an insider’s look at that fascinating, outrageous culture—how it emerged and evolved, how it grappled with the mainstream and vice versa, and its odd rebirth in recent years as countless bands reunited, briefly and bittersweetly. With backstage access to many key characters on the scene—and plenty of wit and sharply worded opinion—Fine delivers a memoir that affectionately yet critically portrays an important, heady moment in music history.


Praise for Your Band Sucks: What I Saw at Indie Rock’s Failed Revolution* (*But Can No Longer Hear):

“[E]verything a cult-fave musician’s memoir should be: It’s a seductively readable book that requires no previous knowledge of the author, Bitch Magnet or any other band with which he’s played.” —Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“For those of us who loved and lived indie rock in the 1990s, we were never sure if our alienation meant we were part of a revolution or just making the best of a chronic condition. Jon Fine captures what it meant to find a home in the margins — the dark humor, instant camaraderie, and strange hope of loud music, grimy road trips, bad food and worse booze. And then what it’s like, decades later, to find yourself a tourist in the same places, grown up but still maturing.” — Ana Marie Cox, Chief Political Correspondent, MTV News, author of Dog Days

“Fine can write, and because he doesn’t mind making himself look like a jerk, he summons up all the idealism and the cluelessness, the talent and the posturing, that went with the territory . . . Indie was, as Fine puts it, a ‘culture that unorphaned you,’ and he’s especially good on the haven that post-punk music offered Gen X misfits.” — The Atlantic

Your Band Sucks is a fantastic document of a culture-defining era of rock music. It paints a detailed portrait of the scene before corporations bought music’s soul. A tremendous read.” — Stuart Braithwaite, Mogwai

“The story of the indie rock era has rarely been told as well as it has in Your Band Sucks . . . Written with both anthropological detachment and deep romanticism about the making of music, Fine’s book belongs on the shelf alongside Michael Azerrad’s Our Band Could Be Your Life.” —Salon

“Like Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, but for would-be rock stars who live like train hobos and perform for dozens of fans a night.” — Men’s Health

“More striking than Fine’s clever words is his incisive commentary, which examines everything we’ve come to know about music in the digital age, from cyber communities to music streaming services to major record labels.” — Esquire.com

Your Band Sucks is a beautiful, balls-out, hilarious, rich memoir about one guitarist’s epic immersion in the world of indie music—but it’s also the story of an entire generation and time. Has anyone ever written a better book about indie music? I don’t think so.” —Kate Christensen, author of PEN/Faulkner award-winning novel The Great Man and Blue Plate Special: An Autobiography of My Appetites

“By telling his own story, warts, bruises, drug-induced facial tics, and all, [Fine] has recaptured a time when music felt, for many well-educated, middle-class kids now having achieved a certain age, like something much more important than mere entertainment.” —The Boston Globe

“‪I never attended a Bitch Magnet concert, so I can’t speak to whether the band sucked. But this book is a funny, thoughtful, frank, whip-smart and moving chronicle of being a particular kind of young at a particular time in America. It definitely doesn’t suck‬.” ‬‬ —Kurt Andersen, host of Studio 360, author of True Believers

“If you want to know how indie rock rolled in the forlorn and scorned mid ’80s and early ’90s, you won’t find a more vividly rendered, incisive, and self-deprecatingly humorous portrayal of it than Jon Fine’s Your Band Sucks.” —The Stranger

“Exhilarating. Like a song that appears out of nowhere to exactly fill a hole in your life that was never apparent, Your Band Sucks makes vividly real the ingredients that went into ‘80’s indie rock. With a cultural critic’s reach and an insider’s self-critical insights, Jon Fine has produced the definitively anthropological “why” thousands of bands like his existed and what the accomplished.” —Ira Robbins, editor and publisher, Trouser Press