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Toronto Punk Legends Damn 13 Call It Quits


We sat with our $3 beers on a tall scuzzy red bench, looking at a giant plaster porpoise and crusty bigwheel, bathed in a cloud of filth back when smoking was legal in The Bovine Sex Club's back room. The conversation rested on punk rock in Toronto, a sort of who's who, if you will. This happened fairly frequently but always with a different bunch of music geeks and rockers. We agreed there were certain things we needed in our punk rock -- loud filler-less guitars crunched with metal distortion and lacking any sort of 70s wahwah / reverb / flanger cheese. We wanted lyrics we could sing to and leather jackets in the mosh pits at all times. It had to be fast, full of attitude and the vocals with the edge of broken glass. Sometimes we talked about Bunchofuckingoofs who have been rip-roaring through the Toronto scene for over 15 years now, and other times we discussed The Cancer Bats and Damn 13.

So when I heard Damn 13 was retiring after eight solid years of contributing to the scene, it was kind of like a small child had died. "No big drama about it all," the members assure us in their press release. "But after a good number of years, broken equipment, noise violations, bleeding eardrums, line-up changes and one-too-many shows suffering through the latest 'emporer's new clothes', we've all decided to move on to something new."

Despite the amazing talent always taking off from the area, it seems that there are far too many bands whose dream dies short. For every one band that gets the dream tour and international stardom, there are fifty bands who are playing for beer money, sinking into debt, getting equipment stolen, being mismanaged by moneygrubbing losers and exploited by pretentious labelmongers and club snots. This is not to say there aren't great opportunities and kind promoters in Toronto... but moreover, is a sad reality to anyone who's had the balls to look into scene politics here in our city. Sadly many bands I've spoken to would much rather play the suburbs or an out-of-town show than suffer here in Toronto, playing for $20 and 10 fans. Imagine dealing with this day-in-and-day-out for eight years?

But the breakup is more than just politics. In a way, it sounds like the band wants to shift gears into something completely different. They also announced that Adam, Dean, Justin, Dave and Brian are all still jamming together but are leaving their metal influences behind, generating more of a "Clash-influenced / dub-punk / rockabilly" sound. Their new moniker Automatic Dub Riot will see the release of their Combat City Rockers album in a few months. Some of the new songs have been met with confusion at Damn 13 shows so it's a bit of necessary spring cleaning and out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new to allow the members their creative growth without ruining the street credibility of the Damn 13 legacy.

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Originally slated to play S.C.E.N.E. Fest, they've instead decided to play their last gig at their old stomping grounds The Bovine Sex Club this Friday July 7th with their friends Rum Runner and Hostage Life.

I'll miss Damn 13... but I have a feeling something wicked stirs in the bowels of this beast and the new stuff may be enough to sweep up other rockabilly/dub acts into a new movement. Keep an ear out!


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