This summer marked one year ago that my partner and I picked up and left Toronto after 15 years and relocated to Guelph. I often get asked why we made the move out here, and my initial response is always “because Guelph is awesome.” That answer is usually followed by a perplexed look that requires me to explain how we researched the many smaller cities and suburbs surrounding Toronto before we simply decided Guelph was the place we wanted to be. It was not at all a difficult decision. From its green spaces to its downtown area and culture, Guelph had so much more to offer than any of the other cities vying for our attention.
But, being big music fans, one of the things I knew I was going to miss about Toronto were the many nights we spent hanging out in the Queen & Bathurst area at the city’s top rock bars, and going to loads of concerts. With Guelph being a much smaller city, I knew we would have to actively seek out its metal scene, so I spent a lot of time Googling “Guelph metal” and things of that nature without much luck. I did, however, come across a few hits for Guelph’s beloved 80s metal band Razor! Despite the fact that I couldn’t easily find what I was looking for online, I knew there was a big artistic community here and we just needed to do a bit more digging to find the metal heads. Cue the creation of the Guelph Metal Heads Local 666 Union on Facebook. We moved here not knowing a soul, so I started the group with the simple goal to meet people with similar interests. Boy, did it work!
The first heavy show in town we caught wind of was a gig at Regal Road Studios showcasing Canadian Juno award winners Ken Mode, Kitchener’s Sierra, and Guelph punk favourites The Nasties. I got to chatting with Jim Hare, The Nasties bassist and a well-known face in the local punk scene. It was an amazing night – a moment of confirmation that there was indeed a heavy music scene here, and the people were pretty darn nice to boot!
A couple months later, we checked out GAIN Music Festival and that’s when things really started to blossom. We spent the night on the top floor taking in a selection of hometown metal bands. I started introducing myself to people and telling them about the Guelph Metal Heads group. I ended up meeting Steve and Kyle from Arkham Awaits, Nick and Alex from Unbowed, and Unkle Rick from KronikNoise Promotions that night – not a bad start! Oddly enough, both Arkham Awaits and Unbowed went on to become two of my favourite local bands. When you’re new in town, putting yourself out there and meeting new people isn’t always easy, but the result has been budding friendships with some really fantastic and talented people. That night I witnessed a group of very passionate and energetic people come together to create something very special, and I knew that I wanted to be a part of it and do more to help. Guelph seems to have a way of doing that to people – it’s such a great city that you feel compelled to get involved, to try and make it even better.
After contacting Nik at GAIN Music about volunteer opportunities, he turned me on to Music Lives. As a volunteer for both GAIN Music and Music Lives, I began going to as many metal and punk shows as my schedule allowed, working the doors and blogging whenever possible. In doing so, in one short year we have met so many wonderful people that we can now go downtown and bump into a number of friends on any given night. The music community here has been exceptionally welcoming, and I’m so very happy to be a small part of it.
After a year here, it’s hard to deny that there’s something special going on in the heavy music scene in Guelph. Our existing talent keeps chugging along and a few bands are really starting to make a name for themselves outside of the city. New bands and new live venues are springing up. And promoters like GAIN Music and Kroniknoise Promotions keep hosting amazing shows, propelling the scene forward. It’s going to be an exciting few years ahead!
Moving to Guelph has been one of the best things I’ve ever done – this city has won my heart. We should all be very proud to call this place home. Do I miss Toronto? Not one little bit.
These days, the Guelph Metal Heads Facebook group serves as a place to learn about upcoming metal, punk, and rock shows, as well as a free promotional space for local heavy bands when they have new music, videos, merch for sale, etc. It simply exists to serve the artistic community and connect local metal fans to the music. I’m proud to say that now when you Google “Guelph Metal” everyone will know there’s a scene here.