Catching Up with Kitchener’s Indie Festival

Trevor, Monster Aesthetics

Trevor, Monster Aesthetics

KOI Music Fest attendees didn’t let a little rain dampen the spirit of the Kitchener indie music festival this weekend when one of the main headliner’s performances was moved indoors to the Wax. According to festival vendor, Trevor, owner of Monster Aesthetics, smaller venues are always better than a larger, outdoor performance, and Every Time I Die’s (ETID) Saturday night show was no exception to the rule. The 25 year-old t-shirt artist recounted fans climbing the rafters, jumping into the crowd and “lots of stage diving” as evidence of “everyone having a good time.”

Trevor’s festival merchandise sales have led him to tour with the band a few times, and to form friendships with many musicians. “I’m now friends with the bands I listened to in high school.” Originally a photography student from Sheridan College, he’s been exclusively on the road selling band merch at metal, punk rock and hardcore festivals across Canada and the US for the last two years. The growth of his business allows him to have booths manned at multiple music festivals the same weekend. While he was working the KOI fest booth, he had another booth operating at a festival in Denver. At Bamboozle Festival in New Jersey, he sees over 90,000 people walk through a day. He was a little thrown by the smaller crowds at KOI fest, but says you can still expect to see his merch at next year’s event.

Matt & Jake

Matt & Jake

Ticket holders, Matt and Jake didn’t get in to see ETID because the nightclub was at capacity but they were still pretty thrilled with the bands they saw: Expire, Exalt, Protest the Hero, Silverstein and Four Year Strong. As a third time attendee, Jake heard Expire for the first time at last year’s festival. The third year chemistry student from the University of Guelph listened to the Milwaukee band’s hardcore music all year and was glad to see they had returned to the festival.

Matthew, San Francisco

Matthew, San Francisco

Matthew came all the way from San Francisco to see Courage My Love and Chiodos. He found the layout of the festival similar to one he attended in Austin.

John Friesen, of Bracebridge, attended the festival to support his son, an on scene photographer for Aesthetic Magazine. While Friesen enjoyed the performance of folk-pop band Trouble & Daughter, he was disturbed by the prevalence of homelessness he found in downtown Kitchener, after living here 20 years ago. “The drug culture is also disheartening. I have friends who live in Waterloo who won’t come to downtown Kitchener.”

John, Bracebridge

John, Bracebridge

 

You can’t keep Andrew from the downtown festival. He comes from Cambridge every year, and this year he introduced the festival to his friend, Jacob. The pair were able to get their tickets $25 cheaper through Conestoga College. Andrew was looking forward to seeing metal artists Protest the Hero and the emo band The World is a Beautiful Place, but was surprised to discover the music of pop punk band, Mixtapes.

Andrew_Jacob_KOIFEST_4

Andrew & Jacob

Emma_Ashley_KOIFEST_2

Ashley & Emma

For Ashley and Emma, also from Cambridge, KOI Fest is all about the mosh pit. “Everyone is throwing everybody around and it’s great.” Emma described body surfing as “pretty scary because people can drop you.” But that wouldn’t stop the 18 year-old from trusting perfect strangers with her physical safety again. After all, strangers thrashing together in their love for rock, metal, hardcore, and punk is what KOI Festival is all about.

 

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Passions of the Young and Ambitious

We conduct all our Peeps Squeak interviews outdoors. Due to extremely cold temperatures (notice we didn’t annoy you by mentioning the “polar vortex”), it’s taken us a little longer than anticipated to brave the outdoors to interview more peeps. Instead of checking in with peeps on their new year’s resolutions, we thought it would be more interesting to learn about peeps’ passions. What better place to do that than on the student campus at the University of Waterloo?

This Week’s Peeps Squeak location: University of Waterloo Campus

First year computer science student, Chaitanya, is thrilled to be a member of the Mars society. He is part of a robotics team that is developing a robot that will collect samples of soil on Mars to test for life forms.  The first test runs on earth will be conducted in Waterloo in May before the robot is sent to a lab in New York for further testing.

Chaitanya, 19

Chaitanya, 19

Stanley’s dream is to be at the forefront of piloting a 60 GHz wireless communications system. The 23-year-old electrical engineering undergrad is currently placed with Blackberry but it’s his wireless communications research with the university that he believes will enable him to fulfil his dream. Current LTE technology is at 2.4 GHz, but Stanley is optimistic reaching 60 GHz is more than just a dream for him. Once reached, Stanley says networking capabilities will have “infinite possibilities.”

Stanley, 23

Stanley, 23

It’s not at all surprising to find tech enthusiasts at the university, the epitome of our technology triangle. We also found students whose passions are driven by music. Although Tariq is a fourth year political science major, he divulged that if money wasn’t a barrier, he would be a full-time travelling musician. Formerly part of the band Gusknuckle, a band name Tariq wasn’t particularly fond of, the acoustic and electric guitar player says he could spend hours listening to music and composing his own.

Tariq, 23

Tariq, 23

First year engineering student Gagan, played the trumpet in high school, but listening to hiphop and rap music are what keep the first year engineering student motivated. Right now, he’s just concentrating on making it through the mid-terms.

Gagan, first year engineering student

Gagan, first year engineering student

Xinran decided to leave China to attend the University of Waterloo because she thought it was the best for her field of study, computer science. Once she finishes university, the first year student plans to travel. Italy and Germany tops her list of destinations.

Xinran, 19

Xinran, 19

We plan to continue this conversation with peeps in uptown Waterloo. In the meantime, let us know what you are passionate about.

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The Way We Were

How’s 2014 treating you so far? We’re still in hibernation recovery mode from the so- called Polar Vortex–slowly learning how to interact with people again.

Just before New Year’s we strolled through Victoria Park to ask peeps to share a 2013 memory with us. A mishap with the manual settings on the camera resulted in some pretty bad pictures, but we still want to post the faces of the peeps who agreed to have their photo taken.

This Week’s Peeps Squeak Location: Victoria Park, Kitchener

As peeps took in the multi-coloured spectacle of lights at Victoria Park, their minds were still frozen on the ice storm of 2013. Douglas and Leyco woke up on the morning of the storm to find their car “looking like a glazed doughnut.” Cuddling to keep warm as we chatted, they said they weren’t sure how long their hydro was out because they headed to Windsor for Christmas. Once they got past London, everything was dry.

Douglas and Leyco

Douglas and Leyco

When the underground power in his new subdivision on Moore and Roger went out for over six hours, Bill, a self-described young senior, did what any average Canadian would do. He headed to Tim Horton’s.
But the ice storm was not the first thing that Bill thought of when he looked back on the year. The antics of Toronto Mayor, Rob Ford, played more freshly on his mind. Bill was not the first and won’t be the last to quip,”What a wild man.”

Mac, 19

Mac, 19

For 19-year-old Mac, who was walking his dog when we caught up with him, his top memory of the year took him right back to the park in which he was standing. A big storm suddenly brewed in July as he was visiting with his sister. “The sky turned a greenie purple. It was kind of scary,” he recalls. A frequent visitor of the park, he also found it unusual for the water to be dredged this summer.

Waterloo will play a big part in the memories of a couple from California who were enjoying the winter scenery with their two children. Meanwhile, a local couple in the park, Scott and Jenn, anxiously await the birth of their second child in February. Their biggest news of the year was that their two and a half year old son would soon have a sibling to play with.

Don is looking forward to spending more time with his dogs and his friends, now that he is retired.

Don is looking forward to spending more time with his dogs and his friends, now that he is retired.

That’s what life’s about–giving.

Don, 65, will remember 2013 as the year he retired, even though he wasn’t ready for it. As a volunteer of Ray of Hope, the social services veteran of 27 years has far from hung up his hat. He works on low income housing programs for young kids and visits seniors. When we thanked Don for the work he is doing for our community, he left us with a philosophy we could all embrace for 2014. “That’s what life’s about—giving.”

Do you have a story from 2013 that you’d like to share with Peeps Squeak? Contact us. We’d love to hear from you.

For our next entry, we will ask peeps how they’re doing with their new year’s resolutions–if they made any.

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Convergence of the Generous and Those in Need

This Week’s Peeps Squeak Location: Ahrens Street West-King Street West (City Hall), Kitchener

Smack dab in the middle of a cold snap this week we headed back to the downtown Kitchener area to talk to some more folks about their holiday memories.

She said it was Santa’s magic.

Ken, 47

Ken, 47

Ken was shoveling snow in front of a beautiful home on Ahrens Street. There was something about Ken that exuded the Christmas spirit as he reminisced about his grandmother’s 12 foot tall tree in Markham. “We went out and picked it out and left it on our porch. I don’t know how she got it so white, but every year when we came back, it was all white. Of course, she said it was Santa’s magic.”
Turns out Ken, who has only lived in Kitchener for two years himself, was shoveling a resident’s walk as a volunteer of the House Of Friendship. He explained for a small donation, anyone in need of having their walk shoveled can contact the House Of Friendship.

John was just returning from the Yuletide concert at Centre in the Square when we met him. He shared fond memories of holidays spent with his in-laws. His father-in-law passed away 10 years ago, but left behind 50 grandchildren whom John and his family still celebrate with, in Preston. John was proud to say he has 9 grandchildren of his own.

John, 71

John, 71

Although Martin, 28, says he never got what he wanted for Christmas as a kid growing up near Rome, Italy, and always ended up with “something that was wrong, like a pair of gloves”—he is planning on spending part of his first Christmas in Canada volunteering in a kitchen for the homeless.

Martin is planning on spending part of his first Christmas in Canada volunteering in a kitchen for the homeless.

No sooner had Martin finished telling us his volunteer plans, when we met James, 32, who could benefit from the services of someone like Martin this Christmas. He was trying to make 10 bucks on the streets, begging for change when we met him. As someone who has been on the streets for a couple of years now, and has done so in Toronto, Cambridge, and London, James says it gets harder every day to make a dollar. “I’ve got to talk to about 400 people to get one dollar. These people in their suits, they don’t want to help you. It’s almost like you have to come up with some sort of con.”
“If people gave you a dollar two years ago, they remember you and hold it against you.” James was a guilty reminder of my own reaction to a homeless woman I ran into twice six months apart.

Dennis & Maria

Dennis & Maria

Meanwhile, Maria and Dennis were across the street watching children ice skating. In Maria’s home town of Pasto, Columbia, she would run with a suitcase on New Year’s Eve. “It is a tradition which means you will travel,” says Maria, 43, who arrived in Kitchener 7 years ago.

Dennis, 40, is just taking Christmas and Boxing Day off from his job a Crawford Adjusters.

An elderly man coming out of an apartment building near King and Charles smiled at first as he recalled Christmas memories. But then he paused and said, “There’s been a few but I just want Christmas over with this year,” and walked away down the street, carrying his troubles with him.

Helen, 24, was drawn by the festive lights to travel the path to the Victoria park clock and away from the bus she was awaiting. From Nairobi, Kenya, and spending her first Christmas in Kitchener, she kept commenting on the beauty of the lights while asking if it was safe in the park. “It’s beautiful, but is it safe?”

Victoria Park Clock

In Nairobi, Helen and her family would spend Christmas at a nice lodge and celebrate with a barbecue. Here, she raises her mittened hands to the heavens, catching the snowflakes as they fall. “I love the snow,” she says.

We took shelter in Candy Candy Candy (I can’t let you go), on Queen Street, South, where we found obscure candy cane flavours like Bacon, Wasabi and Gravy. If you still haven’t found a present for the ultimate scrooge on your list, the flavorless Bah Humbug candy cane may be exactly what you’re looking for. “No stripes, no flavour and no spirit,” explains store owner, Dave, who just happened to be celebrating the stores first anniversary. The kid of the candy store, Dave, says he can’t remember whether he’s 38 or 39. “I stopped counting once everything was legal,” he claims. Iggy Pop fans will recognize where the store gets the “I can’t let you go” part of its name.

Dave, owner of  Candy, Candy, Candy (I'll never let you go)

Dave, owner of Candy, Candy, Candy (I’ll never let you go)

Struggling against the bitter cold and the dark night with a dead cell phone, we were having trouble finding our way back to our parked car on Ahrens Street when we met Claude, who offered to show us the way since he was heading in our direction. Carrying a small grandfather clock half covered in snow which he salvaged from someone’s garbage, I sensed Claude had a story to share when he asked us for two dollars to take the bus home. Turns out the 49 year old has only been out of prison for six months, after serving 18 years in jail for drug, alcohol and gang-related crimes. “I got in with the wrong crowd,” he explained. A trained barber, Claude now struggles to find any type of work. “Once you have a record, no one will hire you.”

Claude, 49

Claude, 49

So far, we’ve encountered as much sorrow in the streets of Kitchener as we have joy. But in this season of promised hope and renewal, we are thankful for the Ken’s and Martin’s of the city who are working to turn hardships into a little happiness for the people they serve.

Our next holiday entry will be from Victoria Park, Waterloo.

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Remembrance of Holidays Past

This Week’s Peeps Squeak Location: King Street, Kitchener (Between Cameron and Eby Streets)

December seemed like a great time of year to start this adventure. We knew Christmas would be a touchy subject with a lot of people, but at the same time, what better way could we launch a blog sharing people’s stories than to ask them to share their holiday memories? We quickly learned asking people to share their favourite Christmas memories forced an automatic shut-down. The first man we approached was busily working to enclose his front porch on Cameron Street in plexiglass for the winter. “I don’t have any memories, thank you. I’m not big on Christmas.”

After a few responses like this, including a woman walking with two young girls between 7-10, who told us she lost her grand daughter at Christmas, we adjusted our question to, “What holiday memory can you share with us?” It seemed it was the “favourite” part that was triggering a back away response.

Oscar, 24

Oscar works two jobs and he’s looking forward to good times with his co-workers.

Oscar, 24, whose family lives in Toronto and Montreal, says he won’t have much of a holiday because he works two jobs—at Fox and the Fiddle, and Crabby Joe’s—but he’s looking forward to good times with co-workers.

After Oscar left us, we met a man whose age was hard to gauge because of the years of hardship in his face. He was pushing a bicycle with a dark, oblong, enclosed canvas bag over the handles. Neither of us had any money in our pockets. When we couldn’t give him a dollar, he started to say that if we couldn’t do anything for him, he had nothing to say to us. But then he just started to talk.
“I’ve spent six days in the bush, have not had anything to eat in five days and have not slept for 18 hours.”

“I stole this bike to get around,” he matter-of-factly stated.

“You stole the bike?” I was more or less just confirming.

“Yes. I had to,” he said—and I couldn’t argue with him, given his situation.

Then he asked us for an onion. “What would you do with an onion?” I  naively asked. “I can survive for two days on an onion,” he replied. And we couldn’t even give him that.

“I can survive for two days on an onion.”

Sal and Traci, both 24, came strolling along together. “I got a Rasta wallet when I was in grade 8 and I can remember opening it,” explains Sal, of his fondest Christmas memory. For ginger-haired Traci, her best memory is far more recent. “I was killing time in Coffee Culture and just enjoyed the ambiance of the Christmas music and decorations.”

Albis and Grace

Albis and Grace are exchange students from Singapore.

Albis, 23, and Grace, 21, are exchange students from Singapore who return to their home country at the end of December. “The snow is new to us. We are from a tropical country and haven’t seen snow.” Albis is also looking forward to skiing.
Grace’s fondest memory of Canada is seeing the Northern Lights in Yellow Knife.

Ben and Cindy, both 22, have been in Canada for just under six years. Ben involuntarily spent his first Christmas in Canada when he was trying to return home to Hong Kong and all weather cancellations kept him grounded at Pearson airport for three days.

Ben and Cindy

Ben and Cindy moved here six years ago from Hong Kong.

Watch for further updates to this story as we interview more of the folks we meet in downtown Kitchener.

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