New film documents 30 years of punk music in Victoria

Victoria isn't known for its punk rock scene but, as a documentary screening tomorrow at the Vancouver International Film Centre captures, it's been raging in the provincial capital for the past three decades.

Filmmaker and University of Victoria student Paulina Ortlieb explored the underground scene in her documentary Somewhere To Go: Punk Victoria, as part of her master's thesis about countercultures in the arts.

"We can learn things from subcultures like punk rock and possibly avoid pitfalls of today's hyper-commercialized, media-driven society," Ortlieb told On The Coast's Lisa Christiansen.

When comparing today's music scene to the past, Ortlieb said these days profit and branding seem to be valued over comradery and community arts.

"It was just a time when there was so much exuberance and so much enthusiasm and a lot of output," she said.

The early days of punk in Victoria, she said, came at a time of economic hardship and it was a way for anyone and everyone to come together to express themselves and create a community.

"They didn't know how to play instruments but they started bands and became good at what they did," she said.

"The inception of punk in Victoria was a very special and powerful time."

'It's still happening today'

Ortlieb moved to Victoria in the mid-'90s, when she started playing bass for a couple of bands and got to know a lot of musicians in the area.

"It's a really diverse scene, all kinds of different styles were crammed onto one bill and that's what really made the music unique," she said. "A lot of the shows were played in basements and halls and so just got these people together."

Despite changes she has witnessed over the decade, Ortlieb said, the punk rock community hasn't gone anywhere.

"It's still happening today, lots of basements shows and lots of house parties are going on," Ortlieb said.

Her documentary, described by VIFC as "gritty and raw but also funny and thoughtful," includes archival footage from the era, interviews with local artists and, of course, plenty of punk music.

"The film wasn't so much intended to be a definitive document of all the bands that existed as it was intended to capture the spirit of the scene, convey the motivation behind the music and highlight the enduring effects the music has had on people's lives," Ortlieb said. 

Somewhere To Go: Punk Victoria is showing at VIFC Friday, April 13 at 9:40 p.m. with a live concert and screening of the film at 10 p.m. 

With files from On The Coast.