A sold out show featuring Propagandhi
is a fitting way for the West End Cultural Centre to start its 25th anniversary celebrations. After all, Winnipeg's elder statesmen of punk rock got together just before the venue was built, so they've grown up together.
And the timing couldn't have been better. Propagandhi recently released a new album, Failed States, and are on the road touring all over the place. But a few hours before he was scheduled to hit the stage in his hometown, bassist Todd Kowalski took some time to look back at his long relationship with the former church.
Back in 1991, shortly after moving to Winnipeg, Kowalski recalls checking out his first show at the venue. "It was Malefaction
. I remember really liking them and there being a ton of people. It was sold out," he says. "I thought the West End
was the best place to see a show. Knowing more now, I realize the P.A. could have been better," he laughs. "But I didn't realize it at the time."
The West End Cultural Centre celebrates 25 years. (courtesy West End)
Over the years, Kowalski would play the West End stage himself with about six or seven different bands, but one show stands out. "I think one of my favourites I played was in a band called I Spy and we were opening for Propagandhi. And that was the first time I played a show on a high stage in front of so many people. We played exceptionally well and so did they. But I've pretty much enjoyed every West End show, it's just got the right kind of vibe," he says.
Now playing with the band he previously opened for, Kowalski's ties to the venue run even deeper than just that of a performer. He also used to volunteer at the music hall, and acknowledges the diversity of acts booked at the West End exposed him to music he might not have discovered otherwise.
"I remember seeing Garnet Rogers
there," he says. "And for me, Garnet had something. I don't really like folk at all in my daily life, but Garnet has a dark soul, his playing and singing is really unbelievable."
Kowalski's experience with the West End Cultural Centre likely mirrors that of a lot of other Winnipeg musicians and music fans. Shows on its stage range from grindcore to traditional folk, and all ages concerts provide an entry point for underage fans who want to see local and touring bands.
Many of those fans will likely be in the mix for Propagandhi's concert, which sold out in less than an hour. And despite his long history with the fabled venue, Kowalski doesn't hesitate to put the band's show first, "It's probably the last night of the West End's existence because after this it's going to be crumbling."
Don't forget your earplugs.
Propagandhi plays the West End Cultural Centre October 19 with Head Hits Concrete and The Hisses. The show is sold out. The West End's 25th Anniversary Concert is October 20, and showcases the folk and roots community.