Where do you even start when talking about Art Bergmann? Perhaps with his seminal punk band, Vancouver’s Young Canadians, defibrillators to thousands of disenfranchised, suburban- stuck youth in the late ‘70s. Possibly with his legendary anti-music industry, anti-greed, anti- power stance which (a) grew from his original punk ethic, (b) destroyed every chance Bergmann had at rising fame, and (c) continues to spark songs written in his seventh decade of life. Maybe you start with the fact that hearing “Art Bergmann” and “folk fest” together in one sentence is like seeing Iggy Pop and Rita McNeil holding hands on a park bench.
On the strength of his primal, gloriously grainy melodies and storied live shows, Bergmann’s star rose in the early ‘90s. A spate of albums netted him a Juno, which he mocked as looking like a toilet roll holder and promptly sold for drugs. By decades’ end he released a stunning, stark acoustic album of mainly songs that had previous appeared, fangs and all, on albums from his grittier days. He then purposefully vanished from the industry in an unparalleled case of an already underground icon becoming positively subterranean.
His decade-plus of silence was broken but sporadically until last year, when a stir rippled across the country as live show posters popped up in Vancouver. Unbelievably, Bergmann’s performances had lost none of the shock-therapy adrenaline of the past. The darling of the Canadian music scene he ain’t; the patron saint of those who love their music served straight up and into the vein he remains.