(ju) No Cases

After a weekend where the weather teased us with sun, but gave us cold and rain, the bars pounded us with five am last calls, and Toronto came to play in Halifax for a few days, things are slowly returning to normal. In fact, the Junos have gone home and one of the few reminders that they were ever in Halifax are the still sick & tired music, culture, government and media folks who were “brought low” by the rigors of the event. Many a throat remains sore from yelling over the band, and many a drinking wrist remain, if not sprained, then stressed.

Traditionally, when the industry gets together to play celebrate itself (and the music industry does this better than any other industry out there) the response of the Atlantic Canadian independent music community has been to stage their own parallel showcases. The Junos were no exception to this rule. Since the ECMAs first visited Cape Breton In 1993, these “No Cases” have been a fixture of the east coast scene, anticipated like the changing of the seasons.

There is little doubt that the ECMAs of the early 1990s was a celtic and pop rock old boys club. That cadre had little interest in inviting the exciting and innovative, but terrifyingly strange and inaccessible, “alternative rock” bands to the show. This distance served to weaken the ECMAs for many years, as bands such as Sloan, Hardship Post, Eric’s Trip, and Jale all landed international record deals, and the Halifax independent music scene (with a lot of help from Moncton and St John’s) established an international reputation.

The No Cases were, appropriately perhaps, founded by angry young Cape Bretoners. Many of them were musicians and many of them volunteered at the local AM campus radio station. The idea took off, even occurring during the Pop Explosion in the mid 1990s! The No Cases have become so successful that by the late 1990s and early 21st Century, the ECMAs had started to refer to their “alternative rock” showcases as No Cases.

This attempt to co-opt the name really pissed off a lot of local music folks, and reinvigorated the No Case organization, resulting in a strong No Case comeback over the last few years. The No Case elders, being in many cases in their mid-thirties now, work to support a local organizing committee of young scensters in the host town of the ECMAs. The elders get the committee sponsorship, give them moral and practical support, and help the locals learn how to run large events properly.

In fact, the No Cases do not exist in any formal way. It is a group of people that meet via email, chat on local message boards, and know each other from gigs and tours. There is no Board, there is no bank account. The website is sponsored by the Halifax Pop Explosion. The No Cases as it operates today is a distributed, amorphous, networked community that exists on a purely virtual level.

Over the years, as the ECMAs have matured, so have the No Cases. No longer defined as “the bands that did not get into the ECMA,” the No Case has become a celebration of the strength of the independent music community on the coast. Without the ECMAs, there would be no No Cases. Without the No Cases, the ECMAs would be a hell of a lot less cool, and arguably, of considerable less interest to the music industry types that they are trying to attract.

Some have said that JunoFest in Halifax did a much better job at including the cool and up and coming east coast bands than the ECMAs normally do. However, five venues, thirty-six bands, and three days of great music were tacked onto the Juno weekend by the No Cases, given significant media coverage, and put on some of the hottest showcases of the weekend. The No Cases once again helped to reaffirm to all who attended that the east coast music scene is one of the strongest in the world, and the No Cases certainly lived up to its motto – “…drinking your beer, crashing your parties, mocking your heroes, and stealing your thunder.”