Monday 4 February 2019

Playground Treason - Live at Studio A Go-Go (1990)

Former Playground Treason guitarist Cameron Gillies got in touch with us and offered up this amazing piece of history, seven live tracks from the pre-cursor to Red Autumn Fall. With Gail Thompson on drums, Gary Reimer on bass and Greg Williams on another guitar, this is, well, a pre-cursor to Red Autumn Fall. It might not have the polish of RAF - it is a live recording, after all - but Simeon Ross' characteristic vocals are already well in place. And judging from the cheers from the audience, they already had a solid following.

AND! Greg Williams got in touch with us to pass along some more history and band ephemera. He writes:
Someone who knows me very well likes to remind me that “It’s not all about you.” However, I can’t tell the story of Playground Treason, a band that morphed into Red Autumn Fall, without delving into my past. And, this is from my perspective. I’m sure other participants would have a somewhat different version of events.
Gary Reimer (standing) and Greg Williams (left hand guitar). What else would two guys wishing they had a band be doing but posing for photos…?
 Gary Reimer and I first met in the summer of 1987. It wasn’t until the summer of 1988, however, that we discovered we were both learning to play guitar and began jamming in his uncle’s basement suite in a Mission-area home, dreaming of starting a band. I’d taken a few lessons, and Gary, I think, was mostly self-taught. I liked a wide variety of music, from Agent Orange to Leonard Cohen to The Jesus and Mary Chain and U2. Gary, too, liked The Jesus and Mary Chain and bands such as REM and 54-40, among many others.
In the fall of 1988, I was back at Henry Wise Wood High School for a ‘second’ year of grade 12, having dropped out the year before. I recall waiting for the southbound Number 3 bus on Elbow Drive outside the school. In the bus shelter was a fellow with a skateboard. He was singing, to himself, Hollow Man by The Cult. I struck up a conversation and asked if he’d ever been in a band. He said no but thought it might be interesting.
That’s how I met Simeon Ross, and he joined Gary and I in our musical aspirations. Now missing a drummer, my girlfriend at the time had a best friend who had always wanted to play the drums and was an ardent admirer of David Bowie. That’s when I approached Gail Thompson. She had signed up for drum lessons and I remember driving with her to a house in Willow Park or Bonavista – somewhere in the southeast -- to view a used drum kit that was advertised in the Bargain Finder. She bought it and with just three or four drum lessons was keeping time, very competently. It was like she emerged, fully formed, a drummer.
Gary got talked into putting down the guitar to pick up the bass. He bought an instrument from a seedy pawn shop on Stephen Avenue. We jammed in my parents’ basement in Oakridge, but in order for Gail to be close to her kit for practice, we moved the sessions into her parents’ Woodbine basement. After some deliberation, we decided to call ourselves 2 nd Heaven and worked up a few tracks that we recorded in April 1989. Unfortunately, I don’t have the cassette tape of that session, only the liner from that recording.

I was journaling in those days, and some of my scribblings were used as lyrics by Simeon. He was working on some of his own lyrics, too, and his vocal talent was impressive from the start. He was also interested in learning to play guitar. I’m sure I showed him a couple of chords and he went to work learning to play an old acoustic he’d picked up. I have a clear memory of finding him once using a plastic bread bag clip as a guitar pick, as he hadn’t anything else to hand at the moment. Such was his dedication.
We carried on into the summer of 1989 jamming and working on songs, hanging out downtown drinking coffee at either the Lancaster Food Court or at Sam’s Deli on 4 th Street S.W. In September 1989, Cameron (I always called him Cam) Gillies joined the lineup with another guitar. Simeon and I knew him from Wise Wood, and he brought a new dynamic to the music. A name-change from 2 nd Heaven to Playground Treason reflected the new five-piece status.
A moody looking Playground Treason, apart from Gail who was always smiling. Left to right at back, Gary Reimer, Cameron Gillies, Simeon Ross, Greg Williams with Gail Thompson seated front. 
Then, we played our one and only gig on January 19, 1990 at Studio A Go-Go. It was, I think, well received, but only a few days later the band told me the metaphoric bus we were travelling in was stopping, and it was my stop.

To the best of my knowledge Cameron, too, didn’t last much longer in the lineup. That’s when Gary, Simeon and Gail started Red Autumn Fall (I don’t know much more about RAF’s subsequent ascent and changes).

Treason, indeed!

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