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Courtesy of Justin Mark

Courtesy of Justin Mark


By Charlotte Prong Parkhill
Kitchener Post staff

The first album Michael Clifton ever bought was London Calling, by The Clash.

“I remember . . . sitting on our living room floor being systematically blown away song after song, and then by the whole collection of them; the eclectic, passionate sound, the abandoning of some conventions and the adaptation of others to create new expressions, and the invitation to think and feel differently than we were otherwise conditioned to do,” Clifton says.

“I liked the fact that they were clearly not defined, by any means, by any genre. They were simply making music, their way.”

Clifton, a Waterloo Region lawyer, along with Care Finch from Velvet Rope magazine, have now founded Strummerfest, which celebrates the life and music of Joe Strummer, lead singer of The Clash.

There are 25 performances scheduled, with the main stage for the one-night guitar festival at Civic Square. Other venues include Imbibe, Queen Street Commons, Cafe Pyrus, Silver Spoon and the L-Lounge.

Performers include Toronto punk band S**t From Hell, Wormwood Scrubs, Ian Smith, Loaded Dice, Mo Kauffey, Todd Donald, Christen Zuch, Simon Lewis and Ordinary Castles.

Clifton said the performers are asked to play Strummer’s music for about one third to one half of their set, but will also have the opportunity to showcase their own work.

“Joe Strummer was very supportive of independent musicians,” he says.

“It would be offensive to him to say, ‘You can only play The Clash,’ or something like that.”

But don’t expect to hear only punk rock at Strummerfest.

Strummer started his musical career playing country, blues and rock with the stage name Woody Mellor — chosen for Woody Guthrie.

“What I admire is, there’s a real story of redemption in his life,” Clifton says.

“He ended up in the punk movement and he abandoned his old friends and burned bridges.”

Following the breakup of The Clash, Strummer began to repair relationships and returned to some of his earlier musical styles.

In December 2002, Clifton had a chance to see Strummer perform in Toronto but didn’t go. Strummer died later that month — this festival marks the 10th anniversary of his death, at age 50.

• • •


Dec. 14, 7 p.m. to 10 pm.
Main stage at Civic Square, plus several other venues

Pay what you can.
Proceeds go to Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council and Your Life Counts.
For more info go to

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