Round 3: Hiddens Cameras vs. Ktown

Joel Gibb and his multi-member band deliver catchy, raunchy tunes

Toronto folk-pop band The Hidden Cameras are known for their artsy side and rotating roster of band members.
Toronto folk-pop band The Hidden Cameras are known for their artsy side and rotating roster of band members.

If you have only visited Kingston twice, and the experiences climaxed with discriminatory antics and a heated tussle, the third time may not be the charm.

For the Hidden Cameras—a pop-meets-folk-meets-controversy musical blend—these adventures are all the more incentive to return.

Joel Gibb, the singing-songwriting front man of the ever-expanding and rotating ensemble that has included Maggie McDonald, Owen Pallet and Laura Barrett, recalls their first Kingston tour date in 2006—a performance that involved mild vandalism, engineering graduates and an air tinged with violence.

“It was a few university engineering graduates, there was like a prom, and people did not like us. They reacted in a very hostile way and there was an air of homophobia,” he said. “They tried to trash a banner of mine, let it fall in a big pool of water.”

In their successive trip to Kingston later in the year, similar conflict followed the group, livening up their Wolfe Island Music Festival experience.

“Last time we played there [at Wolfe Island], there was a little scuffle at our show.”

Despite band brawls and homophobic hissy fits, this dynamic group won’t be crossing the Limestone City off their tour chart any time soon.

“They’re always really good,” Gibb said of Kingston concert-goers. “That show with the engineering graduates was our most punk-rock show. I mean, we never really played for a hostile audience—we felt like the Sex Pistols playing for the cowboys in Texas. We kept provoking them more, it was really fun.” A band notorious for their blunt verse—song topics range from obvious sexual references to urine streams as a stairway to heaven—the Hidden Cameras combine suggestive lyricism with catchy, churchy melodies. Before you cringe at the thought of a Relient K/Village People combination, Gibb wants it known that his band is beyond pure provocateur status: they’re a musical mix transcending taboos with bright tunes and an informed consciousness.

“I like contradictions. You can experience two sides of one thing,” Gibb said. “Your creativity, it’s not about consciously thinking about taboos. It’s about trying to strip yourself of a certain framework you’re given from where you’ve been and where you’ve grown up. Contradictions allow you to break those taboos. You make your own music, follow your own intuition.”

Now comfortably settled into his life as a household Canadian indie name, Gibb, a born and raised Torontonian, recently relocated to Berlin, Germany, where he sets out on the cross-Atlantic commute for his North American tours.

“I’ve been living [in Toronto] my whole life so it’s nice at this point to spend some time in another city. It expands my mind like it would anyone else’s.”

As for whether or not this new European address has influenced the Hidden Cameras output, Gibb claims it has been a change of scenery, not a re-envisioning of sound. For now, the indie front man simply wants to enjoy the experience, letting his new locale inform his music only insofar as it directs his lifestyle. “It all depends on the country and the culture of the country,” Gibb said. “Germans are a little more reserved.” This reserved environment has helped Gibb focus on his successful foray into visual art—a hobby that, after recently exhibiting at the Sunday Gallery on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, has been growing in significance.

“Ever since I was writing songs I used to make art, draw and play with imagery, but I haven’t really separated it from the music until this past year,” Gibb said.“I had a show with my own stuff [at Sunday] and it still did overlap into the Hidden Cameras’ imagery.

“It’s all related, I put a penis-cross-dagger in as many pieces of art as I can, and that’s a symbol of my songs and my creative force. The intention is not to severe it whole, completely, but expand on some of the imagery in the record.”

A multitalented artist with a multifarious lifestyle, Gibb is looking forward to coming home for some Canadian dates—a tour that involves another stab at Kingston.

“I try to take it as a challenge, each show. To do something new and take advantage of what a live performance is and to explore the possibilities that it entails.”


The Hidden Cameras are playing Saturday night at the Grad Club. Tickets are available at the Grad Club and Destinations for $12.

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