The Pariahs reunite after 1980s heyday

Classic Kingston rockers return with new sound, same energy

The Pariahs returned to Kingston for a Homecoming reunion concert.
Credit: 
Supplied by Scott Megginson

When The Pariahs (Arts ’89) get onstage for sound check, instant shouts of excitement roar from the packed crowd. Then comes the first strum of an electric guitar.

On Oct. 19, The Pariahs played a reunion concert at The Toucan to celebrate Queen’s Homecoming. 

Halfway through the set, with a mic cord tangled in one hand and beer can swinging wildly in the other, lead singer Mike Farrell bellowed, “We’ve got a motherf–king fog machine, get ready for the Maid of the Mist,” before promptly drenching the audience in Guinness.

The band’s performance gave younger audiences a sense of what the rock scene in Kingston was like before their time at Queen’s. 

The group, first named Guyanna Koolaid in the early 80s, was a college punk rock band that found their legs in Kingston, discovering that the town was somewhere they could play four or five nights a week. 

Along with lead singer Farrell, the band’s members are “Bonz” Bowering on drums, Scott Megginson on bass, guitarist Ian “Loaf” Woodward, and the late Chris Ward on drums. 

With musical influences likes of AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Iggy Pop, and the Ramones, they found their sound, which they describe as “punk rock dragged kicking and screaming into a stadium.” 

For The Pariahs, getting the band back together was a huge undertaking.

Bassist Scott Megginson, who left the band 25 years ago, spoke about their efforts to revive their ensemble, which emerged on the Kingston music scene in the late 80s and 90s alongside The Tragically Hip.

“We would burn a lot of mileage [on] the 401 between Toronto and Kingston,” Megginson said. “The first time we jammed, it sounded amazing. We knew we could learn the songs if we had the sound, and we had the sound.”

This reunion comes nine years after they recorded their album, Leaside’s Burning, which was released to the public this past Friday. The band played much of that music for the first time at The Toucan before a live audience.

The band also debuted a new member, bassist Sean Beresford, who first snuck into a bar in the late 80s to see the band play when he was 18.

Beresford later joined the group years after seeing them first perform.

After the band’s lengthy hiatus, the bassist found that “it felt like putting on a tattered old rock-and-roll shoe, because these were the tunes I was instrumental in writing and playing with these guys.”

There was a giddy energy amongst the members as they shared their grittiest rock n’ roll stories from their heyday.

One night, after consuming more than the recommended amount of sake wine, Farrell went off the rails, flying into the audience and grabbing hold of a plastic skeleton. Whipping it around, he eventually hit himself in the eye and had to go to the emergency room. 

Bonz, with a fair share of his own antics, shared a story about another night in Windsor at an after-party. “Loaf and I wrapped John, who passed out, in surgical tape. Our bass player was breaking lightbulbs with his teeth—”

Here, Farrell interjects: “Oh, yeah, he was eating them!”

They reminisced on model rockets built using duct tape and matches fired across a frozen lake, biker gang fanbases, police antics, bar-hopping, and near-miss knife fights. 

But, they say, that was the life of a hardcore rock group in Kingston in the late 80s.

Mike, joyful with nostalgia, said he once “got a bass in the face so hard my palate cracked, I lost like four teeth. Boom! Blood pouring down, but …” Here, he leans closer to the mic, a grin on his face, and says: “I finished the f—cking set.”

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