Convergence’s Sparks Series film honours Steppenwolf and Oshawa’s Mars Bonfire


Published September 22, 2023 at 9:30 am

Mars Bonfire, John Kay and Steppenwolf

While Oshawa looks to the future with Saturday’s eclectic Convergence Music and Arts Festival lineup, the Sparks Series will be honouring the past with a documentary on 1960s Yorkville, with a ZOOM call with Steppenwolf songwriter Mars Bonfire to follow.

Bonfire, who is known to his family as Dennis McCrohan, was raised in Oshawa and wrote Born to be Wild, an anthem of the era (and of the 1969 classic ‘Easy Rider’ film) and the biggest hit for seminal rock band Steppenwolf.

The song is also credited by some for coining the phrase ‘heavy metal’ – which later became a rock genre – with the lyrics, “I like smoke and lightening, heavy metal thunder.”

Saturday is also being declared by Mayor Dan Carter as ‘Steppenwolf Day’ in Oshawa.

The documentary, Essential Noise – The Story of 1960s Yorkville – will be shown at 11:35 Saturday morning at the Biltmore and will kick off the Sparks Series events, which will also include Subversives – The History of Lowest of the Low at 2 p.m. and a panel discussion on innovations in music at 4:30.

All screenings are free to the public.

The rock-doc by award-winning filmmaker Paul Koidis features a star-studded cast of characters, including John Kay of Steppenwolf, music historian and Toronto DJ Alan Cross, Alan Frew of Glass Tiger, Sylvia Tyson, Jeanne Beker, Dan Hill and Bob Ezrin.

The film puts Toronto’s Yorkville neighbourhood in the mid to late 60s on centre stage and talks about how the hippie counterculture changed the world through music, political protest and ‘good vibrations.’

The film will be followed by a live interview (via ZOOM) with Bonfire, who is now 80 and living in the U.S.

‘Subversives,’ by musician and tour manager turned director and producer Simon Head, tells the story of Canadian indie legends The Lowest of the Low, who “fiercely continued to fly the indie flag” after the major labels were signing all the best talent to follow their own path to success.

The panel discussion, with David Ritter of Convergence headliner The Strumbellas, fellow performer Delon Om, author Dr. Isabel Pederson and Head, will discuss recent innovations in music and what they could mean for the industry going forward.

The Convergence Music and Art Festival is an all day affair – all weekend if you include the Oshawa Music Awards (OMAs), which will take over the Regent Theatre Sunday – and will be headlined by folk rock icons The Strumbellas, Preston Pablo, Chastity, NERiMA, Cale Crowe, Haddix, Delon Om, Eddy Jones and Matthew Holtby on two stages set up in Oshawa’s downtown.

The event will also feature pro wrestling (outdoors in a ring set up at the Four Corners), an International Street Food Alley, a Punk Rock Flea Market, a DJ Showcase, a self-guided walking tour of Indigenous art, an On the Road art exhibit, a tribute to Kenneth Welsh called Shakespeare On the Road, Nerd Alley – featuring local artists like Dani Crosby (with The Spud) and others – Vital! Contemporary Circus, a holographic art projection (on the walls of 70 King) by artist Jenn E. Norton, the Durham Black Artists Collective and much more.

For a schedule of events and a map of all the fun, visit Convergence.


Design by Dani Crosby

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