A Quick Listen in Memory of Fred Gamberg

The overwhelming outpouring and celebration in wake of one’s passing can turn a life into a legacy. Sometimes the big memories fade with time, though they may never lose their importance to those who experienced them. Other memories live lives much longer than our own and reach people who were never there to be touched by them in real time. But, only certain memories double as a lasting spirit of contribution that in some magical way becomes immortalized within a community.

I was too young to know Fred Gamberg, but when me and many of my generation started frequenting downtown St. John’s in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the mural of Fred’s face near the steps to the LSPU Hall became an extended fixture to us street-beating loiterers. Many of my generation were first exposed to the local all ages music scene through the former Bannerman park summer festival, Peace-A-Chord. Fred Gamberg’s name was always attached to the legacy of Peace-A-Chord. When we started collecting all the hand-dubbed cassettes from the underground St. John’s scene that came before us, Fred Gamberg’s name was usually in the liner notes in some shape or form. Our bands would eventually play with the revived version of St. John’s ranting noise punk legends, Giver. Fred Gamberg was the founding drummer of Giver. It seemed like the more we navigated our local music and arts community, the more we would encounter the memories, stories and contributions of Fred.

The original Fred Gamberg mural on the corner of Duckworth and Prescott Street. Photo by Mark Bennett from The Scope archives.

Aside from playing in bands, promoting shows, and working to put out records — including his involvement in releasing the seminal 1996 collection of St. John’s alt rock, Danger: Falling Rock — Fred Gamberg was a dear friend to many, and a dedicated advocate for the independent music scene and those who surrounded it.

Fred Gamberg passed away twenty-three years ago today. He was twenty-three years old. I never knew Fred Gamberg, so I believe his story is better told by the folks who experienced a bit of life with him.

We strongly suggest you check out this piece from the archives of The Scope for a more personal take on the history and influence of Fred Gamberg. We’d like to thank Paul Ryan and Mike Heffernan for making that piece happen as it has given the rest of us the opportunity to put context to a name that has forever been planted in our community.

Take some time to listen to Danger: Falling Rock and Gamberg’s sessions with Giver here:

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