A year with Gonzo Okanagan

A year with Gonzo Okanagan

Photo credit and copyrights to Shane Collins & Gonzo Okanagan

It’s been a year since I joined GONZO OKANAGAN. A lot has changed within a year’s time.

Back then, Brad Krauza sat me down so we could discuss me joining the team. We talked about the return of live music and how we wanted to tell the stories that come along with such a revival. We both wondered what its resurrection would look like. What it would feel like. The good news is that for now, the pandemic is over but as we’re all aware, venues have closed here in Kelowna. Playing a live show in this town isn’t easy. Booking the gigs, selling the tickets and getting the word out are just a few of the challenges performers face. New venues, however, are starting to pop up like budding flowers. 

Music hasn’t stopped. That’s for sure. I’ve seen a tsunami of talented musicians who have sharpened their skills, created new content and have sacrificed in one way or another just to get their art to an audience. The big challenge now is trying to find a place to play a gig. It feels like we’re in a race to get the word out.

Over the past year,  I’ve been here in the GONZO rally car. It’s like a scene from MAD MAX. We’ve been roaring forward, putting everything into getting this baby to the finish line. Along the way, I’ve taken my camera and my typewriter with me. Sand is kicked up in our faces and bouncing around like this, the typewriter sounds like it’s been trapped in a washing machine. Clunking along, dust in our eyes, competitors racing alongside us, we’ve been going full throttle doing our best to keep everyone up to date with what’s happening here at home.

World events like war and the economic turmoil so many of us struggle to manage… we race through it all, telling stories of others along the way. It hasn’t been easy for anyone. But that’s the point of any good story, isn’t it? What’s a story without the struggle? We’re in the thick of the race, looking to catch up to everyone else and it’s happening, right now, right in front of our eyes. All we have to do is keep at it. Stay passionate and stay honest about that passion. If we can do that, well, dear reader, there isn’t much we can’t do. 

Stephen Harrison of Fever 333 on tour with the Cancer Bats

It’s been a wild ride. From leaving the day job behind to becoming a full time storyteller, I’ve been witness to that resurrection of live music here in Kelowna and it’s been something I’ll never forget. Here is a link to the archive of everything I’ve written for Gonzo Okanagan.

Telling stories of my own to photographing so many shows, talking to the artists, writing these articles about those experiences and meeting some of my favorite bands has been a dream come true. But there’s still lots of work to do. We want to be on the frontline of the action so when new music comes our way, we’re here to let you know about it. A year can sound like a long time and in a way, it is.

JJ Wilde

After a year, though, looking back, it’s like we’ve stepped through time and that portal closes unceremoniously behind us. All those hours and days and weeks and months and all the people we’ve met, the relationships we’ve made and the losses we’ve endured that have brought us here, today, it all blows by us like a strong wind. I guess that’s why I chose to photograph and write about it all. As inconsequential as it may be, I feel like it gives me a sense of purpose and if GONZO OKANAGAN is willing to have me on the team so I can both suffer and celebrate through another year of this rat race, then I’m on board and if you’re keeping up with these articles, then I suppose you’re going to suffer and celebrate along with us. 

The camera and the typewriter are bouncing around but I’m still holding on to them. It’s a shit show out here but we’re doing it. BRAD KRAUZA is driving this thing and he’s a mad man, bent on finishing this race. We’re going full turbo towards the unknown so hold on tight! We’ve got another year in front of us and the road will surely be riddled with obstacles to maneuver, adversaries to be bested, opportunities to be taken and stories to be told. I suspect the road ahead won’t be pretty but at least on the GONZO OKANAGAN team, it won’t be boring.

Another year starts right now. I know it seems far away but trust me, it’ll be over before you know it, so buckle up. It’s about to get wild. Here we GO!


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The Okanagan’s been my home since I was born. Life has taken me across the planet several times and through that transient lifestyle I developed a journalistic style to my photography and to my writing. My influences would be that of James Nachtwey, Annie Lebovitz, Ashley Maile, Hunter S Thompson, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Tom Robbins, Wes Anderson and Charles Bukowski. The world outside this incredible valley, its cultures and its mystery is what’s kept me working and trying to save my money, so I can keep getting back into the world. That’s the way it used to be. Covid has opened my eyes to the land I call my home and there are so many tales to tell right here in BC. From tales of the impoverished to the neglected to those who overcome adversity, to the spirit to overcome fear, the power of storytelling has never been more relevant. I’ve always been a storyteller. There’s a tale worth telling in every neighborhood. I just happen to write about what happens to me along the way and I’ve kept them close to my heart, hoping one day I’ll have an outlet so I can tell those stories the best way I know how; by writing them down. From adventures of long ago, both here or maybe far away, future interviews with musicians, artists of all kinds, the coverage of events, the people I meet along the way, whatever I get up to I intend to have you as my guest as I go back in time and dig up the bones of those old adventures or chase down new ones. Through the alchemy of storytelling, you can come along with me if you like. Before Covid-19 I was really coming into my own photographing live shows; punk rock bands, hip hop showcases, tattoo portraits, rock climbing adventures, Femme Fatale burlesque performances you name it, the phone was finally beginning to ring. Then Covid showed up like a hurricane and I guess it wiped us all out in one way or another. I have a real bone to pick with Covid-19 and if I can share some stories for our readers to enjoy, I’ll do that and when we can return to live music and to foreign travel and we can safely get to working on mending what’s been damaged I tell you I want to be ringside like Joe Rogan commentating on Covid getting its ass whooped. I want to see it tap out and watch us overcome this hardship, raise our collective hands triumphantly and move on into whatever new normal is waiting for us. I’ll be there and through my eyes, just like the boss man, Hunter himself, I’ll do it in Gonzo fashion and bring you kicking and screaming along with me. So hold on tight and dig in. It might not always be pretty but I won’t call it all ugly, neither. That’s for you to decide. My name is Shane Collins and I hope you’ll read along with me and our team here at Gonzookanagan.com


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