[Editor’s note: This review was originally published on Sept 15th, 2020 for BuriedOnMars.com]
Five Bucks at the Door is a documentary about a small venue in a town that I have never been to, but I feel like I grew up next to.
Crocks N Rolls was located in the isolated Northern Ontario town of Thunder Bay. A new version of it exists today, but the film focuses on the original venue that had its heyday during the indie rock scene of the mid-’80s to mid-’90s.
Its owner, Frank Loffredo, is a talented organizer and businessman who had a few options when he was getting started. He could have set “Crocks” up as a family restaurant with a better reliable income. Or move to a city where the chances were greater to work on a big stage. But he stayed in Thunder Bay.
He spotted a need for the touring musicians who were traveling through Thunder Bay as they headed up from Southern Ontario to the prairies in the west. T-Bay is 11 hours out of Sudbury, with another 8 to go before arriving in Winnipeg, so they needed a place to stay and perform. He made Crocks N Rolls just that.
And it wasn’t only for the high profile artists. Frank booked the struggling bands, the up and comers, the ones who still needed to work out the kinks. He understood the process and enjoyed hearing how much they improved when he would book them again. Even if the crowd was small and only a few beers were sold, he would book them again.
Frank’s approach to the business meant a lot to the people who would see these shows as well. The film’s director, Kirsten Kosloski not only shares her experiences at “Crocks”, but the pre-internet struggle of finding new music in an isolated town. Of trying to fit the taping of late-night radio shows and LPs from neighbors in with a regular day to schooling.
My teen years in the ’90s were spent in Sudbury, Ontario pretty much doing the same, and we had it only half as bad as Thunder Bay. We had our “Crocks”, The Townhouse Tavern (which everyone shorted to “The Townhouse”) and lived four to five hours away from a big city. So I was able to connect with this movie very easily.
But Kosloski does an excellent job making her story relatable to anyone. Crocks is described in the documentary as an oasis for music lovers who were surrounded by blue-collar, hockey lovers. When you discovered it, you found a place where you can be yourself. And who doesn’t want to find a place where you can be yourself?