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299 Queen Street West comes to Arts Commons via MuchMusic documentary

For a generation of Canadians growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, MuchMusic was a ubiquitous aspect of life—it was the way that so many in the pre-internet age became connected to the wider world of music.

That nostalgic trip back into the world of MuchMusic gave the eponymous title to, and is the subject of, the new documentary 299 Queen Street West, which made its debut at SXSW this year.

One of MuchMusic’s longest lasting VJs and the winner of the 1994’s MuchTemp contest, Rick “The Temp” Campanelli, was in Calgary on Nov. 2 for the Calgary showing of the documentary at Arts Commons.

“It’s a continuous pinch me moment. It really is, first of all working at Much for all those years, and all those years ago,” he said.

“Now that this documentary is back out, it’s just such sweet nostalgia. It really is. It’s a trip down memory lane, and I’ve seen that film seven times already. It’s just an honour to be involved and to play that small part, but to see to relive all those magical moments up on the big screen.”

The documentary was the work of filmmaker Sean Menard, who has been best known for his other documentaries The Carter Effect about Toronto Raptors NBA player Vince Carter, and The Perfect Storm about the 1994 Montreal Expos MLB team.

Campanelli said that Menard really payed tribute to the television station that he himself never had much of a chance to experience growing up.

“He’s much younger than I am—I think he’s like 20 years younger than I am—So as a fan, he never really got to sink his teeth into much music the way we did as young Canadians.”

Still, Campanelli said that Menard has captured that nostalgia on the silver screen in a way that speaks to people like himself—who was a fan of MuchMusic before becoming a VJ—and for people who grew up with it on their televisions non-stop.

“For me it was channel 29, we just sat and watched and not be stressed. We didn’t worry about any other responsibilities when MuchMusic was on. I don’t think it’ll ever be duplicated, and we’ll never see anything like that ever again. The world is changing,” Campanelli said.

“It was a huge impact on my life: 11 years I spent at 299 Queen Street West. So to relive all those glorious moments that we created back in the day, I’m hoping the people that come up to the screening [in Calgary] and the people, the Canadians that come up to the screenings across the country are able just to lose themselves in those magical two hours that Sean has created.”

A special moment for Canadians, but all good things come to an end

That magic, he said, was also representative of the times we live in where all good things must eventually come to an end.

“TV was a very powerful thing back then, because it was the only game in town… we weren’t bombarded constantly in every which direction like the younger generation generation is today. They have their music on TikTok, and I think this the generation of today really enjoys that, but they don’t know how good we had it back in the 90s and the 80s when MuchMusic first started,” Campanelli said.

Part of that was the intimacy of the 299 Queen Street West studio, where they would roll up the shutter doors and let the public in to be mere feet away from interviews with legendary rock and roll bands and musicians, to promoting hip hop and rap to a nation with then very different opinions and values on those genres, helping to make those artists household names for Gen X’ers and Millennials.

“There’s certain things that we’ve done in our past that really strike us at our core, especially reliving those amazing moments that we spent with Green Day, or that we spent with N’Sync or the Backstreet Boys, or you know whoever it was, whatever artists came through,” Campanelli said.

“They loved coming too much, and we loved having them. And not just the bands and the artists but we opened up the windows.. and we let the fans have MuchMusic.”

Campanelli said that his decision to come to Calgary to be one of the presenters on this leg of the national tour for the film, was a result of his friendship with one of Calgary’s best known DJs and the long-time Amp Radio host DJ Kav.

For more information on 299 Queen Street West see www.299queenstreetwest.com. The film will be available on streaming network Crave later this year.