Toronto Indie Rockers The Alter Kakers Take Us on a Rollercoaster Ride through Fine Art on “The Great Upheaval”

With its loose, careening, ’70s rock ‘n’ roll style, you would hardly expect Toronto indie rockers The Alter Kakers’ fun-loving new single “The Great Upheaval” to be about something as highfalutin as fine art, but indeed it is. Check it out on YouTube here:

Inspired by The Great Upheaval art exhibit at the AGO in Toronto, the song is told from the perspective of painter Marc Chagall in the first verse (“I made my name as a painter; I helped create a new style, and we changed the landscape for a while”); and then Picasso in the second verse: “I’ll put your ass on a canvas, cut you into cubes; they’ll know your name but never recognize you.”

Listen on Spotify here:

The exhibit included works spanning from 1910 to 1918 by artists such as Picasso, Chagall, Kandinsky, Matisse, Mondrian, and many other masters, and it highlighted new styles such as expressionism, futurism, and cubism. “It was about leaving realism behind and exploring where art could be more abstract, leading to new creative styles,” explains guitarist/vocalist Steve Bronstein.

Bronstein’s mother often used to take him to art galleries when he was growing up, and he always felt a particularly strong connection to Chagall because of their shared Jewish heritage. “I always liked his paintings that recount his growing up in Belarus in a Jewish shtetl, which would have been similar to my own grandparents who emigrated from Ukraine in the 1900s,” Bronstein said.

Other topics the song contemplates are the fame of real-life people like the Mona Lisa or Dora Maar, who Picasso painted; as well as life in Paris in the 1900s — “I like to walk down by the banks of the Seine; we’ll drink some wine and come back home again.”

“Pretty heady stuff,” Bronstein admits, “But we countered that by turning ‘The Great Upheaval’ into a straight rock song, including a cowbell intro/outro, handclaps, and a 70’s-inspired guitar solo.”

In fact, for the guitar solo producer Dean Mario suggested a Big Muff fuzz pedal for a raunchy, distorted sound. “At first I resisted, but now I really love the result – it jumps out,” Bronstein conceded.

The Alter Kakers are an indie rock band from Toronto with Steve Bronstein on guitar and vocals, Cary Corvair on bass and vocals, and Dan Barsi on drums. They formed after meeting in another local band called The Dropjoys and noticing they had a shared sense of music and humor.

And just what the hell is an Alter Kaker? It’s a Yiddish term for “old fart.” Is this a group of Alter Kakers? Probably, but think of it this way: to become an Alter Kaker, you need to have the will to never give up or stop trying, and that’s what this band has.

Live Appearance Dates:

November 21, 2023         Horseshoe            Toronto

December 14, 2023         The Dakota Tavern   Toronto