By Charles Hamilton, Bridges
Photo by Andrew Spearin, Bridges
It’s more than an hour before show time and a few members of the local alt-country band Massey and Fergusons are sitting around a bar table sipping beers and grumbling about how late the show is going to start. They are the opening act and won’t go on stage until around 10 p.m., which, they joke, is past their bed time. Some of them have to get up in the morning to take care of their kids.
“These days there are as many kids around as there are members of the band,” laughs Berkeley Buchko, the lead vocalist.
“It’s pretty hard to go anywhere when everyone is breast feeding,” pipes in Todd Peters, the principle guitar player and jokester of the group.
The members Massey and the Fergusons are not your typical wannabe rock stars. More than half of them are married and have kids. They have day jobs, daycare and diapers to worry about. They have wives, girlfriends and families to spend time with. Getting together to practice can be a challenge, never mind trying to keep a regular touring schedule. Tonight’s show is the first real gig they’ve played in more than half a year.
“We like to think of that as our dark period. We were writing,” jokes Peters.
The band — whose music can best be described as “trucker country” — has become a staple in Saskatoon’s roots/country-rock scene. And just because they don’t take themselves too seriously doesn’t mean their music is simply thrown together. With a slew of harmonies, twang guitar and fast-paced rockabilly riffs, the band lives up to their prairie roots. Taking after legends like Corb Lund and Steve Earl, Massey and the Fergusons is solid, folk-based country.
“I’ve heard people say, ‘You are like Blue Rodeo on steroids.’ But my favourite one is, ‘You guys are like The Band.’ That felt pretty good,” Peters says before letting out a smile that reveals he is pleased to be mentioned in the same sentence as the iconic rock group.
Even after a half-hour conversation, it is easy to tell these guys are here to have fun. They are full of one-liners and self-deprecating humour. They finish each other’s sentences, most often adding another layer of hilarious modesty into the mix. And with lyrics like, “I want to get stoned just like a mountain/I want to drink just like a fish,” it is easy to tell they aren’t all grown up yet.
“It’s pretty hard to take yourself seriously when we only play one gig a year,” says Buchko, before Peters adds in with a chuckle, “I think it’s pretty hard to take yourself seriously at our age.”
The idea for Massey and the Fergusons took root when Peters and Buchko met in 2006. The duo began playing open mikes and jamming together and by 2008 were on their way to becoming the band they are today. Aside from Buchko and Peters, these days Massey and the Fergusons consists of Shane “Schweaty” Buhler on drums, Darcy Burback (fiddle, mandolin, voice, keys), Jody Giesbrecht (pedal steel, harmonica) and their bass player who is known only as “Jerms” — no one would say why.
Buchko is quick to talk up the musical skills of his bandmates, but he insists that after years of practicing and playing rock shows he doesn’t know how to play guitar very well himself. His personal description on the band’s Facebook page reads, “Vocals, Three Chord Guitar, Banjo, Kazoo.”
“Me? I don’t really play music,” he laughs. “If you notice I don’t have strings on my guitar. I just play the radio really well.”
If you ever see Massey and the Fergusons live, you will notice that Buchko’s guitar does in fact have strings. For all their self-deprecating humour, the guys do put on a pretty solid country rock show.
Back at the bar table, the band muses about putting together another album. The group has one self-titled EP for sale, but between Buchko and Peters they have a ton of songs about drinking and heartache, and a few about Jesus and Bigfoot. (They actually have a song called Bigfoot Blues).
“We have 30 songs in the pocket but we only have five recorded,” laughs Peters.
For now, the future of Massey and the Furgesons isn’t that important. They are looking forward to tonight, to the feeling of getting back up on stage for the first time in months. They are revelling in a night out, away from day jobs and family. A night full of staff-priced beers and laughs. It’s an hour before showtime and all they are thinking about now is how they need to borrow some paper to make a set list.
Blackie & The Rodeo Kings perform on Wednesday night at the Broadway Theatre, Saskatoon.
Tune of the Day: Perfect for a Wednesday, and some Canadian content as well, “I’ve Had Enough of You Today” by Blackie and the Rodeo Kings from their CD “Bark”.
So my girlfriend (and a few other people I consulted with) says the name ‘The Prairie Wind' instills a thought of… manure odour. I still love the Neil Young reference, but most people might not get it.
After some brainstorming, we came up with The Flannel Buffalo.
Is it better? Worse? Any better ideas?
#cdnhistory #railroad #Saskatoon
Canadian Northern Railway Yards, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Postcard cancelled onboard the Toronto and Niagara Falls Railway Post Office car, June 11, 1917. Postcard destination was Teeswater, Ontario.
By Jeanette Stewart, The StarPhoenix
Every now and then Gordon Lightfoot turns on pop radio - airwaves spewing Lady Gaga or LMFAO - as he drives to his Toronto office.
"It’s way beyond me. It’s way, way beyond me now," said the Canadian songwriting legend, who in 1971 and 1977 was nominated for best pop performance at the Grammy Awards.
And yet, Lightfoot’s own 22-year-old son is a rapper.
"One of my kids likes doing rap music, so what am I going to do? I sit and listen to him do it," said Lightfoot. "He makes tracks and he does his raps. He sounds just like one of those guys from the States."
It’s strange to hear an artist so patently Canadian when confronted with the music of the modern world, his own son taking a tact much different than his father’s quintessentially Canadian folk. This is a man who at age 73 performed more than 60 shows, Gibson 12-string in hand. This is an artist who achieved success with songs covered by Peter, Paul and Mary, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan, but who made an indelible mark in his own country with classics like the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald and the Canadian Railroad Trilogy, the latter released as an illustrated children’s book this fall.
Like a wise grandfather - “what was that that Neil Young said in his acceptance speech at the Juno Awards?” - he dispenses advice and patiently hands out the details of his life in a kind voice.
“‘Look inside yourself.’ I kind of knew what he meant. Looking for inspiration, you look inside yourself,” said Lightfoot. “I keep talking about the work ethic. The only way to do it is to sit down and do it.”
As legend has it, Lightfoot wasn’t always so forthcoming, but as the years go on he’s mellowed and is polite to the scribes on the telephone. The writers are still calling and the tickets still sell, though Lightfoot hasn’t made a new record since 2004’s Harmony. His major label career ended in 1998 with A Painter Passing Through, his final record for Warner Brothers. At this point he’s content to perform his songs in concert, with hits like If You Could Read My Mind, Early Mornin’ Rain and Sundown featured alongside lesser known numbers.
"I feel it’s a privilege. I feel that I’ve been very, very fortunate, very, very lucky in so many ways to be able to continue this long," he said. "Believe me, when I was first starting out in the business and being successful at it at age 30, I was wondering ‘what the hell am I going to be doing when I’m 70 years old,’ but here I am and enjoying it too."
Fifty years into his career, he’s received almost all the awards Canada has the ability to bestow, including some 17 Junos. Now as a septegenarian spending months on the road and a victim of two major health scares in the past decade, Lightfoot credits his health to regular exercise. He partied “all through the ’70s” but he gave up alcohol in 1982 and began working out, a strict routine taking the place of alcohol.
"I’m no couch potato," he said. Already his tour schedule extends through the end of 2012. "It’s pretty good to be optimistic," he said.
Lightfoot performs tonight at TCU Place. Tickets are $59.50 and $69.50 plus service charges, available at www.tcutickets.ca or by phone at 975-7770.
Gordon Lightfoot currently
By Jeanette Stewart and Rory MacLean, The StarPhoenix
Chad VanGaalen graced Saskatoon with an amazing rock show at The Roxy Theatre last week. It turned out to be the last of the tour, with blizzard conditions making their scheduled trek to Winnipeg the next day a bit dangerous.
VanGaalen agreed to a little sit down before the show here, and he was charming and full of a million plans for this winter. His exhaustive list includes working on the skateboard half-pipe in his basement, refurbishing a hardwood floor, dabbling in concrete sculpture, writing his second children’s book, producing a record for Calgary band FAUX FUR and writing a new record of his own.
Thanks to Rory MacLean and Matt Chesky for their work on the video, featuring a killer high five.
Foam Lake keeps music all in family
By Stephanie McKay, The StarPhoenix
Photo by Patrick Schmidt
If you listen very hard to Foam Lake’s new album Force and Matter, you might hear the sound of a barking dog to accompany the guitars, synth and drums. It’s the kind of charming mistake that comes with recording out of your own home.
"The song True Hearts for sure has a bark in it somewhere," Barrett Ross said on the day of the album’s release.
Force and Matter, the band’s debut, was recorded at The Church, a converted house of worship where Barrett lives with his dogs Indi and Pea and, of course, makes music. In his home studio, the control room is visible from Barrett’s bedroom, so privacy isn’t exactly in abundance.
"It’s really neat and it sounds great, but there are no walls, so when people are here recording they are kind of everywhere. The only walls are the bathrooms," he said.
Luckily, the band is renovating a space in the same building to function as a more private recording space. And even though Force and Matter is still new to the public, the band is already working on a new record, which they hope to release in the not-too-distant future.
Recording Force and Matter on their own wasn’t Foam Lake’s original plan. Initially, the band was in talks to work with Saskatchewan native Kurt Dahle of the New Pornographers. When the producer suddenly moved and several other obstacles kept the band from recording, they decided to take it on themselves.
"In order to do it ourselves and the way we wanted, we had to spend a lot of money," he said. Thankfully, the end result was money well spent.
Foam Lake is quite literally a band of brothers. The band is made up of Barrett, Paul, Tyler and Kalen Ross.
Though one might assume four musical brothers grew up playing together, the four Ross men didn’t really unite musically, aside from family Christmases, until Foam Lake formed in 2008. The only gig they ever played before becoming a band was a single song at Lydia’s before the youngest brother, Kalen, was even legal drinking age.
Paul and Barrett previously worked together in The Bloodlines. When that group suddenly disbanded, Paul continued to write songs, which became the music of Foam Lake.
FOAM LAKE with Father Figures and Adam & the Amethysts Saturday, Amigos in Saskatoon