Feb. 13, 2013 - Issue #904: The Sugar Trade
The Northern Pikes
While Saskatoon, SK has recently made the proverbial musical map thanks to the meteoric rise of a certain scruffy, bearded band, the city is also the birthplace of The Northern Pikes—one of Canada's top-selling rock acts of the late '80s and '90s.
Whether you were one of the die-hard fans standing front row at the band's concerts or danced around to the Pikes in your living room as a kid thanks to it being a staple in your parents' album collection, the band has no doubt played a hand in shaping the musical landscape for a new crop of artists with hits like "She Ain't Pretty," "Things I Do For Money" and "Girl With a Problem."
After a hiatus from 1993 to 1999, the Juno Award-nominees have continued to release music, including a greatest-hits collection from its time with Virgin Records from 1984 to 1993, and three independent albums. These days, the group—originally a four-piece—tours as a trio, as guitarist and vocalist Meryl Bryck left the band in 2007.
"He just doesn't have the desire to play live anymore. We thought long and hard about it and thought, well, we still enjoy playing the three of us, so we just went out and did it on our own," says drummer Don Schmid, adding that Bryck's departure has been a loss vocally, but was not a detrimental change to the band's dynamic. "He sang a lot of songs without playing his guitar, so we were in some ways already a three-piece in terms of guitar, bass and drums, so the biggest thing we miss is his voice. It's been a challenge, but it's also a unique way to see the band now."
The trio, which is producing a documentary to mark its 30th anniversary next year, has begun experimenting further with onstage jamming, as well as new arrangements for some of its earlier material, which Schmid admits is a hit-or-miss process, but a good exercise in making the most out of a band's material.
"When I go to see concerts it's always interesting to see how groups or artists I go to see rearrange their stuff too ... sometimes a rearrangement of a song will work for some artists and sometimes they just don't," he says. "It's all part of the live human factor. You have to be sort of forgiving at a live show."
Whether it's a rearranged version or the nostalgia-inducing chords you remember, Schmid acknowledges it is precisely those songs that have gotten the band to where it is today, and cemented them in the status of Canadian classic rock—as well earning it place in the Western Canadian Music Hall of Fame. He notes that music doesn't have a shelf life: it's something that lives on in various forms to be shared with generations to come.
"It really does come down to the songs. Die-hard fans of any artist will really know a lot of things: they'll know the people's names in the band, but when it really comes down to songs you know and grew up with on the radio, well, think back to the Stampeders—how many people really know the names of those people in the band?" Schmid states, noting it's not about the people playing, but the music itself that draws audiences in. He points to the current touring lineup of the Guess Who as a prime example: only one original member remains, but people still come to hear the hits they know and love.
"It's an interesting thing, music. It's hypnotic state you get into with songs. They affect you and become part of your life and they stick with you for all time."
Sat, Feb 16 (7:30 pm)
Arden Theatre, $35
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