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‘Roots’ Hits The Road
When the 11 all-star musicians of the “Roots Showcase” show roll into town, it will be a fantastic night of music-making spanning folk, blues, jazz, and alt-country. Featuring premier Vancouver Island musicians such as Mae Moore and Courtenay’s own Doug Cox, this unique lineup of superstars was put together by legendary fiddle champ Daniel Lapp, who is known as much for his educational work via the BC Fiddle Orchestra as for a remarkable, globetrotting career that has seen him play with Maria Muldaur, Lou Reed, and Elvis Costello. And this special concert only came about when what was supposed to be a one-time-only show in Victoria was expanded to include two performances up-Island.
It all started when Lapp was asked to organize one night of “roots” music as part of the City of Victoria’s weeklong Centennial Celebration. “Victoria’s premier performance venues, the Royal Theatre and the McPherson Playhouse, both turn 100 this year,” explains Lapp, “so they decided to throw a big party to thank the community for a hundred years of support.” The resulting Celebration has both theatres presenting a diverse and notable array of performances, everyone from Raffi to opera superstar Ben Heppner. “My role was to select around a dozen or so iconic folk and roots musicians/singer-songwriters, all of whom have strong connections to Victoria and in some cases the theatres themselves,” Lapp says. “And this has been a fun thing for me, to be able to pick up the phone and call some of my friends and bring them on board for this unique gig,” he smiles. That show is scheduled for Friday, May 23 at the McPherson Theatre.
Early on, while finalizing the lineup and making arrangements, Lapp realized that the Roots Showcase deserved its own mini-tour. “It seemed like such a shame to assemble all these incredible musicians and not put them in front of appreciative audiences farther up the Island,” he says. After a few phone calls, extra shows were booked for Campbell River’s Tidemark Theatre on Thursday, May 22 and Nanaimo’s Port Theatre on Sunday, May 25.
So, who did Lapp end up picking for his stageful of stars? Possibly his biggest catch was Neil Osborne, lead singer and chief songwriter of 54-40. Although he’ll always be best remembered as the frontman for Tsawwassen’s most acclaimed rock band, Osborne is currently involved in an alt-country trio named Never Shiver. There was never any doubt that Doug Cox would be part of this show. Over 20 years ago Lapp and Cox used to play together at Victoria’s music-friendly Pagliacci’s Restaurant every Sunday night, and the always-impressive bottleneck guitarist has latterly blossomed into one of the world’s best Dobro players. With several bands and an extensive discography, this inventive and versatile performer is at the forefront of the North American acoustic music scene. And one of the West Coast’s most beloved and high-profile performers is Mae Moore, a bohemian Gulf Islander who balances running an organic farm and heritage orchard with pursuing a long-time music career marked by numerous top-40 hits, two Juno nominations, and international fame.
Another beloved fixture on the Victoria music scene is vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Carolyn Mark, who offers an ongoing mash-up of surf-twang, alt-country, and anything else that catches her fancy. From her own CDs to collaborations with Neko Case, Mark continually lives up to her 2000 release, Party Girl. Just as exuberant, at least musically, is fiddle champ Ivonne Hernandez. She is the reigning five-time Grand North American Fiddle Champion, and has performed with Mark O’Connor, Alan Jackson, Steve Winwood, and U2’s The Edge. Equally virtuosic is Adam Dobres, an acoustic guitarist whose technical skill and intuitive musicality has earned him tours with Outlaw Social, Toni Jackson, and Ruth Moody. And then there’s Oliver Swain, who stands as tall as anyone in the Victoria acoustic music scene. From his recent success with Big Machine to his ongoing enthusiasm for the folk-noir traditions of Appalachia, this bassist and banjo picker has forged an award-winning combination of passion and musicality.
A longtime Victorian with a global reach as a musician, Rick May grew up in Hollywood but moved to the Island in 1988. A talented bassist and keyboardist, May has a truly impressive musical career, one that has seen him record, perform, and tour with a record store’s worth of stars ranging from Andy Summers and Rickie Lee Jones to Taj Mahal and Depeche Mode. Another internationally recognized performer and composer is Danuel Tate, a keyboardist and composer of electronic music. Most famous for his work with Cobblestone Jazz, Tate has performed all over the globe, including three notable appearances at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. And rounding off the lineup is James Troy, a prize-winning piper who has long been a professional solo player of the bagpipes, snare drum, and drum set.
Well, that’s certainly a dream lineup for anyone interested in roots and acoustic music. But Lapp also has some interesting ideas for presenting these talented performers. “I get excited about the opportunity to play with any one of these musicians,” says Lapp. “To play with all of them at once is pretty momentous.” And Lapp insists on presenting an actual band, and not just a mini-fest of separate cameo performances. “I expect that most of the musicians will be on stage most of the time,” explains Lapp. “Most of us are old musical friends: we’ve shared festival stages, shared open mikes, worked on each other’s CDs. We love to collaborate, and that is what the show is going to be all about,” he adds. “It’s going to be unique. And fantastic.”
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