A spoonful of Big Sugar

Performing at the Ponoka Stampede carries a certain allure for “city slicker” musician Kelly Hoppe of Big Sugar.

Performing at the Ponoka Stampede carries a certain allure for “city slicker” musician Kelly Hoppe of Big Sugar.

“Rodeo is part of Western Canadian culture and I find it interesting, the same way I would find lobster fishing to be an interesting cultural experience in Newfoundland,” said the saxophonist, also known as Mr. Chill, who’s from Windsor, Ont.

Hoppe’s not sure how many rodeo events he’ll be able to watch around Big Sugar’s concert with 54-40 on June 25, at the Stampede.

But he looks forward to another chance to play for Albertans.

“All audiences are great, but sometimes you can feel a little extra,” he said, and that’s always the case with crowds in this province. “We love to play anywhere, but Alberta has a special place in the heart of our music.”

Big Sugar’s frontman Gordie Johnson has family in the Red Deer area. But Hoppe feels the band made an Alberta connection even while Johnston was still living in Toronto in the late 1990s. “We still had a great fans base out there,” and he believes it has to do with this being the point where east meets west.

“It’s the diaspora, all these (East Coast) fishermen — and women — now working in the oilpatch …”

Big Sugar will play some rock-reggae songs from the new album Calling All Youth at the show, as well as older hits. These could include Turn the Lights On, Diggin’ A Hole, If I Had My Way, and the song written about the “diaspora,” All Hell for a Basement.

Alberta’s economy isn’t what it once was.

And Hoppe understands what a slump feels like, hailing from a place that’s suffered from auto-plant closures in Windsor and neighbouring Detroit.

While Windsor has struggled economically, the southern Ontario city always been home to Hoppe, who refused to move to Toronto, even when the rest of the band was based there. “It’s where I was born and raised,” where his wife works and where they own a house.

It’s also where Hoppe soaked up his musical influences.

Windsor gets all of Detroit’s radio stations, making it a mecca for Motown, blues and hip-hop music, said Hoppe. Detroit also has world-class rock venues, said Hoppe, who noted KISS partially recorded its Alive! album there.

“The border is blurred” between the two cities, with people intermarrying between Canada and the U.S., and heavy-weight American musicians crossing the river to play in the Canadian city, said Hoppe.

Johnson once lived in Windsor, where he was hired by Hoppe to play guitar at a gig. Johnson later returned the favour, asking Hoppe to join Big Sugar in 1994.

The harmonica and sax player, who became known as Mr. Chill after breaking his coffee-binging habit, brings an R&B flavour to the band.

Hoppe believes all five musicians deliver different influences to the group that mixes blues, reggae, rock, soul and funk into a unique Big Sugar blend.

Tickets to the 7 p.m. show with 54-40 are $40 ($20 children) from Ticketmaster.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ponoka RCMP said Traytyn Okeymow, 22, was last seen at this residence at about 9:45 p.m. on April 4. (Photo contributed)
Missing man located by Ponoka RCMP

Ponoka RCMP seek public’s help

RCMP file photo (Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)
RCMP lay cattle rustling, drug and firearm charges in Clearwater County

A cattle rustling investigation in Clearwater County led to firearms and drug… Continue reading

(File photo by Advocate staff)
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers a statement after a meeting of the college of commissioners at EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen announced plans Wednesday for a major contract extension for COVID-19 vaccines with Pfizer stretching to 2023. (John Thys, Pool via AP)
EU reaches major climate deal ahead of Biden climate summit

Provisional deal reached after officials negotiated through the night

Mountain Men’s Barbershop co-owners Laura-Lee Gambee, left, and Heidi Forster pose in their Collingwood, Ont., shop in an undated handout image. Small business owners and the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses say companies started in the months leading up to COVID-19 or those that opened during the pandemic don’t qualify for the recently-extended rent or wage subdies or a new hiring subsidy the government announced Monday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Kiley VanderMeer
New, young small businesses left out of federal budget want more aid: CFIB

Eligibility requirements for subsidies need improving

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

FILE - Ted Nugent performs at Rams Head Live in Baltimore on Aug. 16, 2013. Nugent revealed he was in agony after testing positive for coronavirus — months after he said the virus was “not a real pandemic.” “I thought I was dying,” Nugent says in a Facebook live video posted Monday. (Photo by Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP, File)
Ted Nugent, who once dismissed COVID-19, sickened by virus

Rocker a supporter of ex-President Donald Trump

Gwynne Dyer
Bolsonaro: Suicide by COVID

‘Rounding into the home stretch, it’s Italy by a full length, then… Continue reading

Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to Red Deer, June 28, 1990. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer and the Royal Family

The recent passing and funeral of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in… Continue reading

Vancouver Canucks' Tanner Pearson, right, celebrates after scoring against Toronto Maple Leafs goalie David Rittich during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Pearson, Sutter each score twice as Canucks dump Leafs 6-3

Pearson, Sutter each score twice as Canucks dump Leafs 6-3

Everton's Gylfi Sigurdsson celebrates with teammates after scoring his side's second goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Everton and Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park in Liverpool, England, Friday, April 16, 2021. (Peter Powell/Pool via AP)
Super League collapses after the 6 English clubs withdraw

Super League collapses after the 6 English clubs withdraw

Most Read