Great Lake Swimmers bring their musical reflections to Red Deer

The Ontario band will bring nature-inspired indie folk songs to Bo’s Bar and Grill this month.

They’ve recorded to the sound of crickets chirping inside an empty grain silo, and in an Ontario cave, with bats flying over their heads.

Great Lake Swimmers, who perform on Sunday, Oct. 30, at Bo’s Bar and Grill in Red Deer, are all about nature. Songs such as The Great Bear, A Bird Flew in the House and Something Like a Storm, from their 2015 album A Forest in Arms reflect the band’s fascination with the environment.

Lead singer and guitarist Tony Dekker said he was inspired to make the album after taking a trip to Northern B.C. with the World Wildlife Fund. The pristine northern rain forest instilled in him a sense of awe.

Dekker recalled seeing white spirit bears hunting for fish during a salmon run. “I’d never seen anything like it… How truly wild and unspoiled it is, a place where people clearly didn’t go…”

Although some black bears came within 20 to 30 feet of Dekker’s party, the humans did not feel endangered. “They were very close, but there were no close calls for us,” said the performer, since the bears were so focused on the salmon. “They were literally swatting them out of the river…

“I don’t think we humans were seen as any kind of threat.”

Dekker, who called the trip “transformative and life changing,” was also invited to talk to First Nations groups opposed to this route for the Northern Gateway Pipeline. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later effectively killed the project by imposed a ban on oil tanker traffic on the North Coast of British Columbia — to the dismay of thousands of Albertans who work in the oil industry.

After seeing the fragile state of the aquatic ecosystem near Kitimat, B.C. and the rough waters of Hecate Strait (Dekker said they’re the fourth roughest on the world), the singer feels it was probably the right decision.

But at the same time, he said he doesn’t want to come across as an Ontario artist making naive pronouncements about projects that affect the livelihoods of many Albertans. Given Canada’s stake in the energy industry and consumer demand for oil, Dekker knows a better thought-out plan will be needed to get the product to Asian markets.

“It’s a conversation we all need to have to be able to appreciate the other side of the argument.”

Great Lake Swimmers, which recorded part of A Forest in Arms in Ontario’s Tyendinaga Caves for extra-haunting acoustics, put out a more recent four-track EP called Swimming Away that sets the tone for the group’s upcoming acoustic tour of Western Canada.

Dekker felt it was time to share some of the band’s quieter and more reflective tunes with fans — so he’s heading out with a tight trio — including stand-up bassist and mandolin player Bret Higgins and banjo player and keyboardist Erik Arnesen.

A special guest with the band, Megan Bonnell, will help provide soaring harmonies. Bonnell is a rising Toronto-based singer/songwriter, whose latest album Magnolia was released last spring through MapleMusic.

For more information about the show, please contact the venue.

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