Big Sugar likes Red Deer. And it goes both ways, with Red Deer fans happy to keep welcoming Big Sugar back to town.
For the third time this year, the blues-rock-reggae band fronted by Gordie Johnson is set to play a local gig — this time on Monday, Nov. 16, at Bo’s Bar and Grill.
Johnson, who married a Central Albertan and has a ranch near Red Deer, is eager to take a few days off for something completely different than touring. “We have animals on the farm,” he said, “so usually, from sun up to sun down, I’m up to my boots, working.”
Even without this local connection, the Texas resident said he’d probably be stopping in the area because Big Sugar is an equal opportunity performer, playing in centres large and small. “I don’t differentiate,” said Johnson, whether an audience is in Gladwell Sask., or Vancouver.
What’s important is that crowds are digging the tunes.
And Big Sugar has a bunch of new songs to share from the recently released seventh studio album, Calling all the Youth. It’s more rock-driven that the group’s last reggae-flavoured album, Revolutions Per Minute, said Johnson, with a heavier vibe. “It’s more of a return to where the guitars are louder.”
Lyrics-wise, “we’re trying to send a positive message. We don’t adhere to the age gap between generations,” said Johnson, but like to mentor rising young musicians. The group has a history of this, having encouraged many up-and-coming groups over the years, including Wide Mouth Mason (with which Johnson is now a bass player), Nickelback, The Trews and Bedouin Soundclash.
“You don’t see it happening enough,” added Johnson who’s seen some disheartening examples of successful musicians protectively “hanging on to what they have” instead of spreading it around. “We have a more open-door policy, where if we’re doing great, we let others in to roam in the sunshine.”
This brings us to Triggerfinger, a successful European rock group from Antwerp, Belgium that’s being introduced to a Canadian audiences this fall by touring with Big Sugar.
Johnson said he learned not long ago that the band’s members had been influenced to form their group after catching an early Big Sugar concert in Europe.
“We didn’t know anything about it at the time. We only found out about it after we met their manager,” said Johnson, who “very generously” invited Big Sugar musicians to go a tour of Europe with Triggerfinger.
The Belgian band that’s hugely popular across the Atlantic, helped Big Sugar widen its European fan base.
“Now we’re passing it back,” by taking Triggerfinger on its first Canadian tour, said Johnson. This will allow North American audiences to discover a great European band.
Its musicians are hard rockers. They’ll “be taking their own course” — which doesn’t involve playing reggae. “They’ll completely annihilate the crowd, then we’ll come on,” said Johnson, who joked “fans will really be in the mood for our show then!”
The singer and guitarist has had a busy year working on multiple music projects, including producing for other artists, playing bass for Rich Robinson’s (of the Black Crowes) band, as well as for Wide Mouth Mason. Big Sugar also opened earlier this year for AC/DC.
For all the closet musicians who secretly dream of playing with this world-famous metal band, Johnson suggests it might not be as fun as they imagine. The festival sites were so vast people were being flown in by helicopter. “It’s on a scale that’s so industrial, it’s almost too big for you to have a good time,” he said.
”It’s probably more fun just to go to an AC/DC show.”
Tickets for the Red Deer concert are $29.50 from the venue or www.songkick.com. Doors open at 8 p.m.