So last night I headed to the Biltmore early and alone. I didn’t take a picture of the tour van with the Texas plates but it was pretty easy to tell who’s it was. Austin Texas’s own, though all the members were born and raised in Canada, but Grady had returned to town, with a new album in tow, and some disciples under their wings.
The night opened with Rich Hope and his Evil Doers which apparently consists of a drummer. That’s right a two piece, rev’ed up blues, with a slide on the pinky and finger picks, ala you know who. They were very much in the R.L. Burnside or T-Model Ford mode, or The White Stripes and the Black Keys for the less hip. It was a good set, Rich whipped it on ’em and many people asked me who he was and where he was from, I guess I looked like I knew.
I’ve seen Rich play many times and we talked later about one gig and the headliner who was always saying “God loves you when you dance” now he’s gone and shot someone. Texas is a strange place.
If Rich gained a few new fans with his set of raw, slide driven, blues. The next band hailing from Rick Fines hometown, gained even more. I watched their set from down front, and watched their front man repeatedly pick up one of the knobs on his Gretsch he kept knocking off. The Spades were a three piece with relatively simple songs, but played with heart and enthusiasm, especially the bassist. He seemed ready to rock from note one.
Less slide but plenty of Bigsby tremelo. One of these days I gotta get my shit together and get an electric guitar. A co-worker was asking me when I would be having a gig… I gotta find a place where I can get my couch on stage.
After the Spades there was yet another tear down and Gordie Johnson has a lot of guitars to get just so, all Gibsons too. Two double necks of course, an Explorer or two, SGs, and of course some Les Paul’s.
When Grady finally took the stage the place was full at least down front and people were anticipating something special. I’ve seen Big Sugar and Grady before but I’ve never been so close to Gordie, so I watched some picking and fretting until the head banging took over.
Nina Singh is from Vancouver so she had some family in the house, and having seen her over by the merch table, she is wee. Grady has some stage moves that emphasize the fact they are a three piece and even a song from the female perspective now.
On Facebook I said they were ZZ Top + Black Sabbath, but maybe ZZ Top + Motorhead = Grady as they tend to almost always play at a full gallop. Grady Johnson can definitely write riffs and I believe the correct term to describe them is heavy as fuck.
There is no barrier or much security at the Biltmore, but when the first Big Sugar song was played things started to get a bit nuts. I think one guy was pulled from upfront and told to chill. Gordie sensed the mood and slowed things down some. But when he slowly started picking another Big Sugar tune, I immediately started clapping out the back beat and a couple people joined in.
Being a Gordie Johnson band they played a long set, but of course there was an encore. This feature three guest guitarists. First up the return of the Gretsch on another Big Sugar tune. Then Rich Hope came on stage to play a cover of his old band’s tune “3 Minute Song”. The height of the mics were a bit wrong, but Gordie got him to play another one, with his 62 National Map guitar, which Rich told me he traded three other guitars for.
Finally another fellow comes on stage. Turns out he’s from Wide Mouth Mason, yet another band Gordie has worked with. He has a slide but no guitar. Enter the 62 National again and yet another Big Sugar song. This time with a second slide taking the place of Kelly Hoppe’s harp.
Who knew Big Sugar songs were Canadian staples? Guess I better learn “Diggin’ a Hole” or “Tommy Johnson” or “Joe Louis”.
Gordie said early in the set that there was a request for his oldest song, the old song I’d like to see Grady perform is “Motherless Children” off the “Dear M.F.” EP.
It was a great night of music. Lots of little things to take away along with all the merch I bought. People went home happy.
Next time Grady comes to Vancity more people will come I’m sure and I don’t think you’ll see him at such a small venue again. Big Sugar used to always play the Commodore, even their Dub show was there.