Great Big Sea draws on pop, folk
Every winter, people come to Park City from far, far away, bringing their culture, customs and stories to this small mountain town. But, one must admit, even among that panoply of influences, few visitors come from Newfoundland.
But for the second time this winter, the Park City Performing Arts Foundation will bring Park City some sounds from Newfoundland. The first group of performers visited this past November, when DRUM! came to the Eccles Center with its blend of performance and native and traditional music. The second group of musicians will arrive this weekend. Great Big Sea takes over the Eccles Stage next Saturday night, Feb. 18.
The St. John’s-based five-piece group combines rock ‘n’ roll with sounds inspired by traditional Newfoundland folk music. Great Big Sea’s sound offers an amalgamation of folk instruments fiddles, concertinas and mandolins with pop beats and Celtic themes, making music unique to their homeland.
"They do traditional Celtic music but they ramp it up and become a rock group," said Teri Orr, the executive director of the Performing Arts Foundation.
"We’re a bit schizophrenic, walking that line between rock and traditional music," said band-member Bob Hallett.
But while their original music tends toward a fusion of the folk and modern sounds, they remain dedicated to the old Newfoundland folk songs.
"For us, it [is] a labor of love," Hallett said. "We’ve always recorded traditional songs It’s our very purpose to get it out there."
At the same time, Hallet said Great Big Sea doesn’t fit too neatly into any pigeonhole.
"We’ve sort of rejected categorizing ourselves," he noted.
The band is touring in support of its most recent CD, "The Hard and The Easy," which was released in September. Originally developed as a part of a double album, "The Hard and The Easy," is a filled with the band’s acoustic music focusing on traditional Newfoundland folk songs.
The album follows 2004’s "Something Beautiful," which featured Great Big Sea’s original material. While the band has always played both original and traditional material, the two newest albums signify a different approach.
"The way we tried to do it in the past is, we tried to bridge the gap," said Hallett.
Then, he noted, the band would work to add some pop flair to traditional songs and play many of the pop songs with folk arrangements. With the group’s two most recent albums, though, each of the types of the group’s types of songs the rock and the folk has its own space.
The band’s current road swing will take them from Brantford, Ontario to Vancouver, British Columbia, down to Tucson, Ariz., and through Park City, then snake them across the eastern U.S. and Canada, running almost continuously from Jan. 31 through May 5.
Hallett said that while the group has done some significant tours before, the current swing would be one of the band’s longest.
"We’ve played tons of shows, and we wanted to do a bunch fairly quick," he said.
As Hallet described them, Great Big Sea’s current concerts will consist of an hour-long set focusing on the folk songs the group plays, along with an hour-and-a-half-long set of original material. So, for both the band’s fans and new listeners, the concert should be a new experience.
"We’ve rearranged and rethought a lot of the music," said Hallett.
Orr said the concert should appeal to a wide range of community members.
"I think it crosses generational boundaries and I think I crosses community boundaries," she said.
The show, she added, should be equally popular among Parkites and those from the Wasatch Front. Hallett also said the show should be an accessible one, and he also noted the importance of the band’s live music.
"The key to this band is our love of performance," he said.
From the band’s start, playing between five and seven gigs a week together in college in St. John’s, to the present, Hallett noted that the group has perfected the art of playing live, and that is something audiences can see.
"Great Big Sea is something you do, not something you watch," Hallett noted.
The group, he said, encourages the audience to dance, clap and sing along, interacting with the group.
"It’s not," he said, "about sitting quietly and seeing us play."
Great Big Sea will play the Eccles Center at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18. Tickets for the show range from $15-$50 with discounts available for students and seniors. For tickets or more information, visit http://www.ecclescenter.org or call 655-3114.
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