Northern Pikes fresh for Arden show
Nostalgia act finds new life in old material
By: Anna Borowiecki
| Posted: Saturday, Feb 09, 2013 06:00 am
Rock N’ Roll United
The Northern Pikes
Saturday, Feb. 16 at 7:30 p.m.
5 St. Anne Street
Tickets: $35. Call 780-459-1542 or purchase online at www.ticketmaster.ca
Every time Mick Jagger announces another Rolling Stones concert, a cumulative shudder creeps across the country. It’s probably just a knee-jerk reaction. After all, who needs another ego-driven nostalgia act hobbling around a stage?
Not so with The Northern Pikes.
Yes, it’s true the pop band hit its heyday more than 20 years ago. But the band’s roots are quintessentially Canadian, and they inject a credible kinship that no flamboyant import can ever hope to duplicate.
And then there’s the music.
Originally hailing from Saskatoon, this prairie band was a favourite on commercial radio and MuchMusic in the mid-1980s to the early 1990s. They delighted audiences with a fresh sound that enticed fans with danceable pop to country-rock to poignant ballads.
“Now we’re a three-piece and that’s made for some exciting changes. We jam out more at concerts. Before we’d plow through our songs. Now the jamming makes for more interesting moments and it’s just as much fun for us as the audience,” says drummer Don Schmid.
Although the band stays away from the frenetic schedule of their peak years, it still plays one-off shows at casinos, concert halls and festivals.
On Saturday, Feb. 16 the power trio composed of Schmid, vocalist Jay Semko and guitarist Bryan Potvin perform Rock N’ Roll United at their inaugural Arden Theatre concert.
Known for singles such as the boppy Teenland, She Ain’t Pretty, Girl With a Problem and Believe the trio intend to play many of their old hits.
While the songs are familiar, the threesome likes to keep songs fresh with different arrangements. As an example, Schmid cites Dancing in a Dance Club.
“Sometimes you have to give a song a rest or try a different arrangement because you’re bored with it,” Schmid explains. “Sometimes it’s healthy to do that and you can come across a great song you would never have thought of. It’s very healthy to stretch your creativity.”
The original lineup was spawned from the burnt offerings of three Saskatoon punk bands – The Idols, Doris Daye and 17 Envelope. Semko, Potvin, Merl Bryck and Glen Hollingshead founded the band and cut their teeth on the prairie bar circuit. Schmid (The Idols) came on board two years later following a “revolving door” of drummers.
He was asked to join the band in 1986 for a mini-concert tour. In one of those incredible flukes, Dave Chappelle of Virgin Records attended one concert and loved the band.
“In the summer of ’86 I joined the band and six months later we had a contract,” Schmid said.
They jumped straight into the gritty, grueling music industry by moving to Toronto.
“We rented an apartment – the four of us plus our sound guy shared a two-bedroom apartment. We would sleep double in beds and on cots. And we would take gigs all along the 401. At that time there were hundreds of places along a one-hour stretch.”
During their tenure with Virgin, The Northern Pikes released four full-length albums – Big Blue Sky (1987), Secrets of the Alibi (1988), Snow in June (1990) and Neptune (1992).
When the foursome signed with Virgin, they wanted to be the next Beatles or Rolling Stones and conquer the world. Hungry for musical domination, they played non-stop for close to a decade. Like mice on a treadmill they recorded, toured, recorded and toured.
At first no one complained. They received rave reviews and opened for Duran Duran and The Fixx. After 10 years of a concentrated road life and non-stop touring, eight Juno Award nominations, four gold records and one platinum, the band called it quits. They had burned out.
But their shared passion for music and the fun memories never died. In fact, The Northern Pikes were inducted into the Canadian Western Music Hall of Fame in Sept. 2012.
“We’re very excited to play at the Arden,” Schmid said. “It’s a venue that’s meant for music concerts. Unlike some places we’ve played, everybody has a good seat and they’ll see the band as never before.”