Don’t let the end of summer give you the blues — bash them away at the 18th-annual Vancouver Island Blues Bash, taking over Victoria’s Inner Harbour from Sept. 1 to 3.
This year’s lineup features contemporary blues guitarist Joe Louis Walker (Sun., Sept. 2, 7:30pm at Ship Point, $30) and Island all-star David Gogo (Sat., Sept. 1, 7:30pm at Ship Point, $25).
Playing with The Expanded Band — a six-piece complete with female backup vocalists — Gogo is getting the rare opportunity to play some of the hits from his latest, critically acclaimed, Juno-nominated album Soul Bender (incidentally named after a Fulltone distortion pedal in the studio at the time of recording).
“We’re going to be flushing it out,” says Gogo. “Back home I’ve been running a trio lately, but we’re going to add Rick Hopkins on keyboards and we’re going to have two hot female backup singers, so that allows us to do some songs off the album that I haven’t normally been able to do live … and just offer people something a little different because Blues Bash is special.”
Soul Bender is Gogo’s 11th album and some of his strongest work to date. The album features four Gogo originals and some fresh takes on classics by Elmore James (“Please Find my Baby”), The Doors (“The Changeling”) and Michael Jackson (“The Way You Make Me Feel”).
“I’ve been touring a lot and when we went to make this record I didn’t have a lot of time to write, so rather than put a mediocre original song on, I’d rather put on a bitchin’ cover song. That being said, I think the originals on the album are some of the best I’ve written, but I didn’t have as many as I normally would.”
“I’m always listening to music and I try to get to the root of the song and figure out where it’s coming from and a lot of these songs have a blues root to them.”
Gogo was at a Serious Coffee location south of Nanaimo when Jackson’s hit song caught his attention.
“The beat struck me. It’s a blues shuffle beat,” says Gogo. “When we went into the studio, I said to the band, ‘get it out of your mind that you ever heard this song before’ … It was difficult because people couldn’t get that original out of their mind … but we all finally figured out what it needed and I think we pulled it off.”
The album has a predominately live feel with expanded solos and instrumentals that make it sound more like a concert than a recording, and Gogo says that happened on purpose. His team was trying to recreate the magic from his hugely successful album Skeleton Key, which he calls one of his strongest.
“I have a pretty good reputation for putting on a good live show, and sometimes that’s hard to capture in the studio, because A) you don’t have the audience and B) it’s hard to capture that nervous energy, so what we tried to do is have everyone set up to play live together … we wanted to keep that live spontaneous feel in the studio, which can be hard to do … we decided that we’d just set up to play live and give ’er, like we say in Canada,” says Gogo, adding, “There are a lot of first or second takes.”
It’s been six years since Gogo played the Blues Bash. “Anytime I’ve been involved it’s a fantastic event and a beautiful location,” says Gogo. But he won’t be home for long.
“I get home the night before, do the show, and then I get three days to do my laundry before heading to Europe on tour,” he says.
Don’t miss this chance to see Gogo wail with the Expanded Band at Blues Bash, because it will be his last local show of the summer.
Vancouver Island Blues Bash features three days of live blues and R&B in Victoria’s Inner Harbour.
Each day features free shows from noon until 5pm at Ship Point. Tickets for the two headliners are available at the Victoria Jazz Society office (250-388-4423) no service charges, Lyle’s Place, Ditch Records and the McPherson Box Office (250-386-6121 or online at rmts.bc.ca). Full schedule at jazzvictoria.ca. M