By Megan Voss
A normally loud rock band is going to be a little more sweet this time around.
Big Sugar is making a Sherwood Park stop in a tour that has taken the group across the country, set to take on Festival Place on Tuesday, Feb. 24 and Thursday, Feb. 26.
“This is a very different tour for us. Usually, we play bigger, outdoor kind of places… for rock shows,” explained singer and guitarist Gordie Johnson.
“This tour is an all-acoustic tour. We have an eight-piece acoustic group that comes out and does the entire show. So, we’re looking forward to playing in a nice-sounding hall like the one ya’ll have there.”
Thus far, Johnson said the tour has been rewarding.
“This is the first time (our fans) have had the chance to see us in this format, which is an all-acoustic presentation,” he said.
“We’re playing songs from our very early catalogue that’s more bluesy and rootsy, and people haven’t heard us do that in a long time…. What we normally do is very loud. We’re one of the loudest rock bands on the circuit — we have a reputation for that. This is a more theatrical presentation — it’s more intimate.”
He continued: “We have more of a chance to sing together, and the way we play together is easier. It’s just gentler, the way we’re playing, we can all hear ourselves and see each other, and with an eight-piece band, having that level of connection is rare.”
While the group will continue to play as an electric band as well, Johnson said it was a good introduction for the group to play acoustically in public.
“We’ve always rehearsed this way or prepared for sessions, or writing songs,” he noted.
“It’s a very easy way to rehearse, especially in a small space. We had not even got out and made a presentation of it in front of anybody. We’d done it for years and years, but this is the first time we’ve shared…. Every time we would go to a small radio station or a morning TV show, things like that, we would play in that format, and just loved it — it’s so easy to do, and our focus can really be on the music.”
Big Sugar had a year full of travel in 2014, as it made its first stop in Europe in 15 years.
“We were invited to be on a TV show called Rockpalast in Germany. They asked us to go and be on their TV show and play as part of a festival, so we went and did that,” the guitarist said.
“After we did that, we got more invites to come and play, so we ended up going to Europe three times, as well as doing other Canadian dates. We made this acoustic record called Yard Style… it’s been a really busy year.”
The coming year doesn’t look like it will be slowing down anytime soon, either.
“At the end of this tour, I go home to Texas, and the rest of the band comes with me, and we go and play a few shows at South by Southwest and then we’ll be in Texas, working on music for a while,” he noted.
“We’re going back to Europe in the spring, we have lots of Canadian festival dates in the summer, I imagine the rest of my year will be very busy.”
The group’s performance at Festival Place has more meaning than the show itself.
“We are working with World Vision,” Johnson said.
“They approached us right at the beginning of the tour before we started, and asked if we would take up the case of a small village in Ethiopia. We agreed on a small village, and what we’re asking our fans to do, is to come to our merch table, say hi to us, and look at pictures of our kids in the village, and sponsor these kids so that they have a chance to go to school. Right now, the kids in the village don’t go to school. It’s a small village, there’s about 150 kids, and we are more than halfway now to putting them all in a school. This is a really big deal for us. It gives our tour such a lovely focus. That’s our ambition everyday, is to get kids sponsored.”
While Big Sugar’s performance on Feb. 24 is sold out, there are tickets remaining for the show on Feb. 26. Tickets range from $42 to $46, and can be purchased at the Festival Place box office (780-449-3378) or online at festivalplace.ab.ca.