The Ottawa Sun on Big Sugar
Article by Tim Baines
Big Sugar's Jan. 30 gig in Ottawa isn't just a crank-up-the-guitars thing either. Think reggae. Think mellow. The show is being called The Accoustical Sounds of Big Sugar at the Shenkman Arts Centre. Big Sugar will also perform in a more intimate atmosphere Feb. 1 and 2 at Neat Coffee shop an hour outside of Ottawa in Burnstown.
Big Sugar has been kicking around since 1988, with some commercial success. Capable of churning out an awesome rock song like The Scene, with heavy guitar riffs and pop melodies, Big Sugar doesn't worry so much about pandering to the masses. It's about keeping the sound vital and fresh and creating something that isn't a been-there-done-that sellout.
"Everybody loves to find out you have a song on the radio, but I'm not willing to do just anything to do that," said Big Sugar frontman/lead singer/guitarist Gordie Johnson. It's a lot more satisfying if you can get that when you're making music you believe in.
"We've never used the same setlist two nights in a row. We're musicians first. If it's not interesting for us, why would it be interesting to you? If it ever becomes all greatest hits, where you whore yourself out and play casinos -- nothing against the ones that do that, but I don't go to see those shows. And I don't do it. I don't need the money."
It makes for an interesting dynamic, the ability to draw on a large and diverse songbook and give it a refreshing twist.
"If you look at the people on stage on the Yardstyle tour, eight to 10 of us -- everybody comes from a different background," said Johnson. "There's reggae, folk, religious, bluegrass, jazz ... I guess I'm the emulsifier that blends that all together.
"This tour, our music is so gentle. There are no cables, no pedal boards, no monitors. It's kind of like a family dinner, a spiritual gathering, a musical communion. The entire room is vibing off the old wooden sounds."
MONEY FOR ETHIOPIA
Big Sugar wants to educate a village in Ethiopia.
The Canadian rock icons, who will be in Ottawa Jan. 30 at the Shenkman Arts Centre, have hooked up with World Vision to raise money to give a big assist to a village, Jarso, in Ethiopia.
Singer/guitarist Gordie Johnson says the band is excited to get involved.
"I was homeless twice," he said. "I was young, I struck out on my own. You bruise your knee, you get up. I really have a feeling I'm receiving blessings every day I walk on stage with a guitar in hand.
We get on a bus, go town to town and put on a rock show, I'm blessed.
"Look at where I am. Those little guys don't have a chance. It's not enough for me to just go on a rock and roll tour. So we're targeting a group of kids. I look at their pictures every day. By the end of this tour, I'd like to see a whole village of kids able to get to school."
Fans can make contributions at the merchandise table at the show.
"This is something we can all get done," said Johnson. "We can get all these kids in school. If they don't get to school, they don't have much chance of achievement."