Andy Maize

Ridin' Shotgun with the 'Diggers

The Skydiggers
with Holly McNarland
The Starfish Room
Vancouver, B.C.
April 18th, 1996

Review by P. Freako
Photography by Suzanne Goodwin

Vancouver's own Holly McNarland opened up the show and delivered a set of passionate, personal stories that garnered much applause from the large throng in attendance. Sporting a new band which features Adam Drake on drums (you'll recognize him from Art Bergmann's band), she laid down a set of songs which included those from her current EP, Sour Pie. Her voice resonated powerfully through the Starfish Room, leaving those at the front of the stage mesmerized and lost in the pages of her stories, while Adam, bassist Mark Pullyblank and guitarist Sid Johnson had us noddin' our heads and stampin' our feet as they attacked their instruments during the heavier numbers. Finding also a melodic touch at times, McNarland and Co. personally delivered a variety of songs that left us hungry for more as I have to agree with the sentiments of the guy beside me: "Pretty awesome, huh?" Yep. Bring on the Skydiggers, I'm in the mood for more music!

Holly McNarland Tonight was the first of three performances for the Skydiggers at the Starfish Room. Last November, when the 'Diggers were in town at the infamous bounco-drome (a.k.a. the Commodore Ballroom), they reveled in the big stage and the grand setting of the huge crowd, so I was curious to see how they would relate to tonight's gathering in a more intimate setting. The set started sluggishly with the band trying to find their rhythm, and the usually hypnotizing anecdotes of lead singer Andy Maize didn't seem to fully capture the audience in his literary web. It took the band a while to get used to the more casual setting, but they and the crowd eased into a groove as the 'Diggers performed material from their latest disc, Road Radio, including the first single from the album, "What Do You See?" The packed house was now in the mood, screaming requests at the stage and answering the rhetorical questions that Mr. Maize presented us with between songs. This warmed my heart, because Vancouver crowds usually suck; tonight, however, they ruled with a lively step and a vocal presence. This energy seemed to spur the Skydiggers on, and even the usually silent Peter Cash was swept into chatting with the crowd by the mid-point of the set.

In November, I had a chance to talk to guitarist/singer Josh Finlayson, who told me that on a bad day the 'Diggers were a good band and on a good day that they were a great band. They were a good band for the first half of this show. But, hey! They had two-and-a-half nights to go, and they were just getting warmed up. The latter half of their set was filled with familiar tunes from the past Peter Case such as "A Penny More" and "Monday Mornin' Blues," which had the packed room jumping and dancing with frenzied glee. Everybody was into it and even Josh jumped in and sang a couple of songs. Andy Maize brought out the megaphone and, standing in front of the Cadillac fender with the functioning and blinding headlights that sat in front of the drum kit, blared out vocals during various points throughout the set. "Ahh, more special effects than you can shake a stick at. We spared no expense when we came to Vancouver." His uniquely quirky rhetoric now had the crowd in his web and, as we savoured the "hits" from previous albums, we found ourselves being escorted into a comfort zone. Not for long, though, as the Skydiggers were in the homestretch, and consequently turned it up a notch for the last songs of the set, leaving us spent like a bowl lined with the icing that didn't make it to the cake. When introducing the band, Andy made a special intro for North Vancouver's son, bassist Ronnie von Jonnie, and we welcomed him home with open vocal chords and let him lick the bowl that was our gratitude for a show that left us sweating and smiling and streaming into the cool Vancouver air. I figure they've warmed up now, leaving the forecast hot and steamy for the weekend.

First published in Drop-D Magazine on May 2, 1996

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