Take two of Canada’s busiest blues singer-songwriter-musicians and you experience an unforgettable moment of heart, soul, and grit.
Yes, the sound of contemporary blues music will fill the Arden Theatre this coming Friday as the 2021-2022 season’s first live performance.
For the first time since the pandemic hit, Nanaimo’s David Gogo and Toronto’s Steve Marriner are teaming up for a western Canadian tour in support of Gogo’s Oct. 8 release Silver Chalice. Marriner, who is one-third of the popular swamp rockers MonkeyJunk, also released an album, Hope Dies Last, on July 2.
Despite living on opposite sides of the country, the bluesmen have known each other for about 20 years and developed a mutual respect for each other’s work. Marriner even produced and engineered Silver Chalice at Gogo’s home studio during a two-week stay on Vancouver Island in June
“At first when we had the lockdown, it was like a gut punch. I had lots of projects lined up. It was going to be my busiest and most accessible year. And then there was nothing,” said Gogo.
Turning to Music BC, he received funding for the 10-track. As Gogo’s 16th album, Silver Chalice arose from the pandemic and is a comeback narrative where the West Coast musician muses about his life, heritage, and career.
Inspiration is borrowed from an antique cup made in the 1800s passed down from his 95-year-old grandmother. It belonged to his great-great-great uncle, James McKay, a Métis trapper, guide, and builder.
“He was very well liked, very popular. He was 5'8" and almost that weight. He had incredible strength. Besides his feats of strength, he was very agile as a dancer.”
During the lockdown, Gogo listened to a great deal of blues-influenced music from the 1920s to the 1940s. Stories about the silver cup coupled with early blues influences prompted him to write laid back acoustic songs and ballads. Marriner even recorded using vintage instruments to create a more authentic mood.
“I had a feeling when we opened up, we’d be doing limited-capacity shows and I was excited about getting this out there.”
Marriner, who also played six instruments on Silver Chalice, was invited to play a duo with Gogo at Whiterock’s Blue Frog Studio for an audience of 100 people.
“It was fun, it was impromptu, and it was a really great vibe. We said, ‘Maybe we should take this acoustic show on the road and play each other’s songs,” Marriner said.
What started as a light-hearted joke morphed into an eight-stop Alberta-British Columbia tour beginning at the Arden on Oct. 1 and ending in Calgary on Oct. 17.
In addition, Marriner recorded Hope Dies Last, his second solo album, during the pandemic.
“When everything shut down, I was trying to figure out what to do. I used to tour six months of the year, whether it was MonkeyJunk, Colin James, or other musicians. I found I had time on my hands, and I’m not someone who does well with idleness. Over the years, I’d produced work for others. Not the technical aspect. More the director,” said Marriner.
Biting the bullet, he purchased technical gear and attempted to apply all the knowledge he accumulated over the years into becoming a recording engineer. A portion of the 10-track was recorded at The Ganaraska Recording Company, however the multi-instrumentalist completed all the post-production elements.
“It was important. It gave me a positive outlook from the frustrations of the pandemic. Literally overnight, not only my concerts, but the entire industry shut down. It was very jarring. For me the album was a salvation to keep my mind busy. I think of this album as my thesis statement. It’s my summit of records,” said Marriner.
Fifteen musicians, including two support vocalists, were brought in and used at different times.
“What I really like about this album is that it doesn’t flow with any one type of music. It starts with rock and roll. Then it flows to New Orlean’s funk, blues rock, and it ends with a quasi-country song. I picked the songs that were the strongest and tried to sequence them in a way that feels good.”
The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for the Oct. 1 concert are $34 and are available online at https://stalbert.ca/events/calendar/arden-theatre/marriner-gogo/
As part of the Restriction Exemption Program, concert-goers older than 12 will be required to show one of the following: proof of one or two doses of vaccination; proof of a privately-paid negative COVID or rapid test within 72 hours of the event, or documentation for a medical exemption.