The road to Ska Fest part three, listening primer, here:


Watching a Blackberry Wood show is an exhilarating, slightly jarring experience. You don’t know when or where they came from. You don’t know how to define what you’re hearing or seeing. “For some people, we just say we’re gypsy-punk band. A lot of people say that we remind them of Gogol Bordello a little bit,” says front man Kris Wood, graciously speaking to me from home in Vancouver on his birthday — a day he should by all rights keep to himself. “But for most people, we just use this little phrase — for some reason people seem to understand it, it seems to conjure the right picture in their mind — and that phrase is ‘alt-country-gypsy-circus.’”

It’s those two words at the end of that phrase, “gypsy-circus,” that call the most attention. The musical traditions of both can be traced back to long before we had the ability to create sound in a studio, long before there were records. In all his research, it is in the circus, the vaudevillian, that lively period somewhere between 1910 and 1930, that Wood found the inspirational seeds that would eventually blossom into Blackberry Wood. “One of the most important things about the recordings that we have from that era of music is that they’re archive recordings of people who were live musicians. There was the blues guitar player who was the life of the house party, the country band that was the hall/dance part and there was the jazz piano player who entertained people at the brothels. All these people were live musicians,” says Wood, stating an obvious but all-too overlooked fact.

“I think something happened to the recording industry after that time. Well actually, the recording industry was invented. I think that really changed music, and I think it’s turned around a bit with the power being taken away from the recording industry by the internet, and I’m really stoked about that,” reflects Wood before adding, “One reason I’m really stoked is because we put on a really good live show, and that’s the only thing you can’t get on the internet.”

The live show of Blackberry Wood is truly something to behold. At last year’s Ska Fest, they were the surprise highlight for me, sucking me into the dancing pack of music lovers down at the front of the stage. Theirs is a show that wins over almost anyone who comes in contact with it and the band is willing to travel as far as it must to bring the music to the masses. They’re in the middle of a massive tour (with exceedingly few breaks) covering parts of Canada and the U.K. “We just got back from a huge tour all the way up to Dawson City and back. I’m sure it was at least 7,000 km all together. That’s near the top of Canada. Going up those highways we saw 59 buffalo, 25 black bears, one grizzly, one wolf, a bunch of foxes. You know, it’s an adventure for us.”

It was up there, in the far reaches of Canada’s north, in Dawson City, that Blackberry Wood truly left its mark. “Thursday was okay. Friday, like half the town was there at the end, and then the word spread and Saturday night was just jam-packed. Something that never happens happened,” recalls Wood of one of the band’s ultimate triumphs. “There’s this tradition of going to the Pit Pub for last call. So basically, everybody leaves the show, no matter what band is playing or anything, and goes to the pub. No one was at the Pit. No one left the gig. Everybody stayed for our show!”


Blackberry Wood at Victoria Ska Fest w/ Sierra Leone Refugee All-Stars

Wednesday, July 10, Ships Point (Inner Harbour)

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