photos by Jay Davy and Bernadette Connors.
Everyone has their list. The Bucket List. The If I List. The Lottery List. Whatever you call it, that list of things to do before you shuffle off this mortal coil (and what dreams may come after, har har.) Mine is–and has been for a long time–mostly comprised of artists that I wish I could see perform. They include Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Big Sugar. Of course, there’s a gigantic list–Miles Davis, Return to Forever, Blind Melon, Lenny Breau, Zappa–but top 3 are probably going to be Jimi, Janis, and Gordie (Johnson of Big Sugar.) Two of them are dead, and I had given up hope of ever seeing Gordie play with his original lineup again, given his complete rejection of the Canadian music industry and his flight to Texas some years back.
Well, never say never. This summer, Gordie came back with… well, part of the original lineup of Big Sugar–bassist Garry Lowe and multi-instrumentalist Mr. Chill–playing the odd festival show. And I had tried to get out to see them a few times, but things kept getting in the way.
I had given up. Then, a few weeks ago, I got a call in the early afternoon, just out of the shower on my way in to work. It was mostly garbled, but I was able to discern the last sentence. “So, yeah, you owe me for the ticket, so if you could pay me soon, that’d be great.” Clik. Once I called Dave back, I learned that Big Sugar had announced a surprise (to us) show an hour from us, with The Trews as their backing band and opening act.
Now, every once in a while, you get to cross something off your Lottery List. On Thursday, I did. I’ve seen Gordie Johnson play a few times, and I dig The Trews, but packed into Barrie’s biggest bar (which is a medium to small sized bar by Toronto standards) roughly 400 people got to hear the band rip through all the classics as well as the “Heated” album all the way through. I’ve got one less item on my list, and another band added to the list of “See Every Time They Come To Town.” I’m still blown away by the professionalism, the taste, and the showmanship Big Sugar brought to the stage. A true artist is a pleasure to watch, no matter what his discipline.
The set was jammy and loose without being sloppy. The Trews were tight, well-rehearsed, and exciting, but Big Sugar were an experience. The night was intense, simultaneously intimate and interactive, with Gordie bringing up the most beautiful woman in the front row to dance with him for a song, and part of the band even hanging out afterwards for photos and to chat with fans who stayed. However long it’s been since they played, Big Sugar are a bad act to miss, and an even tougher one to follow.