When a band comes along that has fans and critics alike raving, well, that’s a band that is clearly going places.
And that pretty much describes the 24th Street Wailers.
“This is just great, gritty, fun live stuff.” (Dan Aykroyd, host of House of Blues Radio Hour)
“…The 24th Street Wailers are committed to the music, continually write better new material, and bring a sense of joy to the stage..” (Holger Peterson, CBC’s Saturday Night Blues)
One of the places the Wailers are going is Morrisburg, to the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage, on Saturday, November 2, at 7 p.m.
Mark your calendar.
This break out band is made up of Lindsay Beaver, gut bucket singer/drummer, Emily Burgess on lead guitar, Jon Wong on sax and Michael Archer (Lindsay’s husband) on harmony bass. Together, they are creating original, exciting and heartfelt blues-based music that is winning them a huge fan following. They’ve been touring across Canada and parts of the western United States since the first of April.
I had the opportunity to talk with singer/musician Michael Archer, while the Wailers were in Jasper.
“Yes,” Archer said, “we’ve been pretty constantly on the road, and we’ve been performing for a big mix of audiences, 15 festivals and many clubs.”
Part of the dynamic appeal of the Wailers is the strong bond the musicians have been successful in establishing with their audiences. It’s very clear that their music speaks to people.
“We often invite folks to dance in our shows: when we were in Wolfville, we actually had a big group dancing and singing on stage along with us. Audiences are as much a part of the concert experience, I think, as we are. Keeping a concert exciting and fresh is such a big part of our performance.”
“We never,” Archer said, “play at an audience.”
The 24th Street Wailers have been together for a little over three years. Among them, they have garnered a great many individual honours and accolades and each brings powerful musical skills to the unique Wailers sound.
I asked Archer what drew the group to the blues.
“It’s just great music,” he said. “I think it influences everything else musically. But we also are very into R&R. Blues and R&R were like the punk music of the 50s, which kind of matches our personalities and how we perform on stage,” he laughed.
“We find that audiences react extraordinarily to the blues; people get involved and excited.”
What establishes the 24th Street Wailers’ uniqueness among blues performers?
“I believe the energy we bring to the music helps set us apart. We are not just playing traditional slow blues (although that’s great music too!): we are drawn to the more energetic numbers, the style of artists like Magic Sam and Nick Curran. It’s hard to describe, but we are mashing R&R and blues into a new 21st century feel,” he laughed.
The Wailers have been earning critical and fan kudos for their original songs; Archer says that there are definitely overtones of traditional blues themes in their writing, “but we like some humour in our songs,” he added, “not just ‘we’re depressed and you have to be too’.”
He shared the story of one of their songs, which revolves around their 20 year old tour van, with its shag carpet, the awning that rolls out from the side, the big eyelashes around the headlights. “Frankly, we can’t get a name for that song that sticks, but we have a lot of fun with it.”
Many of the group’s songs are born and developed on the road in that same old van.
“Lindsay and Emily bring a new idea to us, explaining ‘this is the feel we’re going for in this song.’ Jon and I perk up, and we play the piece together on the road. We find the best way to get a new piece of music out there is to play it together, sing it together, feel the song out.”
Where did the band’s name come from?
“The fact is, three of us still live on 24th street in Etobicoke,” Mike Archer said, deadpan, “and we just, well, ‘wail.’”
Sandra Whitworth of the board of the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage is clearly excited about the band’s visit to Morrisburg.
“The 24th Street Wailers is one of the most fun bands touring Canada right now…I’m not sure that any group could make us feel so happy listening to the blues, and I will be very surprised if we don’t have people dancing in the aisles at this show.”
The 24th Street Wailers will be performing at the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage on Saturday, November 2, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $18 in advance, or $20 at the door and are available at The Basket Case, Morrisburg, Strung Out Guitars, Cornwall, or on line at www.st-lawrencestage.com