Tue, Aug 19, 2014.
The Trews are going to do something in Fredericton on Friday, Aug. 22, that the group has never done before. It will during the kick-off show to this year's FredRock festival, happening over the weekend. The first band up at 4:30 will be The Trews. They'll be followed immediately after by ... The Trews! Yes, they are opening for themselves. But each set will be quite different. The first one will The Trews acoustic, where the band strips down the material to acoustic guitars and lighter percussion, an unplugged version of their hits. The second show will feature all the electric highlights from the band's twelve years of recording.
It's not the first time The Trews have played acoustic, and certainly not the first electric, but it's the debut of this format featuring both. Several years back, the group first developed its acoustic show, as a way to move out of bars and arenas, and into soft-seat venues. It was such a hit, a live album and DVD came out of it, 2009's Acoustic-Friends and Total Strangers, recorded at Toronto's Glenn Gould Theatre with no overdubs. Since then, the group has revisited the acoustic tour idea a couple of times.
Now comes the idea of a split show. According to singer Colin MacDonald, it was at the request of FredRock: "I thought it was a really cool idea," says MacDonald. "And Fredericton is the very first. We come to Fredericton a lot so we like to shake it up. Last time we played there, it was in the Playhouse, and we had Rick Mercer join us on drums (recorded for his TV show, The Mercer Report). It was so fun, watching him sweating it out backstage, watching YouTube and trying to figure out the drum part to Not Ready To Go. You can't get a bigger celebrity in Canada than Rick Mercer."
The idea of the split show fits right in with the group's new album, simply called The Trews. It has some of the band's classic rocking and good humour, but also the softer side as well. "That was definitely at the urging of (producer) Gavin Brown," explains MacDonald. "There are a couple of songs even without drums on them. He said he wanted to get 'that acoustic thing you guys do', he really pushed it. We even added cello to it. We were cool with it, it is a big part of our sound, we do acoustic tours every couple of years so we were down with it."
MacDonald says the FredRock show will be a trial balloon for this fall. "We're planning on maybe doing it again on the road, we're really looking forward to it," MacDonald confirms. "It's going to be interesting to see how we do it. We bring a lot of energy to the acoustic stage anyway, so it shouldn't be hard to transfer that to the electric side." MacDonald says changing formats each tour not only keeps it interesting for the musicians, it's a way to stay in competition with other groups. "And that's pretty much the way we work, and the way you have to work to keep moving forward in Canada. There are so many great bands that play across this country, we know we have to shake it up each time. It's so hard to stay afloat. I've been lucky to be with three other guys who are so invested in this band. We're into it, we know you have to be driven, to come up with new ideas, to work hard all the time."
Antigonish's hard-working Trews will take the stage at 4:30 on Friday, Aug. 22, as FredRock kicks off. Ticket info is at http://www.fredrockfest.com/
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Bob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).