Our Vancouver

'Sonic Elder': local music legends rock aging

Chop Theatre presents a musical that showcases rock 'n' roll history of the city of Vancouver in the '50s and '60s.

Bill Sample, Harry Walker, Joni Moore and others still raging against the machine in Vancouver musical

Chop Theatre production about a group of aging musicians reliving their youth 6:16

Emelia Symington Fedy grew up without grandparents and admits she was even a little scared of old people as a child, not having anyone of that generation in her life.

Now there are six seniors she sees daily — and they're really cool — each of them founders of Vancouver's rock 'n roll scene and currently at the Penthouse Night Club for a run of Tim Carlson's Sonic Elder: a musical exploring the process of aging while still wanting to rock.

Fedy along with Anita Rochon run the Chop Theatre, which is putting on the production at the Penthouse.

Most of them got their start playing live for exotic dancers at the Penthouse — the only venue that would allow bands of mixed-race to play together at the time.

"This is a stage that many people in our band have played on — but sometimes 40 or 50 years ago" said Rochon.

Rock 'n' rollers who played Vancouver's Penthouse Night Club 40 or 50 years ago are back for a production of the musical, Sonic Elder. (Chop Theatre)

The players literally take the dancing pole down each night for the production, which runs from September 27th to October 2nd. They put it back up after the show and share the change rooms with the exotic dancers.

"For them it's normal — these are folks who played music for strippers," said Fedy. "Their friends were all strippers. It wasn't this taboo or anti-sexualized thing. That's how how they made money as live music for the entertainment."

Founders of Vancouver rock 'n' roll

Rochon and Fedy have enjoyed working with the people who brought this city the original "youth culture" — people going out dancing to bands. 

They include B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame member Bill Sample, Harry Walker of the High Fives, Joni Moore who's been singing professionally since she was 14, legendary drummer Buff Allen and Ron Kosaka of the Shades.

"It's a beautiful thing to witness these folks who thought they were done," said Fedy.

"They thought their careers were over. They're getting this second chance — a week at the Penthouse where they used to rock 'n roll. It brings tears to my eyes."

Staging Sonic Elder does have its challenges. Snacks need to be diabetic friendly and Rochon says they have to give the players more time to get around.

"I mean it's so fast and furious when you make a new play so we have to be conscious of what we are doing and super clear about limiting rehearsals to five hours and checking in with people."

The audience will get to help the band re-live the past as there will be an opportunity to dance at the end of each performance. 

With files from CBC's Our Vancouver

Watch Anita Rochon and Emelia Fedy tell Our Vancouver's Gloria Macarenko all about Soinc Elder