Volume 90, Issue 75

Thursday, February 06, 1997



Horse turds on the road

Road Apples
At The Spoke
Jan. 31

Performing as a cover band is a legitimate way for a band to mould itself into a cohesive unit. (Both The Beatles and The Grateful Dead got their start as R & B cover bands with few originals).

But for an act to present itself as the consummate tribute to the official band of the true north strong and free (that's The Tragically Hip for those of you who have been stranded on Baffin Island for the last decade) is a bold move that in the case of Kingston's Road Apples, is entirely unwarranted.

Besides, no one's interested in something you didn't do.

Although one can't fault the band for its taste in music, the number of liberties Road Apples takes with the Hip's material only proves this cover band exudes the definition of its name (road apples = horse droppings on a highway).

The lead singer's feeble attempts at mimicking Gord Downie's stage antics were embarrassing to say the least. While regurgitating some of Downie's live ramblings on the state of Canadiana or the mental health of Shamu the killer whale are always welcome, to insert your own original lines into open-ended Hip songs like "At the Hundredth Meridian" and "Highway Girl" only diminishes the impact and enjoyment of the songs themselves.

Road Apples' battle cry of the mediocre is further exemplified by the metamorphosis into its alter-ego, Vagabond Groove. No consummate Hip tribute could ever include the painfully-average originals that couldn't step on Kim Mitchell's feet any harder if they tried.

The fact that this band is still touring as Road Apples when Vagabond Groove has an indie CD comprised entirely of original material, says something about the quality (or lack there of) of Vagabond Groove's own music.

As is the case at roadhouses from Victoria to St. John's, when well-fueled Canadians put 10 bucks in just to get their tank topped off (Labatt 50 seems to be the petrol of choice) by a cover band, it is wise for the band to mix in a few Hip tunes with other classic rock favourites.

What isn't smart is for a band like Road Apples to dig its own grave by opening itself up to the inevitable criticisms and comparisons that lie herein – not to mention the projectiles tossed onstage by drunken Hipsters thoroughly pissed off that they actually paid five bucks to see these guys.

–Michael Dacks

To Contact The Entertainment Department: gazent@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1997