CHUCK KUEPFER, Staff Reporter
A band that plays songs from the vast catalogue of material recorded by legendary Canadian rocker Neil Young will perform at Maryhill’s Commercial Tavern this Sunday (Oct. 21st).
Sugar Mountain though doesn’t see itself as a tribute band in the traditional sense of the word.
“We don’t always like to consider ourselves a tribute act, I guess most people call us that, but we’re really honouring Neil Young in a different way because we’re all multi-instrumentalists,” said drummer Grant Heywood.
Fronted by Bill Braun, the four-piece band tackles a wide variety of music from Young’s storied four-decade career.
“The nice thing about Bill doing Neil Young stuff is that Bill doesn’t pretend to be or try to be Neil Young,” said Heywood. “He’s just has always sounded like Neil Young, and he’s always liked his music.”
Braun, a talented musician who plays everything from acoustic and electric guitar, to harmonica and piano, grew up listening to the now-legendary singer/songwriter.
“I was at the right age when his first album came out,” recalls Braun. “He had a big influence on me and most of my friends too, and both of my brothers were big fans.”
Braun’s friends always told him he could pull off “the Neil thing. He set to work, and two years of working on Young’s material in his basement were realized at Sugar Mountain’s coming out concert in Stratford this past winter. The band now has series of shows under its belt.
“Everybody seems to like what we do,” says Braun. “I’ve had people that are Neil Young fans and have seen Neil Young, and they think it’s great, and that’s really the biggest compliment they can make.”
While the band covers many of Young’s classics, along with the various genres of music he’s recorded, it doesn’t shy away from lesser-known material.
“We do the whole thing, right from just folky acoustic, right up to country and the in between stuff, the kind of messy, crazy arts stuff…right up to Rockin’ in the Free World,” said Braun. “You have to do some of the stuff people expect. On the other hand, you can’t do just that, because you want to educate the audience to some extent. I think a third of the material we play, the average person who thinks they are a Neil fan probably hasn’t even heard it before.”
“We do the hits of course,” agrees Heywood. “People expect Cinnamon Girl and Southern Man and Rockin’ in the Free World. We do a lot of stuff that people wouldn’t expect but are quite surprised by, like Cortez the Killer, No More, The Painter [and] Human Highway.”
Along with Braun and Heywood, bassist Randy Vanee and guitarist/mandolinist Bryan Wright (who uses a Gretsch White Falcon just like Neil Young), bring renditions of Young’s folk, country, pop and rock music to life. The band concentrates on learning song styles rather than playing them note for note.
“We do a version of After The Gold Rush that has no piano but pedal steel and this little miniature high-strung guitar that I use,” says Braun. “It has a completely different sound, and I’ve asked people if it’s a stretch and they say no it’s sounds like something Neil would do.”
The Commercial Tavern marks a change of venue for Sugar Mountain, which typically plays at theatres.
“I thought it be a neat concept to do an upfront and personal concert,” said Heywood, who plays at the tavern often and is a long-time friend of proprietor Paul Weber. “People really get their money’s worth. We put so much into our show. We pack a lot of Neil’s songs into a two- or three-hour concert. We cover a lot of territory.”
Tickets to Sunday’s show are $15 at the door.
The show runs from 3-6 p.m.
The Commercial Tavern is located at 1303 Maryhill Road.