Legendary Canadian rockers including Moe Berg join forces to form the TransCanada Highwaymen
L-R: Moe Berg, Chris Murphy, Craig Northey and Steven Page at the TransCanada Highwaymen
I remember watching the Pursuit of Happiness play to a couple hundred people crammed into a venerable rock institution dubbed Call The Office in London, Ont. Here, Moe Berg unleashed another in a string of incredible live performances highlighted by now-iconic tunes such as "I'm an Adult Now"and "Cigarette Dangles." It was the early '90s, and live rock in splendidly crappy, beer-soaked clubs across the country was where it was at. Some of the country's best bands, including the likes of the Tragically Hip, Rheostatics, Sloan, Lowest of the Low, Odds and Barenaked Ladies turned the Canuck sound on its head.
Many artists from that era continue to ply their trade, or have had too many reunion shows to count because the fans just can't let them go. In this swirl of whiskey-drenched memories and hot licks comes the TransCanada Highwaymen, a band composed of four former band leaders from that indie rock heyday: Berg of The Pursuit of Happiness, Chris Murphy of Sloan, Steven Page formerly of Barenaked Ladies and Craig Northey of Odds.
Between then and now, although the band has never officially broken up, Berg developed an aversion to performing live and was one of the few from that era who didn't end up on the reunion circuit — although there were a handful of shows and some greatest hits compilations sprinkled over the past couple decades.
"It was really just because I was anxious about having to go on stage and performing and I didn't look forward to it," says the Toronto-based music producer. "It's the thing that I love the most for the most of my life, so I transferred my energy to producing. I figured I was still in music, still being creative, so why do something you don't really feel great about doing?"
But, here he is surrounded by three of his favourite contemporaries churning out all the four bands' greatest hits on a tour that launches in St. Catharines on April 19, and hits Richmond Hill on April 27.
The idea for the show is credited to Toronto theatrical producer Jim Millan who presented the concept of four band leaders from an iconic era getting together on stage playing hits and telling war stories from a countless number of cross-country tour adventures. And the first four guys on the list jumped at the chance.
The only real challenge has been rehearsing, given just Berg and Chris Murphy are in Toronto, while Northey lives in Vancouver and Page in upstate New York.
"We'll be ready to go, I guess is the short answer," says Berg, who says he's just happy to be back in a band.
"What I miss most about TPH is just that camaraderie. I liked everybody in the band and I remember MIchael Jordan saying the same thing when he retired, that what he missed most was being with the guys," says Berg. "It becomes a family, sort of, I guess. We're not like that yet, but I like being wiht the guys, playing music and cracking jokes. It's a great environment to be in. The show is a ton of fun, it's not one of those songwriters in the round."
For those in need of a quick refresher, or even an introduction to the caliber of cool we are talking about, check out a song from each band below starting with the homespun video for "I'm An Adult Now" that changed everything for The Pursuit of Happiness.
"Underwhelmed" by Sloan
"Eat My Brain" by Odds
The Yellow Tape, by Barenaked Ladies