Aging like fine April Wine 

Canadian rockers headline GO Fest on May 15; other performers announced for long weekend

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Rock on April Wine is headlining GO Fest on Friday, May 15.
  • Photo submitted
  • Rock on April Wine is headlining GO Fest on Friday, May 15.

Just back from a short tour with Blue Oyster Cult in Illinois, April Wine's guitarist and vocalist Brian Greenway is moving large branches around his home near Montreal because hydro workers had cut back the trees on his property while he was away.

"The guys from Blue Oyster Cult are nice fellas, we've known them for years and get along really well," he says.

Then he explains that his community brings out the wood chippers for the spring tidy up, sounding more like an easygoing 63-year-old suburbanite than a hard rocking Canadian Music Hall of Famer.

But he's both, actually.

Greenway has played with April Wine since 1977; the band itself started in Halifax in 1969.

April Wine is one of those Canadian rock bands that crossed the border — with appreciative fans in the U.S. and beyond in the 1970s and '80s — thanks to power ballad hits like "You Could Have Been a Lady," "Sign of the Gypsy Queen," "I Like to Rock," and "Tonite is a Wonderful Time to Fall in Love."

The band was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2010.

Having gone through many incarnations over the years, April Wine is now made up of vocalist-guitarist Greenway, original member Myles Goodwyn, plus Richard Lanthier and Roy Nichol.

They perform at the Great Outdoors Festival (GO Fest) at the main stage in Village Square on Friday, May 15 at 7:30 p.m.

The touring regime is a little easier these days, done in quick bursts for the last decade, Greenway says.

"The days of going out for eight, nine weeks at a time are gone. The market has changed and there are not many shows during the week. We don't do bars anymore; we just do theatres and casinos, outdoor shows," he says.

Loyal fans and a strong back catalogue have helped the members of April Wine weather the stormy changes in the music industry over the years.

He is interested in hearing how bands make do these days because he doesn't get many opportunities to meet with younger rockers who can access more markets and produce more music themselves thanks to technological changes, but who are doing so for less money than ever before.

"Bands that are starting up now have to depend on fans, friends and family for attendance," Greenway laughs.

"It is easier for anybody to be a musician. Do it yourself, do it online. You can do well. (Sales are smaller) and that is the case for us, too. There's hardly a record industry anymore, no more stores. I buy all my stuff online, too."

These changes became gradually apparent to April Wine's members, Greenway adds.

"There are generations of young people who don't listen to our kind of music. Thank God for the Boomers and their kids, because they grew up listening to this music and had a good education, musically."

Greenway says he doesn't think about whether or not they are elder statesmen of rock.

"I don't want the dream to be over, you know? I'm 64 this year and I don't feel it. If you want to be old, you can be old at 20. It's all about attitude," he says.

The band isn't writing new material at this point. Greenway and Goodwyn both have song ideas but Greenway says no one would buy a new album, as it wouldn't get radio play.

"But we have a good living. I'm not going to get rich on it but we're doing OK," Greenway says.

Asked how the relationship is with fans these days, Greenway laughs and says: "Well, the restraining orders are gone. Kidding.

"The shows we did in the U.S., we hadn't been there five years, and the response was very, very good. They're older people with a sprinkling of younger people. You can tell they're musicians. They want to see the guitar band.

"Canadian fans are different from American fans, they get more into the musician side of it, whereas American fans are into the event. And European fans are into the music side, they want to know the technical stuff of how a song is played and why. I love to tour Europe for that reason. 'How'd you get your tone on the guitar for that.' It's interesting."

GO Festival organizers have announced the other music acts for the May long weekend event.

Victoria-based indie rock band Current Swell perform at the main stage in Village Square on Saturday, May 16 at 7:30 p.m.

On Sunday, May 17 there are two performances, by singer-songwriter Dustin Bentall and Kendel Carson at 7:30 p.m., and Barney Bentall, Jim Byrnes and John Mann at 8:15 p.m. at the main stage in Village Square.

Monday is a good day for local talent, with Will Ross Band at 2 p.m., Dakota Pearl at 3 p.m. and Willa at 4 p.m. at the main stage in Village Square.



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