There’s a certain transportive quality to the music of Motown that has a way of taking you back in time.
“I think it’s the simplicity in the arrangements,” says Eric Tsang, manager and sax player for Vancouver’s own Phonix Band. “That is a very distinct feature of the Motown era. You hear the first couple notes and it transports you back to that first time you heard the music. That’s why we play this kind of music, because we fell in love with it the first time we heard it.”
Voted as Vancouver’s “best wedding band,” The Phonix Band’s high-energy live show has a transportive quality of its own, blending some of the most beloved soul, funk and R&B tunes of yesteryear with infectious dance moves and stories behind the songs. More than just a cover band, Phonix is an experience unto itself, one it will be bringing to the Maury Young Arts Centre stage on June 17 for Arts Whistler’s Time Machine Party.
“The experience of going back in time a little has always been our thing. We want to make our show special and a little different from your normal, everyday, turn-on-your-radio experience. Everyone’s doing that all day anyway, so why not make it a little more special?” says band leader and trumpet player Reuben Avery.
Primarily made up of old college friends who met at Capilano University, the members graduated with music degrees in hand wondering what was next. Initially, they started a Tower of Power tribute band, but that didn’t last long. The band got involved in the wedding market pretty early on, and soon enough, “we found our groove,” Avery says—and they did it in their own distinct way.
“We’re always trying to strike that balance between giving the audience something they know and recognize but also going down the unbeaten path here and there, showing people something they might not have heard and taking them on a little journey.”
Along with their dynamic live show, the nine-piece Phonix Band has also proven adept at the business of music. They own their own agency that regularly books entertainment for several landmark Vancouver and Whistler restaurants and hotels, including the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, Westin and River Rock Casino.
Of course, with the kinds of large gigs the band plays regularly featuring 100 or more people in the audience, the pandemic put an abrupt pause on its live shows, giving the band time to hone its music library and launch a successful app, called Back On Stage, that gives musicians the tools to manage their bookings, crew schedules, payouts and even set lists.
“We put it out there and now we have thousands of musicians around the world to help them get more gigs and automate their music business workflow on the back end of their business,” says Tsang. “A lot of the time, people think, ‘Oh, musicians just get onstage and play.’ But they don’t think of musicians as actual businesspeople, as entrepreneurs.”
The Time Machine Party kicks off at 8 p.m. on Friday, June 17. Doors are at 7 p.m. Pre-sale tickets are $20, while general admission is $25, available at
showpass.com/aw-live-the-phonix. The event is 19-plus.