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Welcome home, Arrogant Worms!

Fifteen years of clever satire set against hummable acoustic melodies

By Cindy Filipenko

Who: The Arrogant Worms

Where: MY Millennium Place

When: Tuesday, March 13

Next Tuesday evening musical satirists The Arrogant Worms will get closer to their adopted home town of Pemberton than they have been in years. And while a side trip for the Kingston natives is not on the agenda, their good humour is sure to resonate up Highway 99 from the stage of Whistler’s Millennium Place.

What makes this group of satirical songwriters is the fact that they are the antithesis of their name. Not only are they not arrogant, they are not the least bit pretentious. For example, the incoming call for this interview came in on a pay phone while the group waited for a ferry to whisk them to Pender Island.

Having been part of the Arrogant Worms since 1995, Chris Patterson jokes about still being the new guy.

“I think this is the year they’re finally going to pay me!” said Patterson.

“They” are fellow worms Mike McCormick and Trevor Strong. The two initially partnered with another university buddy in Kingston in 1991 with the goal of doing a few campus radio spots. Within a year they were appearing on CBC radio, their quirky songs a perfect fit for shows like Basic Black and DNTO. That same year, they released the first of their 11 albums, collections that manage to both spoof musical genres and skewer the great universal truths.

For example, there’s their take on children’s music called “Rippy the Gator”. The song’s hero, Rippy, has a habit of going “chomp, chomp, chomp” on his fans. The Worms give folk-loving vegetarians something to chew on with “Carrot Juice is Murder” which equates V8 with genocide.   While even Christian-music fans would be hard pressed not to give in to toe-tapping pleasure of   “Jesus’ Brother Bob.”

While definitely hilarious, The Arrogant Worms are never mean spirited.

“When we’re writing and performing we keep our audience in mind. And it’s always been an all ages audience,” said Patterson.

Today that audience also consists of folk festival fans.

“Somewhere along the way we nosed into the folk festival circuit. It was like we were a palate cleanser or something — and we’re acoustic — so we fit,” he said.

The ability to pick and choose what gigs to play is relatively new to The Worms. Once committed road warriors, doing upwards of 180 shows a year, the group plays half that number these days. McCormick believes that less touring not only has been good for their personal relationships, but for the band itself.

“It can be a long time to be away with the two other guys. Bands always say they breakup because of creative differences, but that’s seldom the case. There’s so many things that can break up a band, usually it’s stuff like, ‘I sit in the middle!’” said Patterson, adding, “I think our wives and significant others actually enjoy us being away two weeks at a time.”

With a name like The Arrogant Worms, the possibility of bad bookings seems inevitable.

“Last year we did this Christmas work party thing. Someone had seen us and thought we’d be great for their company. We got to some hotel ballroom in Toronto to do the show and the person who had booked us had been fired,” he recalled.

After lengthy speeches and people “slapping each other on the back for another year of helping capitalism crush people,” the band took the stage with no introduction while an impatient DJ looked on.

“We got the hook on that one,” admitted Patterson.

Patterson promises that folks attending the Millennium Place show will get a classic Worms’ concert.

“There’ll be songs you know and songs you don’t — and that goes for us as well.”

So how did these guys from Kingston, Ont.   come to call Pemberton, B.C. home? Thank Arthur Black. The band, pre-Patterson, appeared on Basic Black lamenting that Kingston really belonged to The Tragically Hip. A contest was born and the rest is history… Welcome home, Worms.