The return of the great Pumkin 

Folk trio’s performance will be backed up by local children

Who: Pied Pumkin

Where : MY (Millennium) Place Theatre

When: Thursday, Oct. 23, 8 p.m.

Tickets : $17-$20

There are little things we do in the course of everyday life without even considering that they may stick with us for decades to come. Case in point: back in the mid-1970s a trio of feisty folk musicians found themselves at a Vancouver Island pie shop. One of them ordered a slice of pumpkin pie.

There was something funny about the way Joe Mock asked for the dessert recalls Shari Ulrich, straining to remember specifically. The result was the trio, rounded out with Rick Scott, found a name: Pied Pumkin.

The name soon took on a life of its own, becoming synonymous with the band’s zesty arrangements of vocal harmonies over fiddle, guitar, mandolin and dulcimer. Pumkin toured their sound for the next two and a half years, during folk’s heyday from 1974 to 1976, releasing an independent album and building an enthusiastic West Coast following. At the end of the two years they separated – off to pursue other projects – however, the spirit of Pumkin refused to go gently into that musical good night. Whether it was the fervour of the fan base, or the undying chemistry between the group members, reunion was inevitable.

They dipped their toes in the reunion pool with a short tour in the mid-1980s before officially diving back in circa 1998. Five years later, jokes Ulrich, they can’t really say they’re on a reunion tour anymore. Despite the fact that Mock lives in the South of France, Pied Pumkin is officially back together, and their fans, both old and new, couldn’t be more thrilled.

"I’m really surprised how much of a new fan base is being built," says Ulrich. She attributes the staying power of the Pumkin tunes to a dual ability to both draw new crowds and inspire fond reminiscing in the original fan base.

"The music has a spirit like nothing else and it triggers people’s memory of a time that embodied that spirit as well," says Ulrich. "There’s so much joy about the music.

"I know that’s corny," she says sheepishly, "but it makes people feel really good. There’s not a lot out there that does that for people. So I think that’s why they’re still drawn to it."

Of course the extraordinary chemistry between the musicians is unavoidable when analyzing the Pumkin mystique. The band’s timeline reads 1974-2003, but, Ulrich points out, "there’s a bit of a gap in there between 1976 and 1998."

"It was only two and a half years, but it felt like 10 years," she says, reminiscing about the band’s early years. "I was really surprised when Rick pointed that out a few years ago because it felt like this huge chapter not only in my life, but in the audience’s minds as well. We had such an impact. It was like the Pumkin was an era, not just a couple of years."

When they met for their initial reunion performance, Ulrich says the three picked up without missing a beat.

"It was as if we had just played the day before. And our arrangements are very intricate and we were just shocked that memory was still there. There is something really amazing to play music with people you’ve known for that long and have that much history with."

With the band back in action, an entire new generation is getting the chance to carve a piece of the Pumkin for themselves. Whistler folkies, both those who have experienced Pumkin shows past and new Pumkinites in the making, can catch a classic Pied Pumkin performance this Thursday, Oct. 23 at the MY Place theatre.

The show is a special performance with the addition of a children’s choir led by local director Sadie Culliford, singing backup on several songs. The performance starts at 8 p.m. Tickets $17-$20 at the box office. Call 604-935-8410 for more information.

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