Up and at ’em 

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The Clumsy Lovers’ sonic moonshine makes the people move

Who: The Clumsy Lovers

Where: Boot Pub

When: Saturday, Feb. 28

Tickets: $10

The Clumsy Lovers play the music that makes the people dance.

Raucous good time tunes, too Celtic to be purely bluegrass, too bluegrass to be purely Celtic and too rock ’n’ roll to care one way or the other.

It’s the opposite of the shoe-gazer college rock that inspires lethargic, contemplative head bobbing accompanied by slight shifting of the feet. When the Clumsy Lovers come to town you’re gonna dance like you’re drunk and barefoot at a summertime outdoor wedding.

"It’s totally great to make the people dance," professes bass player and founding member Chris Jonat. "That’s basically what our band was about and what it still is about. We do find ourselves in some contexts where it’s a sit-down/listening-type situation. That can be fun as a change of pace but we definitely still gravitate toward the hyper scenes."

"Hyper" is the least of what the Vancouver-based band has been called. Try "supercharged, genre-hopping fiddle and banjo-fuelled folk rock," or "high-speed, blow-your-mind crazy," or, a personal favourite, "speed-metal hillbilly polka."

Churning out the musical moonshine alongside Jonat are the engaging Andrea Lewis on fiddle and vocals, Gord Robert on drums, Trevor Rogers on vocals, guitar and harmonica and the newest member, banjo and mandolin player Jason Homey, a 2001 addition to the Lover lineup.

Since emerging from basement jam spaces in Lower Mainland suburbia, the band has built itself up the old-fashioned way – indie recordings and marathon North American tours. It has culminated in the latest album After the Flood , originally an independent release in September 2003 that was picked up by Vancouver’s Nettwerk Records and re-released on Feb. 10.

Flood is a high-energy good time jam, true to form with the odd Clash guitar riff or reggae groove or summer camp song snippet thrown in for smiles.

But it’s also an evolution for the band, showcasing a less manic Lover sound. We’re not talking Barry Manilow balladeering. It’s more of a baby step down the sonic speed-o-meter, but it’s a step down nonetheless.

"We definitely want to be really high energy but we don’t want to just be that," Jonat confirms. "There’s four or five songs that are at least mid-tempo, if not slower.

"But yeah, I’d say the previous records were a bit more wild, for lack of a better word."

The band’s Whistler date is a link in a chain of shows throughout Western Canada. Springtime will see the Lovers head South to all corners of the U.S. of A., where Jonat says the band has been received enthusiastically.

Even though they’ve come of age in an era that has fostered mainstream interest in both Celtic and Bluegrass music, Jonat says the Lovers trajectory has so far been independent of the hype, something he chalks up to their consistent genre-bending.

"We’re such a hybrid of things," he muses. "We’ve got kind of a Celtic sound, and there was a Celtic explosion about five years ago in Canada and we managed to miss out on that. And I think we’ve more or less missed out on the O Brother Where Art Thou thing too because we’re not really bluegrass. We’ve just sort of been developing our grassroots, as opposed to a specific trend, which is good because when that trend dies, our sound just doesn’t go away with it."

Saturday’s show at the Boot is shaping up to be a rocker since the rough-edged local purveyor of punk, rock, and dancehall world beat lends itself to the full-out dancing the Lovers’ music characteristically inspires. It’s something Jonat says the band has come to appreciate more and more as their growing profile deems them worthy of more upscale venues.

"In the old days we started playing pubs and stuff and those shows would be so crazy," he reminisces. "There’d be people sweating on top of you and crazy things would naturally happen.

"Now we’re in the small theatres, or the bigger venues where the stage is 10 feet high. The energy is still awesome but it’s sadly a little more professional. It doesn’t lend itself to that total intimacy which can be really great."

Catch the Clumsy Lovers, intimate and interactive, this Saturday evening at the Boot Pub. Tickets are $10 available in advance from the venue or through TicketMaster. For more information call 604-932-3338 or log onto www.upstreamentertainment.com.

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