A Vancouver-based blues band that has been around since 1978 will be wrapping up its 44th anniversary tour right here in Chilliwack.
Tom Lavin and The Powder Blues band will take to the Chilliwack Cultural Centre stage on Dec. 3.
It was Lavin himself who requested they end the tour here as it’s been “too long” since they’ve played in Chilliwack, he said. They will be bringing classic hits like Doin’ It Right (On the Wrong Side of Town), Boppin’ With The Blues, Hear That Guitar Ring, and Thirsty Ears to local fans.
The Powder Blues formed in 1978 in Vancouver as a six-piece house band mixing swing, blues, jazz, rock’n’roll and R&B to their songs. They played in bars and pubs for about a year and a half before releasing their debut album Uncut in 1980.
Lavin has fond memories of writing Doin’ It Right.
“I wrote that in about 10 minutes on the back of a used pizza box in the recording studio… over the grease stains, with a cheap, motel, plastic ballpoint pen,” he recalled. “It was really funny. We were looking for another tune for the first album and it sort of came out all in one piece.”
Sadly, he no longer has the pizza box.
“I wish I did. I’m sure it got thrown out the same night we recorded it.”
Although Lavin is the only member who’s been with the band the entire time, he’s been performing with the current members for more than three decades and over the years they have toured non-stop.
“What you’re really seeing on stage is the newest members have been with the band for 35 years. That’s pretty well as close as you can get to original.”
Lavin plays guitar and sings and the others play keyboard, drums, bass, saxophone and trumpet.
The Powder Blues perform a lot less now than they did 30 years ago, but Lavin is just fine with that. He said he’s “fortunate” he’s been successful enough in music that he does not have to play in order to make a living.
“I just play because I really want to play, because I enjoy playing,” he said from his Vancouver home. “It’s a marvellous thing.”
Over the decades they’ve been together, Lavin has seen his bandmates change over time.
“It’s so cool to see how each of them has evolved as musicians. They bring their current and more wise and skilled selves to this music. It’s really beautiful to see,” Lavin said. “It’s like a poker game that’s been running 45 years… instead of using words you use music to talk.”
The last time they were in town was in 2015 for the fifth anniversary celebration of the Chilliwack Cultural Centre.
Lavin gave kudos to local musician Trevor McDonald who helped bring the band here at that time.
“He’s been a supporter and a fan of our band for many, many years. It means more to me because Trevor is a very fine musician himself.”
Lavin said he prefers to perform in theatres as opposed to in a festival setting. At festivals, they can’t get as intimate with the audience due to being distanced from the crowd.
“When you get into a theatre, it’s easier to have a little chat with the audience or explain to them something unique about the tune you’re going to play, or share some history.”
As a way to keep concerts exciting for both the audience and the band, sometimes Lavin will point to one of his members and say “Why don’t you take a solo,” he added.
After nearly 45 years, Lavin still loves performing.
“It’s particularly gratifying because we get such a warm feeling from the audiences we play for… they have a great time and it makes us feel like we’re doing something worthwhile.”
On Dec. 3, The Powder Blues will be playing two sets with a break in the middle. After the show, they will have a meet-and-greet where folks can get autographs. Merchandise that night will include T-shirts and CDs
“The band has had a lovely career,” Lavin said. “It’s been a privilege. I’m just amazed that people continue to enjoy what we do and it gives me great satisfaction.”
Tom Lavin and The Powder Blues is at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre on Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $69.50 and available at the Centre Box Office, online at chilliwackculturalcentre.ca, or by calling 604-391-SHOW(7469).
Awards and highlights:
Band highlights include winning Canada’s Juno, headlining the world-famous Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, winning the Blues Foundation Award in Memphis, Tennessee and touring the US and Europe with legends like Willie Dixon, John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, James Brown, Albert Collins, James Cotton and Stevie Ray Vaughn.
Lavin has won BCMIA awards for ‘Guitarist, Singer, Songwriter and Producer of the Year’, a Juno award for ‘Best New Band’ and the American W.C. Handy award. He has over a dozen gold, and platinum records for Powder Blues, Prism, April Wine, Long John Baldry, Amos Garrett, and many others.