Nostalgia is the name of the game at the Commercial Tavern, as the Maryhill venue welcomes a pair of shows where everything old is new again. From a legendary local band on its second wind, to a tribute to a pair of still-active country music superstars, the ‘10s will start to look a lot like the ‘80s.
First: Major Hoople’s Boarding House performs on Sunday, but the venerable rock band you see at the tavern may not be quite the same as the one you saw in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Between disbanding in the ‘80s and reforming in 2010, the Cambridge-founded band has found that life on the road has gone in a distinctly more pleasant direction.
“There’s no pressure now,” said Ed Miller, the band’s drummer. “When we broke up, we were on the road, like, 52 weeks of the year. We were playing probably five or six shows a week, nonstop for years and years. Now, we’re just having fun doing it. We’re not forced to do it now, whereas before, the record companies would force you to go out on the road. “Major Hoople’s Boarding House formed in Cambridge in 1967, although the band has undergone enough incarnations to make the Curly/Shemp/Joe/Curly Joe conundrum seem manageable. (In fact, there’s a competing version, comprised of different members, also touring.) Drummer Miller, bass player Keith Stahlbaum, and sax player David Gooding scored a radio hit with 1975’s “I’m Running After You,” and continued to tour well into the next decade.
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Their Sunday night show promises plenty of familiar songs for longtime Hoople fans. “We put together a bunch of the material that we were doing back in the ‘70s that people want to hear,” said Miller. “About half the night is material that we were doing back in the ‘70s – we were big into the Moody Blues, that kind of classic rock vein. Then we incorporate some of that with the newer material we’re doing.”
In addition to touring, the reformed band is currently at work on its first album since the ‘80s, and hope to have it out by the summer. Some of the new material will be performed in Maryhill on Sunday. “Still lots of vocals, and five-part harmonies right across the stage,” assured Miller.
“We’ve still got the vocal capabilities,” he added. “It’s like riding a bike. The first rehearsal, we got together and everything fell into place. It was like we never even parted ways.”
On Wednesday, another pair of music veterans will hit the Commercial Tavern’s stage, albeit not in the form you may be accustomed to. Marty Edwards and Marie Bottrell will don their respective beard and bustier to evoke Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton in a tribute show that may not last from 9 to 5, but should at the very least go from 7 to 9.
An accomplished musician in her own right, Bottrell has eight Juno nominations and two CCMA Female Vocalist of the Year awards to her credit. Still, she wears her influences on her sleeve.
“I grew up listening to a lot of Dolly and Emmylou Harris and Patsy Cline,” said Bottrell. “The Dolly that I’m most fond of is probably the Dolly from the late ’70s into the early ’80s, when ‘Here You Come Again’ was a big hit, and the ‘Coat of Many Colours’ era.”
For as long as she’s been a star, Dolly Parton has been a popular subject for tribute artists. What will Bottrell bring that others haven’t captured? “Dolly had a real sweetness to her, and a lot of times you see people portraying her who have more of a caricature-type thing about them, which doesn’t bring out that nice, soft, innocent quality she had back then.”
All of which distracts from the most burning question: can we expect Bottrell to sing anything from “Rhinestone?”
“No,” laughed Bottrell. “That wasn’t my favourite era.”
Major Hoople’s Boarding House drops by the Commercial Tavern on Sunday, April 21 at 3 p.m. The Kenny and Dolly: Together Again takes the stage on Wednesday, April 24 at 7 p.m. Tickets are available at the venue, 1303 Maryhill Rd., or by calling 519-648-3644.