A&E » Arts

Gettin’ Baked

Vancouver’s premiere party band, Baked Potato, plans an epic dance party at Pemberton Hotel



Who: Baked Potato

When: Friday, Oct. 2

Where: Pemberton Hotel

You've never really partied until you've been to a Baked Potato show. Or, at least, that's what it seems like after a quick conversation with one of the band members.

Chris Douglas is better known simply as Spud, a nickname he's carried for almost 20 years. He started the group with two friends and fellow musicians, Joe Hoskins and Scott Russell, almost four years ago. At first it was a casual weekly drop-in session that incorporated some liquid lights, a loop sequencer and a healthy roster of instruments. That weekly session quickly evolved into a revolving collective of some of Vancouver's best jam musicians.

But when front-woman Zehya Chelan came onto the scene, the lineup was finally solidified, with Chelan on sax, flute, vocals and percussion, Stephan Fortin on bass, Russell on keys and vocals, Hoskins on drums, Jeffrey Kornblum on percussion and Spud on guitar, mandolin and vocals.

"It was more or less that we'd have different people out all the time and it just organically evolved into what it is today," Spud said. "It took a while, definitely - we were jamming for years and kind of when all the pieces fell into place is when Zehya joined us, because she's a real special talent."

And these guys certainly aren't inhibited performers.

"Our front woman, Zehya, she's quite something," Spud said. "She's a very talented multi-instrumentalist and she likes getting quite costumed up."

The band members like to have a good time, on stage and off.

"In a nutshell, we're kind of like a big dance party type of band," Spud explained. "There's a lot of us on the stage and we kind of have a little bit of a P-Funk... type of thing. We're all quite animated on the stage."

Their unique brand of psychedelic jazzy-funk, which they've branded "hippy jazz," ranges from spiritual and meditative to downright joyful, fusing elements of afro-beat, progressive rock, funk, jazz and psychedelic with obscure covers from greats like Phish, Grant Green and Stereolab.

Their shows contain a large improv element, with the group playing to the crowd and gauging whether they're digging the original instrumentals, or seem to want to hear more covers they can sing along with. But their dizzying array of instruments means that sometimes, vocals take a back-seat role in the show.

"People kind of freak out a little bit with the instrumental thing," Spud conceded. "...But we always win people over."

It's clear from listening to any of their complex instrumental tracks that this group is passionate about creating original music.

"It's not like a complicated jazz thing that we do - it's definitely more on the funk side of things," Spud said.

But no two shows are ever the same and the group never plays any song exactly the same way.

"It's very much in the moment. We kind of take off, and any one of our songs, the same song can be five minutes or 15 minutes type of thing; it kind of depends on the moment."

Regardless of whether they're playing original or cover material, these performers truly thrive on stage, charming the audience onto their feet.

"One thing that we're told is that our stage presence is quite infectious. We really love what we're doing, and it just comes out in the way that we play and the way that we interact with one another."

Adding costumes, belly dancing and a full-on light show into the mix, it sounds like the audience can expect quite the visual spectacle from Baked Potato's upcoming performance at the Pemb Ho.

"It's really as much about a visual spectacle with us as it is about the music... For the most part, we get the room boogying, no matter how many people are in there."

But the bigger the crowd, the bigger the party, so come out and make this a night to remember at the Pemb Ho.