Catching a She Stole My Beer show these days is a bit like finding a $20 bill on the sidewalk: it's a rare occurrence but it can turn your whole day around when it happens.
So when they took to the stage at LIVE at Squamish last Saturday, the shrieks of delight were no big surprise. It was the first set of the weekend so the crowd was sparse, but there, at the front of the stage, was a cluster of mostly middle-age fans, whirling and twirling throughout the set. The band was in top form, breezing through their set as if they'd just come off a summer-long tour. In reality, they play maybe three shows a year and the enthusiasm in the crowd that day was confirmation that B.C. could use a little more Beer in their lives.
"We've played so much in the past that it's easy to put it together," says a humble-sounding Tom Taylor, guitarist and vocalist for the band. "With those old songs, we've just played them so much and it's almost better to go into them a little bit rusty. It makes them a little bit fresh."
In their hey-day, they were notorious for their live shows, criss-crossing the country and winning a significant cult following in their wake. By the 90s, they were selling out venues across the country, including a three-night stint at Toronto's legendary Horseshoe Tavern. It seemed as though they could have been the Canada's version of Phish.
"That could be the case for a lot of the people that come back and see us. Somebody said we are the soundtrack for a generation of people, which sort of made sense to me," Taylor says.
They scored a record deal with MCA and were in the middle of recording their first album when the label caught wind of the recording costs and shut the project down. It was, in a lot of ways, the end of SSMB as everyone had known it.
"It put a damper on the music, at least for me," Taylor says. "It was a real drag that that had happened and you just get soured by that kind of thing."
Rather than pay for the record themselves and recoup the costs through touring, they took a hiatus. They reconvened two years later but it was never the same. These were seven full-grown men with careers. Touring had become an unappealling grind for most of them. They had families and it had become difficult to coordinate the Beer of yore.
But they're still around, oh yes, and Taylor credits Whistler specifically for keeping the band invigorated after all these years.
"It's probably the one place that has kept us going as a band," he says.
Here, nestled between the mountains, lives the most enthusiastic group of SSMB fans in the country. Taylor doesn't know if it's a blast from the past for fans pining for the good old days or if the band inspires a level of gleeful, uninhibited whirling and twirling, but the Whistler shows over the last decade have become epic and, Taylor says, have saved the band from collapse.
Today, they are a more mature-sounding, confidant group of musicians than ever before and the gigs they have played recently have been among their best.
"We're a much better band now than we ever were," Taylor says. "You do find yourself questioning, 'Oh, could you have gone that route of playing the Bonnaroo festivals and all that stuff, because we could have been a legitimate contender for that kind of thing. But that's just not the case and we're thankful just to do it now in the capacity that we do it.
"I mean, we're lucky."