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Slow coast, fast music

Maritimers fuse Celtic roots with ethnic diversity of West Coast



Who: Slowcoaster

Where: Boot Pub

When: Monday, Jan. 23

Cape Breton’s Slowcoaster’s last trip to Whistler found the Maritimers in 32-degree heat, leaving them to drool over the mountains they envisioned in snow.

Frontman Steven MacDougall shared his excitement of putting miles on his skis on Slowcoaster’s West Coast tour, which stops over in Whistler for Monday Madness Jan. 23 at the Boot Pub.

With 13-degree weather since September in Cape Breton and mountains like Cape Smoky, which MacDougall said is more akin to rolling hills when compared with Whistler monsters, the powder-parched skier swears to get up early enough to catch runs in between shows on his Coast Mountains/ Rocky Mountain tour.

It’s suggested he try Fresh Tracks, the thinking being that cutting through virgin flakes at 8 a.m. will blow him away, allow him to get the most of his ski day and still leave time to travel in the afternoon.

"I don’t think I’ll be off my buzz by then," he said, laughing. "It’s an East Coast thing. You go to a party here and there might be a stereo on for a few seconds, but that is it and the instruments come out and soon it is four in the morning. It’s ingrained in our culture. We’ve brought this around with us as well. We got an after party after a show and play until dawn. That is how we get our kicks."

All four lads – MacDougall, Devon Strang, Mike LeLieve and Darren Gallop – are as East Coast as East Coast can get. They all play multiple instruments, such as the fiddle and piano, come from generations of musicians and love to party it up with the line between audience and performer blurring like the it’s one big kitchen house party.

While Celtic in every sense of the word, Slowcoaster’s music is a lot more than that, only tapping into the rootsy spirit of the genre. Two of the wet-behind-the-ears white boys spent two years in East Vancouver, where they were exposed to other ethnic beats such as African, Latin and reggae.

"We are eclectic," MacDougall summarized. "From twang and country to crazy ska, we love all sorts of music. We’re never pinned down to playing one style of music. We have such talented people. They really can play anything."

Their music, once self-described as Police meets Frank Zappa with an Afro-Cuban tape stuck in the stereo, has drawn a devout following in the Maritimes. Slowcoaster has won countless awards, including Alternative Group Recording of the Year from the Music Industry Association of Nova Scotia for its third album, Where Are They Going? Other notable accolades include nominations for the East Coast Music Awards, features on a Bravo! Documentary, and placing second in the 16th Annual Songwriting Competition.

Unlike its name suggests, Slowcoaster promises a night of irresistibly catchy, just-got-to-dance songs with a menagerie of funk-fused reggae with hip hop beats. Laid back, salt-of-the-earth guys with a high-energy show.

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