'We are rock 'n' rollers. It doesn't get any simpler than that'
Who: John Ford
What: The Next Wave
Where: Maxx Fish
When: Wednesday, Jan. 28
Before fans of David Francey-style acoustic roots music get too excited, let it be known that John Ford is a high-energy, hard-rockin' four-piece band.
There's Adrian Mack on drums, Chris Read on bass and vocals, Rich Hope (a fixture on the Whistler solo acoustic scene circa 1997) on guitar and vocals, and "Lightning" Rod Prokopie on guitar.
No Johns. No Fords. What the hell, then?
"Most people see John Ford on a poster and they think they're going to see an old guy with an acoustic guitar and then they get their ears blown off," says Mack from Vancouver. "But I kind of like the artfulness of that. I like that it doesn't mean anything."
It kind of means something. Any cinephile will tell you John Ford (1894 - 1973) was a four-time Academy Award-winning director, celebrated for his Westerns and films like 1952's The Quiet Man starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. But other than film-geek Read's admiration, the director has no tie to his musical name-poachers.
After seven years of playing together, Mack says the band gets a little tired of constantly explaining they are not one, but four, and that none of them are named John Ford. Various agents have insisted on a change. But in the spirit of rock 'n' roll rebellion, they hold fast.
"I think it's kind of appropriate," Mack adds. "Because if John Ford is known for anything aside from his great art, it's that he was really just an impossible bastard, and I think that's a pretty apt metaphor for the band."
Impossible bastards? There's the name thing, and Mack does take twisted delight in how their association with Big Sugar frontman Gordie Johnson, whom they met sharing the stage at the 2002 World Ski and Snowboard Festival, pisses off fans of both bands to no end.
But Johnson isn't alone in his admiration. Critics regularly laud the band's raw rock sound and song-writing skills.
"We've been playing for a long time and I think that accounts for why we're so intuitive with each other," says Mack. "We learn things really quickly now because we seem to have developed a slightly psychic approach to the music."
The acclaim, he says, is a payoff for authenticity.
"Not to be too self-aggrandizing, but I do think we are better songwriters than most and we do care very, very deeply about crafting a decent melody or experimenting with a new sound but integrating it in a tasteful way. We pore over our songs and I think you can tell. It's just very important to us that we write well," he says.
Aside from Johnson, the band's biggest fan is probably Rick Flebbe, the Whistler-based music aficionado, postcard photographer and self-described "oldest living cutting edge rock 'n' roll DJ and music promoter," easily identified around town by his trademark cowboy hat.
Flebbe has made John Ford a staple of The Next Wave, a rock 'n' roll event he organizes with his brother Wayne that occurs approximately once a month in Vancouver. The night has been drawing consistent crowds and has established a reputation as a hot ticket.
Wednesday's show at Maxx Fish marks the launch of The Next Wave in Whistler. Along with John Ford's set the "original mod-rocking, garage-rocking, psychedelic, glam, new-wave, punk, post-punk cow-punk" Flebbe will host and DJ. On the playlist, what he considers "the cutting edge" - The Raveonettes, The Strokes, Kings of Leon, The Distillers, Peaches, Pretty Girls Make Graves, Sahara Hotnights, Interpol, The Rapture, The White Stripes, The Kills, The Darkness, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs - to name a few.
"It's time for an alternative to hip-hop, Top 40 and R&B, and the hippie jamming stuff," says Flebbe.
Mack's right behind him all the way.
"He's probably, of anyone I know, the most musically educated person, that I've met, without being obnoxious about it," says the drummer. "He's the last diplomat. There's not a lot of support for rock 'n' roll, and what we play is straight ahead rock 'n' roll."
He pauses. "The bottom line is, Rick is a rock 'n' roller, we are rock 'n' rollers. It doesn't get any simpler than that."
The Next Wave featuring Rick Flebbe and John Ford hits Maxx Fish this Wednesday evening. Call 604-905-0636 for information.