If there's one Halifax Pop Explosion performance that Julie Doiron will never forget, it's the 1994 Eric's Trip show that felt like it would never end.
"I didn't come out for the encore, because I was practically in tears. I was eight months pregnant and it was our longest concert ever." She starts to laugh as she recalls the night. "I don't know what Rick was thinking with the set list."
Though I could reminisce about the band opening for Lou Barlow at the inaugural Pop Explosion in 1993, my own favourite Eric's Trip memory comes from the band's first reunion tour in 2001.
I referred to them as "rock gods" in my review of their Halifax show, after they delivered the old faves with a level of polish befitting five years' individual musical experience, following the 1996 break-up. So I'm happy to report—having seen them again last month at Lee's Palace in Toronto—that another six years hasn't hurt them either, and we're now seeing Eric's Trip in their best form yet.
Not that a lot has changed, it must be said, in the stage presence of the other members. Guitarists Rick White and Chris Thompson and drummer Mark Gaudet are starting to seem eternal; it's a pleasant shock, even, to see that they haven't lost a beat.
This is quite literally true, says Doiron, in the case of Gaudet: "His drumming is incredible—he remembers every detail from the recordings!"
The dramatic difference is in Doiron. Her ethereally timid manner is gone forever, satisfyingly replaced by a fully confident rock mama (now a 2000 Juno Award winner, and 2007 Polaris Prize nominee)—the live act's sturdy anchor rather than its resident ghost.
"I'm a woman now," she says, with simple clarity.
So Eric's Trip is back, with no motivation, Doiron says, other than this: the blast they had playing the first SappyFest in August 2006—Sackville, New Brunswick's fun summer music festival, co-organized by Doiron—made them want to play together some more.
"We realized we were actually still pretty good, and it just snowballed," says Doiron. "We've done 10 or 11 shows, and it's actually been really fun."
But this time around, the reunion may have some legs. "I think we're pretty much a band again," Doiron says. "It is definitely not the last time we'll play together.
"There's been talk of maybe going to Europe in June. We've never even been to Europe. All the members seem to be interested in exploring that." Doiron says live dates in western Canada have been floating around, too: "That would be the only fair thing to do."
All four members, as usual, have their own projects on the go. Thompson, now living in Fredericton, has a duo with Ron Bates called The Memories Attack. Gaudet, still living near Moncton, plays in Purple Knight and No Explanation, and is now in a black metal band called Funeral Fog.
White, based near Toronto, released his second solo record Memoreaper earlier this year to wide acclaim, and is "really into making videos these days." Montreal resident Doiron's latest solo record, Woke Myself Up, produced by White, featured the full Eric's Trip line-up on some songs, which no doubt gave the aforementioned snowball a little push.
But although White and Thompson have been opening the reunion tour with solo sets, Doiron is taking the opportunity to roll out something rather more novel: a "killer two-piece" with Fred Morello, formerly of Shotgun & Jaybird. The new band is called Blue Heeler and features Doiron on drums for the first time.
"I didn't feel like doing the same old Julie Doiron show," she says.
Blue Heeler has also been touring with another indie duo, The Superfantastics, and both brought their live act to the Halifax Pop Explosion's Pigeon Row showcase on Tuesday's opening night.
(For a tiny taste of the new duo, check out the nifty video tour diary that The Superfantastics are posting on YouTube.)
But as for Eric's Trip, the natural next question is whether new songs and studio sessions are far off. That too, Doiron confirms, is on the table, but only in a tentative way, with no dates or label attached. "If that does happen, we're not going to make a big deal of it," she says. "We would take our time."
Eric's Trip w/Miracle Fortress, Land of Talk, Mother Mother, Pride Tiger, Saturday, October 20 at The Marquee Club, 2037 Gottingen, 1-866-311-9090, $12 adv/$16 door.
James Covey is making an exception to his 10pm bedtime for this Saturday's show, and can be reached at email@example.com
For more on Eric's Trip read Love List by Bob Mersereau.
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