Did you know?
Toronto, one of Ontario’s major centres for music and the arts, used to be casually referred to as Hogtown by surrounding communities who wanted to speak ill of the city. According to an 1898 article in the Globe and Mail, the name apparently didn’t come from its production of pork, but rather to convey that its citizens were a piggish people.
Later on down the road, the city would reclaim the name as their own and wear it proudly.
Now, as a kind reminder of the old times, a Toronto-based bluegrass and old-time band uses the name proudly, too.
The Foggy Hogtown Boys started small in 2001 with weekly bar shows, each member of the team holding a deep understanding of the genre and a virtuosity in each of the five instruments played in the band.
And they’ve only grown since.
Andrew Collins is one of the lead singers, who also contributes to harmony, plays the mandolin and rocks the fiddle.
“We have definitely improved and matured as a band, maybe not in how we communicate with each other in the band,” he said with a a laugh. “But certainly, you could say that our music has, and you know, it’s just been an evolution of exploring sounds and trying to bring new sounds into our music.”
Their latest album, Collins says, would sound further from a traditional bluegrass album than their first, for which they played a much more standard repertoire.
“I think we’ve just grown tighter as a unit and gotten a slightly more personalized sound through that,” said Collins, adding that bringing a big sense of humour to their shows is also something they do differently than some others.
Despite that personal edge, the Boys still bring a classic bluegrass and old-time feel with constant harmonies over a backdrop of guitar, banjo, mandolin, fiddle and acoustic bass. And while they’ve grown as a unit over the years that they’ve played together, so has their audience.
“I would say when we first started playing ... it was a predominantly older audience at that time, but bluegrass has kind of gained in popularity and it’s kind of an infectious music, we kind of expect to have an all-ages audience,” said Collins.
There’s also a difference in the audience they see from show to show, depending on where they’re playing. The bar scene that they still hold to on a weekly basis in Toronto is fun, but with different venues come more opportunities for the band to stretch their legs and try for a more distinct performance.
“They’re all good,” he said, when asked what his favourite kind of show to play is. “But it’s definitely nice when we’re playing for a listening audience, if people are into it and responsive.
“If we’ve got some high-energy songs, we can dig in, but if we’re playing something that requires a little more space, then we can play with a lighter touch,” said Collins. “And it’s nice to have those different nuances.”
The Foggy Hogtown Boys will be playing The Root: Community Emporium this Saturday, Nov. 29 for $15 at the door. The show starts at 8 p.m.