For the first time, Alberta rockabilly trio Punch Drunk Cabaret is crossing the 110th meridian for its inaugural Saskatchewan performance.
“I don’t know what’s taken so long. We recorded both of our albums in Saskatoon, so Saskatoon is sort of like our second home, but for some strange reason we just haven’t made it out that way yet,” singer and guitarist Randy Bailer said. “Saskatchewan has just been a little bit elusive, so we’re really excited about it and kind of happy that maybe the curse has been broken.”
On Aug. 8 the Bailer and his bandmates, 12-string bassist Terry Grant and drummer Sean Watts, take to the stage at the Dog Patch Music Festival in Whelan, Sask.
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Bailer says there is some pressure to make a good first impression, but he’s at the point where he expects the band to make a bang.
“Our approach is very high-energy from top to bottom,” he said. “I’ve always said that Punch Drunk Cabaret is only 50 per cent of the equation going into a live show. The other half obviously is the audience, so we look for every opportunity to bring them into the show.”
A key part of band’s show is the visual element of the performance. To match their retro rockabilly swing, the group members dress as if they stepped out of a twisted turn-of-the-century steampunk carnival.
“I think that we’re really old-school in our mentality that entertainers need to put on their best for their audience.
That even predates rock ‘n’ roll, that even goes back to early 1900s Vaudeville and the variety shows where people came to an event and you knew who the entertainers were because they were dressed a certain way,” Bailer said. “No different than the circus coming to town. They would roll up and there was excitement because they saw people who looked different and already you got this sense that it’s going to be an event.”
Many of the group’s songs are narratives and character studies and Bailer says playing them live allows the band to provide context and flesh out the lyrics.
He says audiences are still drawn to the sensational theatrics and runaway stomp of early rock ‘n’ roll. Bailer says all rock music traces back to those early roots, and that connection continues to this day.
“There were elements of swing in it, there were elements of country in it, there were elements of blues in it, so it was already this great pollinated sound,” he said. “I think for a lot of people it’s in our DNA as a culture.”