As Tom Holliston works a Western Canada gigging stint into his fateful move from Vancouver to Minnesota, he’s quick to point out this is not a fare-thee-well tour.
“More like a fare-VERY-well tour — I hope! I’ll be in Minnesota over the summer.. I’ll be back on the West Coast later in summertime, working on new material with another band.”
Presumably this is NoMeansNo, the legendary prog-punk power trio Holliston’s been with since 1993. A tireless stalwart of the West Coast punk / underground rock community for over 35 years running, Holliston is also known for his work with the Show Business Giants and the Hanson Brothers (NoMeansNo’s humorous alter-ego side project), and is a peer of other Canadian cult heroes like Ford Pier.
And Holliston presents his own particular repertoire of clever folk-rock with an intimate acoustic performance at Lotus Books in Cranbrook on the evening of Friday, May 2.
“I love playing less traditional venues,” Holliston shares. “There’s usually a different mindset … alcohol sales being somewhat less of a motive for the evening happening. On this tour I’m playing a basement in a private home in Winnipeg that’s been turned into a small club. The hosts are wonderful people. Mind you, I still need to play well and entertain: the event doesn’t run of it’s own accord. It never changes. Tour after tour, I look forward to having good shows; just playing well, having people come out and enjoy themselves, and hooking up with seldom-seen pals.”
Holliston was asked if it’s difficult to stir up a Beatlemania frenzy over his solo tours when living somewhat in the shadow of the NoMeansNo world.
“I don’t think I’m capable of evoking frenzy!” Holliston laughs. “Hopefully not trepidation. Most people come down a notch or three when they’re distancing from the name-brand and playing solo. Being on tour alone, or away from a band, has benefits that other projects may not. One single agenda being an example. Smaller PAs, meaning far less overhead. A different sort of challenge: seeing if you, yourself, can hold the attention of the attentive. The average attendee apparently reacts to music mainly through beat and melody. Studies have shown, as they say. You can’t be a good band without a good drummer. This is simple, empirical fact…and furthermore, if the bass player’s stepping on the beat, the good drummer may become violent! That said, a good sense of melody becomes crucial. Especially when people aren’t familiar with your solo music. As I’m not a great melodist, I resort to tricks.”
Although not quite in his mid-50s, Hollison was asked: when he turns 70 and looks back upon his long list of unique and colourful rocknroll adventures, what points of satisfaction can he list off to the world at large with pride?
“I want to know that I did my best at something I loved to do; that I worked as hard as I could to make good things happen…without collapsing too often in a heap of shuddering stress! Everyone owes it to themselves to try as hard they can, if they really want to do something.
“The best praise is always from one’s peers. A few times I’ve been given kudos by really good players, and I’ve felt on top of the world. I’ve felt that my parents would be proud of me. The thing I most hope to see at the age of 70 is the road forward.”