Many years ago, back when Dinosaur Jr. roamed the land, Canada’s independent music scene was a sad, stunted thing. Many cities had flourishing scenes of their own, but geography and a tendency to look south or over the ocean for music untainted by major label ambitions meant that if it wasn’t playing the club down the street, you didn’t hear it.

That changed around 1990, and one of the band’s at the forefront of Canada’s burgeoning music scene was Eric’s Trip. After a decade of near-inactivity, the band reunited for a tour of Eastern Canada and an appearance at the sizeable music festival Pop Montreal. Among the stops: a sold-out gig at the gilded vaudeville theatre, Barrymore’s Music Hall.

Hailing from Moncton, New Brunswick and fermenting from leader Rick White’s hardcore, metal and psychedelic roots and a new fascination with the guitar bands emerging in the States (foremost among them Sonic Youth, from who the band seized its name), Eric’s Trip fuzzy pop soon garnered them widespread acclaim, substantial audiences and notice from the U.S. The first Canadian band to sign with Sub Pop – then the gold standard for indie rock – the group recorded and toured from 1990-96 before splintering.

Since those heady days bassist Julie Doiron has released 11 albums of shy singer-songwriter music on Sub Pop, Jagjaguwar and her own Sappy label, won a Juno award (the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy). Rick White has had a similarly extensive career, releasing several albums as Elevator Through Hell (and similar pseudonyms), The Unintended and in his own name. Guitarist Chris Thompson has performed solo and with Halifax outfit Orange Glass. Drummer Mark Gaudet returned to prepunk combo Purple Knight and manned the skins for sundry other acts.

The band’s reunion was primed in 2006 when Doiron recruited White to produce her most recent album, ‘Woke Myself Up’. Thompson and Gaudet showed up to play on a few tracks, and the stage was set.

One of the advantages of the reunion tour was that the band members’ various side projects provide a readymade collection of opening acts.

The opener was Blue Heeler, a new duo featuring Julie Doiron on drums and her former associate in Sackville folk-rockers Shotgun and Jaybird, Dick Morello. They ripped through a set of very energetic Neil Young-style rock. The audience was quite enthusiastic and there was some grumbling when the set came to a halt after only a handful of tunes.

Chris Thompson took an equally brief spin under his nom de guitar, Moonsocket. He normally performs on acoustic, and his switch to the Fender Jazzmaster and Marshall Amp he’d later employ in Eric’s Trip may have been a mistake. His winsome vocals were not an ideal match to 100 watts and a half-stack.

Rick White is a far more seasoned solo performer, and with a wealth of well-known material he spun a dreamy spell on his acoustic guitar. With his lanky self scrunched before microphone, face shielded by long hair and his magnificently painted acoustic guitar he made quite a figure. One 20something in the crowd was so enthused he had to cop a feel of the guitar post-set to White’s bemusement.

Then it was time for Eric’s Trip to take the stage (or retake the stage) to a rapturous welcome from both old fans and folks too young to have seen them a decade or more ago. Although the band has played down its reunion as only “a recreation of the old shit,” they certainly sounded as vigorous as they did in the old days, running through songs from ‘Dear Tara’, ‘Purple Blue’ and ‘Forever Again’ and further back with considerable energy and volume. With the exception of Gaudet, whose scruffy mop has been tamed, the band even looks much as it did a decade ago. Their time capsule performance triggered a raucous call for an encore, duly fulfilled.

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Commenting On: Barrymore's, Ottawa, 5/10/2007 - Eric's Trip, Rick White, Moonsocket and Blue Heeler

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