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Sweet and Fluffy

Disco Cirque

Review by Heather Roberts

There is a playful aspect to disco. A childlike, puckish element that is innocent, despite the sexuality of the sound and lyrics. One of the most lyrical aspects of the Charlottetown Festival’s new production, Disco Cirque, is the embodiment of this quality in the appearance of a silent mime who leads us into this hypnotic world—in other words a pretty girl in a silver suit with a big smile and bendy back.

There are a great many attractive members of the Disc Cirque cast who can sing very well, and a good few who can also dance. Together they form a song-and-dance troupe of impressive versatility and good humour. The costumes are fun and bright—the whole shebang is a visual and auditory bag of cotton candy—sweet and fluffy and exactly what you want at the time.

While issues such as homosexuality and drug use are presented in the non-singing parts, they are not confronting. There is small mention of the Stonewall riots, some camp Village People numbers and a taste of Rocky Horror, but the images presented are as sanitized and mainstreamed as they can be. I can’t imagine anyone who owns a television being remotely offended by this margarine “decadence.”

The show is somewhat linear, demonstrating the history of the rise and fall again of disco in North America, with some mention of Euro disco. The songs are energetically backed up by performers on silks, hoops and trapeze—the stationary, not the flying kind. There are (thankfully) no clowns and (unfortunately) no juggling or magic tricks. The bendy people on the silks made up for that though.

While the whole ensemble was good, there were some standout performances that were truly excellent. The Bee Gees were fantastic, hilarious and, thanks mostly to John Edward’s mindblowing falsetto, sounded truly realistic. The four Divas, Tiffany Deriveau, Alana Hibbert, Charlotte Moore and Kristen Peace were sexy to look at and sounded unbelievable. “Donna Summer” never sounded so happy to be performing. Other standouts included the very strong and limber Derek Wiens, and the pocket rocket Zak Kearns, whose unbelievable dancing was an absolute joy to watch. Gerrad Everard stole the show for humour, providing a great many of the laughs.

If there is a disco song that you love and absolutely have to hear to feel that your disco quota is full, it will be sung in Disco Cirque. And if you are under 30 there will be a few new ones, but performed so well that they become instant old favourites. With more than 70 songs, the spectacle never gets old, and with the stage mostly full, there is always something to look at.

The lighting and sound effects are impressive—the Confederation Centre stage is always a great venue, as it is comfortable and roomy without allowing the viewer to feel isolated from the action of the stage. It is a show better seen from a little way back, however, as there is so much going on on the stage. Also, the cast likes to audience interact, so if you are at all shy or hesitant of your minute of fame, don’t sit in the front three rows! And don’t leave your sense of humour and fun at home for this one.

Disco Cirque runs until September 25 playing Thursdays and Fridays at 7.30 pm on the Confederation Centre Mainstage in Charlottetown.

Pleasures of Playing

The Wannabeez

Got You Covered
by Heather Roberts

The Wannabeez - Brian, Richie and Carl

If you want a band for your wedding or party that really cares if your having a good time, that will tailor their music to your taste, hire the Wannabeez. The Wannabeez are a cover trio with vocals by Richie Bulger and Brian Langille (currently a music teacher at Englewood School), held together by the drum beat of Carl Cormier.

In the past they have been involved with such iconic PEI bands as Spare Parts, The Tropics and Big Tilda.

Despite Richie Bulger’s creative songwriting ability, the trio are devoted to their cover band because a cover band, according to Bulger, who has been playing in Charlottetown since he was 17, “has greater accessability.” The guys simply get more exposure as a cover band. “It allows you to hone in on your chops.” And it is true, with such a wide repertoire, the appeal of the Wannabeez is definitely non-generational specific. They play because they love the music.

Playing all this inspirational music helps the writing process. But any short-term plans to record original material are kept at bay at the moment because there just isn’t enough time. While the relative safety of being a popular cover band means lots of gigs, it means that the weekends are pretty much taken up. Between personal commitments and the band, there is not much time left for songwriting and jamming, something that Richie Bulger regrets, but at the same time understands is a necessary part of the industry at this level.

The Wannabeez started as a four-piece, but in the six or seven years they have been performing on the Island, they have cropped their number down to three, which left scheduling easier. Working three guys around a busy schedule of gigs is hard enough.

Citing influences from contemporary rock to blues, the members of the Wannabeez were originally inspired by the Big Three of the 70s: Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. They also draw inspiration from April Wine, Rush, Lynard Skynrd, Frank Zappa and the like. But with a huge playlist, they will play you anything from Jimmy Buffet to Ozzy Osbourne. So you may very well hear “Sweet Home Alabama” right up next to “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere.” And thats what the fans love about the Wannabeez. “Though at our age,” says Richie Bulger, “they’re not too crazy!”

The Wannabeez can be found at St James Gate, The Olde Dublin, The Churchill Arms or the Kensington Club—they play most Friday and Saturday nights. But they will come to you—you can book the Wannabeez for birthdays, weddings, country dances and house parties. According to Richie Bulger the most rewarding part of being in the band is the occasions when, at one of their gigs, they have stumbled across a couple whose wedding they played at two or three years previously—and then feel all over again the bond they shared on the night, feeling “part of something.” Its an “addictive pre-occupation” says Bulger.

The Wannabeez are playing on the 10th of July at St James Gate.

Work Ethic

Retro Statik

Got You Covered
by Heather Roberts


There are some very good original bands. There are some … not so good original bands. It is the firm belief of the members of Retro Statik that the same can be said for cover bands. So  they are working very hard to be a very good cover band, because that’s what they want to do.

At its inception, Retro Statik was a duo, veteran cover band performer Kelly Buote formed a duo with Dennis Dunn who was a “friend of a friend,” easy to understand on the Island. They worked well together—vocally they were terrific—but a duo with two lead guitars was awkward at best, so the less experienced Dunn changed to a bass.

After a year of performing the Buote and Dunn wanted to per sue a heavier sound that was just not possible with their drum machine, so Dunn bought in former workmate Chris Acorn.

Retro Statik, as it is today, has been performing for two years. It all began with gigs in the smaller wateringholes at the Island’s northern Legions and Lions Clubs. “Turn it down, we can’t hear ourselves play cards,” jokes Buote. Not the ideal venue for the man who wanted to go back to his 70s and 80s hard rock roots.

But the gigs got better—the Kensington Club, Carrs at Stanley Bridge, and now, thanks to Corey Doucette at St James Gate, who gave them their first chance in Charlottetown.

They are building their following, with gigs at the Churchill Arms and fueling the ecstatic late night dancing at the Old Dublin. “If you don’t feel it, don’t play it,” says Buote.

And as their small but expanding group of loyal fans can attest, these guys really feel it. From their early influences like Creedence Clearwater Revival and ACDC to more modern bands like Pearl Jam and The Offspring, Retro Statik’s repertoire of  rockers and blue collar anthems appeals to a wide audience.

These guys really mean the music, which is admirable coming from a cover band. They have no desire to write their own material—they like what they are doing. Its refreshing to see a cover band that is not using coverbanddom as a steppingstone to stardom, getting gigs to make money for studio time or to keep going to push their own songs. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it means the emphasis and energy of the band is not 100% focused on performing their cover songs. Retro Statik are.

Retro Statik play regularly at St James Gate and have a page on Facebook with band dates and updates.

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