Despite the name, the Victoria-based, high-octane band Ballgag ’n’ Chain Gang is far more buoyant (and at times flamboyant) than restrained.
And despite the April Fool’s Day date, these fun guys are no fools; they are serious about their music. The Ballgag ’n’ Chain Gang band brings its brash brand to the Comox Valley this Friday, when they step up to the stage at the Courtenay Legion for a fundraiser to benefit the Comox Valley Community Arts Council.
Best known for their high-energy live shows, the band incorporates diverse musical styles and a developed stage act to form a unique performance style they call Ho-Tonk.
“We take our work seriously, but we don’t take ourselves seriously,” says bassist Avert Pater in an interview with The Village Vibe of Fernwood, near Victoria. The band’s central theme? “Have fun!”
Formed in 2006 as the orchestra for a Fringe Festival play entitled Bullfrog Lullabye, Ballgag ’n’ Chain Gang has evolved from a “three-piece junk band” into a “five-piece juggernaut of musical virtuosity,” according to the band’s material.
They have toured as far as Saskatchewan, played festivals including Rifflandia and Soulfest, and headlined at the Edge of the World Festival on Haida Gwaii.
They have opened for such acts as The Sadies, White Cowbell Okalahoma and The Matadors. The band’s artistic musicality, bundled with fun, fits well with the Comox Valley Community Arts Council, an institution that strives to ensure entertainment is a component of serious art — to wit, the recent Trash Art Challenge.
“With the cuts in government funding for the arts, we need money to keep operating and Ballgag ’n’ Chain stepped up to the plate,” says CVCAC event organizer Jenn Alton. “What better way to get the operating funds we need to keep doing this good work?”
The band’s self-titled debut album was released in 2008. The latest release is a four-song EP called Everything’s Better with Bacon!
Both Ballgag ’n’ Chain Gang and Everything’s Better with Bacon! are available at CDBaby.com and iTunes.com.
The founder and creative energy behind the band is Steve Craik, a.k.a. The Good Doctor, who sings and plays guitar, trombone and didjeridu. Adam Zonnis, a.k.a. Grizzle Sin, is on vocals, banjo, fiddle, trumpet and harmonica, while Tony Garossino, originally from the Lone Star State and therefore a.k.a. Texas T-Bag, plays lead guitar, lap steel and mandolin. On vocals and drums is Brendan Pye, a.k.a. Little Buddy, while bassist Evert Pater, known as The Dutch Dangler, holds the band steady with his bedrock bass lines.
“Ballgag charms its audience with an unabashed, confident stage presence that you can’t resist partying to,” said entertainment critic Stacey Curtis, writing in The Village Vibe.
Tickets are at CVCAC’s Muir Gallery on Anderton Avenue, and at Bob City Records. More information is available at www.hotonk.com and www.comoxvalleyarts.com.
“Coming out to this show is an excellent way to support local arts,” said Alton. “As a volunteer-driven society, we foster an active, vibrant role for arts culture in the community. And, we couldn’t possibly have found a group better suited to April Fool’s Day.”
— Comox Valley Community Arts Council