Executive producer Doug Cox has landed Canadian Music Hall of Famer Tom Cochrane, with Red Rider, as a headliner for this summer’s Vancouver Island MusicFest.
Cochrane and his band will play on the Saturday night of the three-day (July 12-14) festival.
“Tom, over the last few years, has kind of become one of the elder statesmen of rock and roots music in Canada, for sure… so he’s been one of the guys that has been on my ‘list’ for a long time, to get him to come,” said Cox.
The announcement of Red Rider falls into a MusicFest pattern of getting a big name Canadian act for one of its headliners. While there is always plenty of Canadian content throughout the festival, in the past few years, the festival has brought in the likes of the Barenaked Ladies, Walk Off the Earth, Bruce Cockburn, The Trews, 54-40 and Serena Ryder to the main stage.
Cox said he is always cognizant of Canadian content.
“It’s always been a conscious effort to support Canadian talent as much as possible. I don’t think there are a lot of ‘headliners’ if you want to use that word, that necessarily fall into the fit of MusicFest all the time. We are definitely a roots music festival. But Tom Cochrane really fits well. You can call it rock music, but it is really roots based.”
Vast musical library
Cochrane’s library is so vast, it’s unlikely he will have enough time to get to all his – and Red Rider’s – hits through the course of his July 13 set at the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds. And his songs appeal to all age groups.
“Absolutely,” said Cox. “My son’s favourite movie when he was [a toddler] was Cars, and Life is a Highway was all over that movie. So his music goes from, well my son is now 14… and all the way up to us old [guys].”
Cochrane has been a mainstay in the Canadian music scene ever since Red Rider’s debut album, Don’t Fight it, in 1979. The band went on to release five more studio albums (the final two as Tom Cochrane & Red Rider).
As Far As Siam (1981) featured the hit single Lunatic Fringe, and Neruda (1983) had Human Race, both of which climbed as high as No. 11 on the U.S. charts.
Breaking Curfew (1984) had Young Thing, Wild Dreams (Rock Me); and the 1986 release Tom Cochrane and Red Rider had a string of hits, including Boy Inside the Man.
Arguably the band’s “most Canadian” hit came in 1989, with the release of Big League, off the album Victory Day.
The song is a story told by a grieving parent, whose son was on his way to play hockey in the United States when he “hit a truck doing 70, in the wrong lane…”
(The song was re-written and re-released in the wake of the Humboldt Broncos tragedy in 2018, with sales proceeds directed to the Humboldt Strong Community Foundation.)
Tom Cochrane and Red Rider released a live album, The Symphony Sessions, in 1989, before Cochrane ventured into a solo career, with Mad Mad World, in 1991.
That album contained the aforementioned mega-hit Life is a Highway – which reached No. 1 on the Canadian charts, and No. 6 in the U.S. – as well as Sinking Like a Sunset (No. 2 in Canada), and No Regrets (No. 3 in Canada, No. 7 in the U.S.)
He released four more solo albums after Mad Mad World, then celebrated the 25th anniversary of that iconic record by reuniting with Red Rider and re-issuing the album, as a two-CD set.
Saturday evening set
Tom Cochrane and Red Rider are part of a stunning international lineup on the main stage Saturday evening at this year’s MusicFest.
The evening starts with Indian classical sarod master, Amjad Ali Khan. Following Khan will be New Orleans roots/funk group Cha Wa. The Muscle Shoals All-stars – with all their special guests – take the stage next, followed by Tom Cochrane and Red Rider.
American country stars Asleep at the Wheel will close the Saturday lineup.
“We’ve got from Indian, to New Orleans, to Canadian rock ‘n’ roll, to Texas swing all in one night. I’m thrilled with the Saturday lineup,” said Cox, who said he is tying up loose ends before announcing the Friday night lineup.
Sunday evening has more international flavour on the main stage, with West African group BKO, Americans Danny Kortchmar, Waddy Wachtel & Friends, The Hamiltones (who backed up Ry Cooder at the 2018 MusicFest), blues guitarist Robben Ford, and Cuban great Adonis Puentes closing the show.