A Canada Day in Ecuador

Cana­dian am­bas­sador books Bay Roberts mu­si­cian’s band for spe­cial gig


Bay Roberts na­tive An­drew Mercer was busy lin­ing up Canada Day gigs for his band Cod Gone Wild when he re­ceived an un­ex­pected phone call.

A cou­ple of months ago he was con­tacted at his Ver­non, B.C., home by the Cana­dian am­bas­sador to Ecuador’s as­sis­tant about play­ing a Canada Day show in the coun­try’s cap­i­tal city of Quito.

“It’s pretty ex­cit­ing as we al­ways play Canada Day. Ev­ery year we have sur­prise shows and get to travel. Last year, we did a show in San Fran­cisco.”

Am­bas­sador Pamela O’Don­nell is from Nova Sco­tia and was look­ing for that per­fect mod­ern Celtic act for the show, which is be­ing held in the gar­dens of the em­bassy.

When you’re the hand­picked choice of a Cana­dian am­bas­sador, you’re pretty much obliged to work your sched­ule around at­tend­ing the event. That’s ex­actly what Mercer, who han­dles book- ings for the band, did once he re­ceived the call.

“We were in al­ready in ne­go­ti­a­tions with a few places when we got the email ask­ing if we’d be in­ter­ested in com­ing down,” he told The Com­pass. “I had to go back to these groups and tell them some­thing had come up. They were re­ally great and un­der­stand­ing. Since book­ing the (Ecuador show) we ended up turn­ing down three or four shows.

“What a great op­por­tu­nity for the band.”

The op­por­tu­nity came af­ter the am­bas­sador saw the band’s video for “Farewell to Nova Sco­tia” on stream­ing site YouTube. It was shot at the Okana­gan Win­ter Car­ni­val and fea­tures just a sam­pling of the band’s im­mense skill and en­er­getic live show. It helps too that the song was one of the tunes O’Don­nell was look­ing to hear at the show. It’s been six years since Mercer left his home province and headed west look­ing for a change of pace. That was Canada Day 2009.

Armed with a busi­ness de­gree from Me­mo­rial Univer­sity, Mercer came to Bri­tish Columbia with­out a po­si­tion, but soon found one at the Okana­gan cam­pus for the Univer­sity of Bri­tish Columbia.

He worked there for three years be­fore, in true rock n’ roll fash­ion, he quit his job and pur­sued mu­sic full-time.

Mercer was test­ing the wa­ters on form­ing a band the very first day he moved out west. Ar­riv­ing on Canada’s birth­day, Mercer at­tended some of the lo­cal fes­tiv­i­ties where he met a jour­nal­ist for the lo­cal pa­per who in­ter­viewed him about the move and his de­sires to find like-minded mu­si­cians.

“It al­ways takes awhile to find the right peo­ple who have that chem­istry on stage and mu­si­cally,” he said.

The right peo­ple

When he did find them, Mercer said there was an in­stant chem­istry amongst the group. Watch­ing their live clips, it is not hard to see this is the case. There is the flow­ing stage ban­ter and the move­ments based of those of their band­mates.

Aside from Mercer who sings and plays guitar, the group also in­cludes drum­mer Chad ‘Rhino’ Carter, clas­si­cally trained vi­o­lin­ist Anjuli Ot­ter and Cana­dian-Ja­panese bass player Roy Kawano.

Rhino, a heavy me­tal drum­mer at heart, has a term of en­dear­ment for the sounds he makes on the drums play­ing Celtic mu­sic.

“He calls it a ‘cod slap,’” said Mercer. “That’s the way that he played the snare drum.”

To that end, the drum­mer sug­gested that name for the band, but it was quickly nixed.

“If I went home and told my mother the name of the band was ‘cod slap,’ she wouldn’t let me in the house,” said Mercer. “We wanted to have cod in the name. With me be­ing the only guy in the band from New­found­land and trav­el­ling to B.C. to play in a Celtic band, I’m kind of the cod in Cod Gone Wild.

The band has pro­duced three al­bums to date, each con­tain­ing a rolick­ing mix of tra­di­tional tunes

and orig­i­nals.

A history of mu­sic

Mercer has been in­volved in mu­sic since his days at Amal­ga­mated Academy in Bay Roberts. In high school, he was a mem­ber of Ocean Skye and spent count­less nights play­ing in the clubs and pubs on Ge­orge Street in St. John’s.

When he is not bounc­ing around the stage with Cod Gone Wild, he is the di­rec­tor of the Okana­gan Celtic Choir in Ver­non.

“I’m very proud of Bay Roberts and its one of the first things I say ev­ery show,” said Mercer. “I want peo­ple to know where I am from and I’m proud to rep­re­sent New­found­land and the mu­sic.”

Cod Gone Wild per­forms up­wards to 100 shows a year, and the in­dus­try vet­eran couldn’t be hap­pier.

“It’s been busy the last cou­ple of years and it keeps get­ting busier,” said Mercer.


Bri­tish Columbia-based Celtic band Cod Gone Wild will play a big gig at the Cana­dian Em­bassy in Quito, Ecuador on July 1. Fronted by Bay Roberts na­tive An­drew Mercer (far left), the band will bring its en­er­getic live show to the South Amer­i­can na­tion. Other mem­bers of the band are Anjuli Ot­ter (sec­ond from left), Chad Carter (sec­ond from right) and Roy Kawano.

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