The Watch­men re­turn to old stomp­ing grounds

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Melissa Martin

THE Win­nipeg football team’s fore­cast looks a lit­tle dicey, but here’s a bat­tle at Canad Inns Sta­dium that’s sure to be tight: the Watch­men ver­sus the North­ern Pikes.

Book it: Win­nipeg ver­sus Saska­toon, a good old-fash­ioned prairie rock block. She Ain’t Pretty ver­sus Stereo, and all the other hits they cranked out on Cana­dian ra­dio in be­tween. The con­certs hap­pen to­day dur­ing Bomber Fan Ap­pre­ci­a­tion Day at the sta­dium, af­ter a morn­ing au­to­graph ses­sion with the play­ers.

“I’m fired up about the show,” Watch­men drum­mer Sammy Kohn says from his Toronto of­fice, and dredges up a mem­ory: he first saw the Pikes on a clas­sic win­ter night in 1988. It was -40 C and an 18-year-old Kohn crammed into the old Le Ren­dezvous to watch the Regina band rock out.

A few years later, the Watch­men got in­vited to open up for the North­ern Pikes in Eastern Canada. The band had yet to re­lease its de­but al­bum, McLarenFur­naceRoom, so the tour­ing gig was a big deal. They didn’t tour to­gether again, Kohn says. “So for me per­son­ally, this is pretty ex­cit­ing.”

Plus, it means bring­ing the whole gang back to Win­nipeg, back to fam­ily and friends and the weath­ered old venues where they cut their teeth. The The Watch­men, North­ern Pikes Canad Inns Sta­dium 12:45 p.m. to­day, free Watch­men are all in Toronto now, far from the frozen town where they first ripped out the riff to Run and Hide on­stage at the Spec­trum.

Now they’ve got 10 kids among them, and work sched­ules to bal­ance: gui­tarist Joey Serlin com­poses mu­sic for film and TV, New­found­land bassist Ken Tiz­zard — the only non-Win­nipeg na­tive in the band — plays in a solo project with his band, Bad In­tent.

Kohn does real es­tate and works in sales for Toronto Life mag­a­zine. Front­man Danny Greaves now runs a Queen Street pub, Mo­tel. A lit­tle birdy told the Free Press it’s the cosiest place in T.O. to catch a Win­nipeg Jets game.

You see, while you can take the Watch­men out of Win­nipeg, you can’t take the ’Peg out of any­one.

“Be­ing a part of the Win­nipeg scene in the 1990s is some­thing we’re still very proud of,” Kohn says. “Out of al­most any­thing we’ve done, the fact we made a lit­tle bit of a dent in terms of the mu­si­cal map, we’re so proud of that.”

They’re proud of this too: there’s new ma­te­rial a-comin’, as the Watch- men plan to put at least 10 tunes on­line in the com­ing months. Though Kohn pledges the Banjo Bowl pre-show will mostly be a whack of clas­sic hits, the band’s been on a con­trolled roll since re­unit­ing in 2008.

At the time, they weren’t sure if it would be for­ever; but as it turned out, mak­ing mu­sic when you’re not un­der the gun of a big-time la­bel con­tract is a lot of fun. “When we did it full time, it was a life-or-death thing,” Kohn says, of the stresses that led to the band fiz­zling out al­most a decade ago.

Now, they choose gigs se­lec­tively: the Banjo Bowl bo­nanza will be only their sec­ond show of the year. “The truth is, we’re play­ing the best shows we’ve ever played, be­cause there is this ur­gency that… it could just go away at any time,” Kohn says. “And there’s still strength in those songs.”

Still strength enough that fans can sing ev­ery last lyric and line. Kohn re­mem­bers writ­ing their break­out hit, All Un­cov­ered, record­ing it and film­ing a video. That was 18 years ago. Kids born that year can vote now but what­ever, it’s still a song for the grown-ups to sing along.

“The ex­cite­ment of this thing is not lost on me one bit,” Kohn says. “The fact that we can still com­mit to play­ing some room in Toronto, Win­nipeg or Cal­gary and have 500 peo­ple com­ing to hear us play, that’s re­mark­able.”

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