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SASKATOONEXPRESS -June 19-25, 2017 - Page 10

Arts &

Entertainment

Duo will grind out blues-rock at Jazz Festival

Joanne Paulson Saskatoon Express or a duo, The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer can make a lot of noise. Their sound, as described by Matthew Rogers (The Axe Murderer, aka the guitarist), is fundamentally “blues with a lot of rock ‘n’ roll swagger and as much energy as we can infuse.” That’s what the audience will hear on June 23 on the SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival’s TD Mainstage, where Rogers and harmonica player and vocalist Shawn Hall share the ticket with Amanda Marshall. Later that night, they’ll mix it up at Amigos Cantina, starting at 11:35. Don’t expect the same show. “We do really switch it up depending on the venue,” said Rogers in an interview. “You’re not going to go to one show and get the same show at the next one. We’re going to mix it up so people who go to both won’t see the same thing. “Amigos is quite loud so we’re going to try not to be too loud and boisterous. But on the main stage, we’re going to rock it.” H&AM are bouncing off their new album Apocalipstick, released earlier this year. It follows 2014’s A Real Fine Mess, which landed a Juno nomination for Blues Album of the Year, and two wins at the Western Canadian Music Awards for Blues Album and Alternative Album of the year. Other things are heating up for the duo: for example, their songs have been featured on TV shows including CSI, NCIS, The Good Wife, Blue Bloods and, appropriately, Lizzie Borden Took An Axe. And that sound has heated up from simJW060513 James mer to broil over the last few years. Origi-

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nally, The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer were acoustically-driven. It all began in the early 2000s, when they started playing together in various bands. “We just had mutual admiration for each other’s musicality but we didn’t really have any intention of forming a duo or anything right like that off the bat. We liked playing music with each other,” said Rogers. “In 2006, it just sort of dawned on me it would be really fun and nice and simple to cut out all the extra people and do something just the two of us. So, we did. “It was sort of a slow build for us. We started a definite shift in sound as we sort of evolved over the years. We started much more acoustically. “There’s a hidden recording that we don’t show to very many people, our very first recording (when) I was living in Montreal at the time and I recorded some acoustic guitar and sent the file to Shawn who recorded vocals and harmonica. And that was the band. It was like a Sonny TerryBrownie McGhee sort of thing, without much in the way of drums or percussion. It was much more folky, much more based on the blues of Sonny and Brownie and people like Mississippi John Hurt.” Taj Mahal was another profound influence, inspiring Rogers and Hall musically and otherwise. “That was our first big festival gig (with Taj Mahal) which led us down this (festival) path. The guys took a chance on us opening for him. It really paid off for us; it was the thrill of a lifetime, really. “His music was a big influence on our sound and continues to be, too. It was a wild experience.”

Shawn Hall, left, the Harpoonist, and Matthew Rogers, The Axe Murderer, will bring their hot blues-rock sound to the jazz festival mainstage and Amigos June 23. (Photo Supplied)

At the Kaslo festival in the Kootenays, they were performing from a floating stage on a night when the duo was on one side of the stage, with Taj Mahal on the other. It was “a magical moment. The moon setting, watching Taj Mahal. Just one of those moments were we were like, we’ve done something cool with our lives. “At the other end of spectrum was Doctor Dog in Europe on tour, a less-known band but we love them. They’re one of the few bands that every single night you could watch their show and be entertained and

interested. Seven nights on the road and we were still watching their show.” It was a mutual love for the blues that got the band fired up in the beginning, said Rogers. “It got a lot more electric and a lot louder as we started playing more and more bars and wanted to rise above the din of people talking and wanting to dance,” he said. “It was somewhat of a revelation to me that two people could get people up and dancing. (Continued on page 11)

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Saskatoon Express, June 19, 2017