For the Sunparlour Players, Northwestern Ontario has been a cross between the Bermuda Triangle and a David Lynch movie at times.
On their last attempt to play a show in Thunder Bay their van broke down about an hour west of the city, the second time that had happened to them. The Toronto-based folk-rockers settled into a sleepy little motel on the side of the highway when they heard a commotion outside. They saw a teenage boy trying to assault a woman. He was chased away but not before shouting threats about coming back to the motel with a gun to kill them, all while driving on a riding lawnmower.
“It was so bizarre,” Andrew Penner said recently on the phone during a snowy stop in Calgary. “It was kind of scary because this guy was just a deranged little dude on a riding lawnmower.”
So the band backed their van right up to the door of their room, put on a Paul Newman movie and drank what was left of the tour booze with pricked up ears, listening for the whir of a lawnmower engine throughout the thankfully uneventful night.
The two-piece are now braving that stretch of road once again as they play Crock’s Oct. 30. And just like an unusual anecdote, they are bringing some unusual merchandise with them if they arrive. For as long as the Sunparlour Players have been a band, going on five years, they have sold hand-made preserves at their shows. Penner and Michael Rosenthal like preserves so much, they have a new E.P. called ‘Sunparlour Preserves’ that includes their own recipe for apple butter.
“It’s kind of an odd combination but it really seems to work with what we do,” Penner said.
And what they do is pretty ambitious for a two-piece. From simple pop to orchestral ballads the guys will play 16 instruments, usually two or three at a time, while experimenting on stage. That makes it more fun for the band but the audience as well.
“And the chance for things to break down or screw up become higher and that’s always fun too,” Penner said. “It turns it into a little bit of a circus act without it being stupid.”
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