A band featuring local and Saskatchewan talent entertained in Battleford Friday as they celebrated the launch of their newest CD.
Back of the Bus is a high-energy party band that plays contemporary and traditional Irish, Scottish and East Coast music. Their most recent CD is Live at the Bassment, which was recorded at the famous nightclub of that name in Saskatoon.
The band, which includes Battlefords resident Jim Walls, played at the Battlefords Community Players Clubhouse in Battleford, a former church now used as a rehearsal and production venue by the drama club.
"We had a great crowd and a fun night," said Walls.
He also had good things to say about the venue.
"The space the Community Players has created is very suited to smaller events, and I know they are hopeful it will become well used. "
Not surprisingly, St. Patrick's Day will be a busy day for the band, including an annual appearance at a long-term care home in Saskatoon.
"We play at the Sherbrook Community Centre every March 17, and then we will be at Bugsy's Bar and Grill in Saskatoon later that night," says Wall.
March 19, Back of the Bus will be at the Terrace Dining Lounge in Broderick.
"After that, our big show is back at the Bassment in Saskatoon on May 27," he said.
The five-piece band includes two Battlefords musicians as well as a long-time Cut Knife resident. Local members are Walls and Sheila Vaadeland. The band also includes Paul Runalls of Cut Knife and Anna Bekolay and Kathi Davis-Lepage of Saskatoon.
Back of the Bus has been together in its current form for three years and has played at all of Saskatchewan’s major Celtic venues and events. The musicians on “the Bus” all have extensive backgrounds in music and entertainment, as their website information explains:
Walls, who plays guitar and provides vocals, was happy to get back into the band business since his adolescent rock and roll days and folk-rock teen years. He had been playing Celtic folk music for many years as a solo, and leaped at the chance to play with this group of musicians. Influenced by the Corries, Dubliners and Great Big Sea, he is always searching for a new “old” tune to add to the musical mix. A social worker by training, he finds Back of the Bus great personal therapy. Walls is also an amateur actor and director, a grandfather and enjoys tinkering with his vintage MGB.
Sheila Vaadeland, vocals, guitar and percussion, is at home with blue grass, country, rock and roll and the blues, as well as her children’s and Celtic gigs. She is a long-time member of the Prairie Sailor Band, fronted by fellow Back of the Bus member Paul Runalls. Vaadeland is also a member of the Saskatoon band, The Chickadees. Always alive on stage, she loves to perform, especially when the crowd gets up and dances. An educator by training, Vaadeland always seems to be learning.
Paul Runalls, vocals, five-string bass, guitar and mandolin, is a familiar figure in the Saskatchewan music scene. As front man for Paul Runalls and the Prairie Sailor Band, he has been entertaining children and their parents for more than 30 years and has been recognized in the Saskatchewan Legislature for his contributions to children’s entertainment. He appeared on CBC’s Mr. Dressup television show in an episode called ”Paul Visits." Runalls is an accomplished songwriter and recording artist and has produced a number of recordings for young children’s television. His songs air regularly on the Stingray Kid’s Stuff Channel across Canada. Two of his songs reached the finals in the International Songwriting Competition and one reached the semifinal stage of the UK Songwriting Contest.
Anna Bekolay, vocals and violin, is one of the busiest and “in demand” musicians in Saskatoon. A conservatory trained musician and vocalist, Bekolay teaches music from her studio and is a respected adjudicator of strings and voice. She divides the rest of her time between Back of the Bus, The Bass Invaders, The Whiskey Jerks, Troubadours de Bois and Voci Strane. Bekolay can play any number of styles and she penned the title song of the band's second CD, Over the Ocean.
Kathi Davis-Lepage, vocals, tin whistle and accordion, is thoroughly steeped in Celtic music, dance, culture and commerce. She has played for years in Celtic bands including Tipperary Creek, Keltos and Peat Fire Flame. She taught and operated a studio for Celtic dance for 18 years and sang in a Welsh choir growing up. Davis-Lepage also has a background in Renaissance and Baroque music, a degree in music and has taught music for years.
The band's new CD, Live at the Bassment is available at Clans, Celts and Clover on Broadway in Saskatoon, or from band members.