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Crash Test Dummies are back on the road, with two dates in Sidney next week

The 11-time Juno Award nominees are beginning string of concerts across Canada.
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Crash Test Dummies, led by singers Brad Roberts, left, and Ellen Reid, are performing two concerts at the Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney. SPKx at ENGLISH WIKIPEDIA

CRASH TEST DUMMIES

Where: Charlie White Theatre, 2243 Beacon Ave., Sidney

When: Monday and Tuesday, Aug. 22-23, 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: $87.15 from tickets.marywinspear.ca or 250-656-0275

Artists who make their living playing music endure more valleys than peaks, but the thrill of small victories is what keeps them forever committed to the cause.

“The music business doesn’t have to mean you sell records like Justin Bieber or Billie Eilish,” said singer Ellen Reid of Crash Test Dummies.

“You don’t have to be those kinds of artists to make a living and have fun. You can do it at a more relaxed and humble level.”

Reid, who, like her bandmates in the Grammy-nominated group, was raised in Winnipeg, was speaking to the Times Colonist from a hotel room in San Francisco. Reid, singer Brad Roberts, bassist Dan Roberts, drummer Mitch Dorge, guitarist Stuart Cameron and keyboardist Marc Arnould returned to the road following the two-year break brought about COVID-19, and started with a U.S. run that got underway in March.

A European trek in May and June followed by another round of U.S. dates has prepped the 11-time Juno Award nominees for their upcoming string of concerts in Canada, which starts Sunday in Vancouver. It’s all part of a new mindset for Crash Test Dummies, which has undergone some changes in the past half-decade, according to Reid. They morphed from a touring entity “out there to have some fun” into a band thinking about a new album and touring markets such as Australia.

“The tour has done so well, we’re basically thinking, ‘Why not?’ ” she said.

Crash Test Dummies return to Vancouver Island for dates Monday and Tuesday at the Charlie White Theatre in Sidney, where they last played in 2019 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of God Shuffled His Feet, which sold eight million copies worldwide. That anniversary tour remains in-progress, Reid said, and continues to be a rewarding experience for everyone in the group.

“It’s a big nostalgia thing, for sure. We’re playing all the hits. We’re not promoting a new album or anything, so we’re not forcing new material on people. We have a few deep cuts, but mostly it’s give the people what they want — and we’re happy to do that.”

Crash Test Dummies have two dates in their home town with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra to close out their tour, which are expected to be among the best-selling dates on the tour, for obvious reasons. In addition to Winnipeg, they also have strong pockets of support in regions like the Pacific Northwest and the Eastern Seaboard, but Atlanta remains one of the band’s more unlikely success stories on tour.

“That’s where God Shuffled His Feet broke,” Reid said.” A big radio station picked it up, while Canada wasn’t even interested in [hit single] Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm at the time. This radio station helped it get big in the States, so Canada said, ‘Well, maybe we’ll give them another listen.’

“That’s how it worked back then. You had to have a story. And Atlanta created that story for us.”

For all the hits Crash Test Dummies have on their resume, including Superman’s Song, The Ghosts That Haunt Me, and Afternoons & Coffeespoons, Reid says it’s the little-known ballad, Heart of Stone, from 2010’s Oooh La La!, that is the “showstopper” on the band’s current tour. “You’ll have 400 people in a rowdy bar, and you can hear a pin drop. It’s a stunner.”

Future tours may have a different feel, however. Brad Roberts has begun writing new material for what may become the band’s first new album of material in 12 years, one which Reid says is classically influenced. “He’s big into music theory right now, and he’s studying piano. He’s gotten quite good. Instead of his influences being Lyle Lovett and XTC, now he’s thinking about Bach.”

Fans have come to expect unlikely things from the folk-rock band, which used accordion liberally, had a bass-baritone frontman, and whose most successful song has a wordless chorus. Not even Reid knows where the band is headed, and she’s OK with the uncertainty. She worked in retail before the group took off in 1991, so the idea of returning to a pre-fame career is not an option.

“Parts of this job are really tough. But I’m getting paid to drive through some beautiful countryside to put on a show so people can clap for me? No one clapped for me when I was working my retail gig.

“How many healthy years do we have left? It’s weird to think that way, but you have to be realistic. Over the course of 35 years, it can’t stay constant. People change, tastes change, so what we are [as a band] will depend on a million things. There are so many moving parts, I couldn’t tell you what is going to happen five years from now.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com