Randy and Tal Bachman keep the music going through pandemic

IN CONCERT

What: Bachman & Bachman
Where: Mary Winspear Centre, 2243 Beacon Ave., Sidney
When: Sept. 24-Sept. 27, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $150 from tickets.marywinspear.ca or 250-656-0275

Rock legend Randy Bachman and his son, singer-songwriter Tal Bachman, have reached new creative heights during the past few months. That’s not the story for most musicians these days, many of whom are finding it difficult to navigate the pandemic world.

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“The whole industry is in tatters. It’s in pieces,” Randy Bachman said. “We’re quite lucky on Vancouver Island. I have friends living in the States, it’s like a bad horror movie. They are living it, and they can’t do anything about it.”

The father-and-son duo, who live together in Randy’s home in Sidney, are working on several projects under the newly minted Bachman & Bachman banner, including a Beatles-based show on SiriusXM satellite radio. Bigger news for Vancouver Island audiences are four hometown concerts at the Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney, the first of which gets underway tonight. The shows have a capacity of 50 people, and include social-distancing and other health protocols.

In terms of music, spontaneity will be a key ingredient, as the acoustic performances are designed to resemble a campfire singalong, according to Tal. Neither musician has a handle on what they are going to perform, which will give the shows a “trainwreck” quality, Randy said with a laugh. “This is just us being us. If you forget the song, you just morph into another song. We couldn’t follow a script. It would be too hard.”

The shows in Sidney will be patterned after Friday Night Trainwreck, the unofficial title of the Bachman & Bachman series on YouTube, which has been picking up steam since its April debut (Episode 26 hit the streaming service on Sept. 18). The hour-long episodes feature the two Juno Award winners’ characteristic laidback approach and wealth of stories. Live performances of songs by the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive are interspersed with material from further afield, from Los Lobos and Cream to Oasis and the Marshall Tucker Band.

“There’s obviously a generation gap between me and my son, as there is with most parents and their kids,” Randy said. “So when Tal brings five or six songs he wants to do, I may have heard them on the radio, but I’ve never, ever played them or even tried to sing them. I’ll bring some of my favourites, which are from a generation before, and he doesn’t know those, so a lot of times we’re blindly playing songs for the first time and looking at each other’s scribbled notes of lyrics.”

Randy and Tal tighten up their delivery for Musical Mystery Tour, their new show on The Beatles Channel on Sirius XM. Two episodes have aired so far, but if things go as planned, the monthly show could turn into a weekly endeavour. Randy has some experience in that area, having hosted the very popular Vinyl Tap music show on CBC Radio since 2005. The Beatles have always factored into his broadcasts, but Musical Mystery Tour has given Randy a new creative outlet.

The program has also earned him one very famous fan. “When we sent in our first show, we were a little apprehensive about how it would be received,” Randy said. “[SiriusXM head of programming] Lou Simon called me back and said: ‘I played it for Paul and he loves it.’ And I said: ‘Paul, who?’ And Lou said: ‘There’s only one Paul.’ “

Tal and partner KoKo — both big parts of the Bachman family business — moved into Randy’s house in Sidney once the pandemic hit. Tal has played in Randy’s band for years, so having the family under one roof wasn’t strange at first, he said. But seven months into an abbreviated working schedule, COVID has certainly taken its toll.

“If we didn’t have KoKo keeping track of the [YouTube] shows, I’d have no idea of how many we’ve done,” Tal said. “I wouldn’t know if it was 10 or 100. I don’t even know what month it is anymore. The entire year has been a total washout.”

Randy was expecting to have a big summer for himself, including a cross-Canada arena tour with singer Burton Cummings, his former Guess Who bandmate. Their July concert at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria was postponed to June 14, 2021. Most of his other concert dates were also pushed off to next year.

But there’s an upside, he said. If not for the virus, he never would have had time to do the YouTube series with Tal. “It never would have happened. We wouldn’t be doing the gigs at Mary Winspear, either. We are having fun doing this. And it’s all evolving out of COVID.”

Tal is happy to have the opportunity to perform, but he’s also glad to be helping others out financially. “When people come to the show, they’re helping us support the many great Vancouver Island businesses we’ve invited on to our team. Keeping things local is a real goal of ours. Our graphic artist, T-shirt manufacturer, music retail shops, guitar repairmen, videographers, sound engineers and crew are all local, as is obviously the team at the Mary Winspear Centre.

“We’ve all had a tough few months. Now is the time for us to all rise again together.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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