Five young men were on stage in Sour Dough Alley at Golden City Days, playing a cover of a Mumford & Sons song. Their band is called 600 Cell and the front man is Robbie Turnbull, a member of one of Rossland’s music families, the Bourchiers. When 600 Cell finished their set they cleared the stage for No Excuse, fronted by Kenny Turner, who began playing when he was close to the same age, back in 1963. For a brief moment that dusty alley became a microcosm of Rossland’s music scene, it’s past, present and future.
Bourchier family brings the beats
Tim Hurley, a.k.a. Tim Bourchier, launched his first solo EP, June, this summer, and will be holding a CD release party on Friday at 9:30 p.m. at the Flying Steamshovel. Hurley has played the venue many times before, including opening for Terry Lightfoot over the summer and opening for Bend Sinister with Dizzy Spell last year. This time he’ll have an opener of his own, Graham Tracey, and he’ll be backed by five other musicians during his set.
Though this is the album’s official release party, Hurley toured the album at farmers’ markets around the area over the summer.
“I went to a whole bunch of farmers’ markets, which was really cool — Grand Forks, Penticton, Osoyoos,” explains Hurley. “I was selling [the album] as like a pre-sale. It was kind of an experiment just to see if that would be a worthwhile thing to do, and it definitely is to play farmers’ markets and sell a few CDs.”
Touring also allowed him to make some contacts for playing other shows in the Okanagan, and gave him a chance to meet other musicians in the area.
The tour of course included playing at the Rossland Mountain Market, where his cousin’s son, Robbie Turnbull, joined him for a couple of songs.
Turnbull started playing with fellow Seven Summits learner Caelum Scott last year, and the two eventually decided to form a band, which they recently named 600 Cell. They’ve played a number of youth talent shows, a few private events, Music in the Park in Trail, and of course Golden City Days. The band mostly plays alternative folk covers, and Turnbull and Scott have been working on writing original songs. So far the band’s biggest influence is Mumford & Sons.
Rossland music — then and now
Ken Turner has seen a number of young Rossland musicians get started, and is excited by what he’s seen so far from “the youngest Bourchier,” as he refers to Turnbull. “He’s fantastic.” Turner himself started playing when he was 16 years old, in a band called The Stolen Lands. From late 1966 to 1968 he toured and recorded with a band called Pembroke, Ltd., but came back to Rossland “when the first migration of ski bums arrived” — around 1973 — and played in a band called The Albert Fick Review. He started playing with No Excuse in 1983, though since then the membership has changed.
He remembers playing in the Powder Keg Pub in the Uplander Hotel on jam nights, where a 14-year-old Jason Thomas would have to wait outside, sometimes in the snow, to go on stage. Thomas is currently on tour with Castlegar country artist Lisa Nicole, who has once again been nominated for Best Female Vocalist by the BC Country Music Association, and Turner remembers when she started out at the Legion as a teenager.
Now Turner says there aren’t many venues left in Rossland, just the Legion, the Aerie and the Flying Steamshovel, and it’s hard for musicians to make any money. “When I started playing for money in 1965, you made $100 each, and you still do.”
Promoting music in Rossland
Daniel D’Amour has been booking shows at the Flying Steamshovel for four years now. D’Amour has always had an interest in music, playing in a couple of punk bands when he was a kid. He’s been working at the Shovel for the last eight years and started booking touring bands after the establishment underwent a renovation. “We put a stage in at that time, but it wasn’t geared toward touring musicians, it was more geared toward a local music scene, which was great because there wasn’t a lot. The town was missing a venue for that after the Uplander sort of shut down.”
Turner says that Betty Jenkins used to bring in bands from everywhere at the Uplander, but when it closed there was a gap left in the Rossland music scene. D’Amour has been trying to fill it, using Rossland’s location to attract bands on their way to bigger cities. “Bands are travelling through, whether they’re in Spokane, or they’re in Calgary, or they’re in Edmonton, or Kelowna, or Vancouver, and the hardest thing for a touring band to do is find connecting dates between their anchor points,” he explains.
But getting the bands to Rossland is only half the battle; getting the audience to the venue is the other. “To be a promoter, it can be expensive and very risky, especially in a town that only has 3000 people,” says D’Amour.
Bringing in popular bands is a way to try to pull an audience not just from Rossland, but from the West Kootenay at large, in an effort to sell out shows. When D’Amour is successful, it can be good for other Rossland businesses as well. “It promotes heads in beds,” he says. Those attending the show from out town will hopefully get a hotel room, grab something to eat, and maybe even do some shopping.
While D’Amour says he puts a lot of the budget into bringing in touring acts, the Shovel is also still a place for local bands to play, just as Hurley will on Friday.