By Imogen Whale, special to the Times Review
Spirit of The West (SOTW) is a well known Canadian band hailing from Vancouver. Getting their start back in 1983, the band has had several hits in the Canadian charts, including their iconic drinking song Home for A Rest, released 13 studio albums, been inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Western Canadian Music Association, and received various other awards. Comprised of band members Hugh McMillian, Geoffrey Kelly, Vince Ditrich, John Mann, Tobin Frank and Matthew Harder, SOTW is playing at the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre on Sept 11 as the kick off to the Revelstoke Arts Councils 2014/15 performance series.
Despite leaving a fast and scattered voice mail, SOTW band member Ditrich called back. “Oh I knew exactly what you were saying,” he laughs, “Now actors, they’re the worst. They leave 20 minute messages about some woman’s hat who just walked past.”
His computer unavailable, Ditrich was unable to email and concludes calling is easier as when “trying to thumb type on a phone I’m only a hairs breath smarter than a monkey.” Charming, funny and articulate, Ditrich was happy to answer a few questions.
When asked about favourite performances and having “many wonderful times” Ditrich personally feels one of their most meaningful events was playing in Vimy, France, at the 95th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. “The people there and they way they still feel for our great grandfathers was quite profound. It was an honour representing our country there.”
Enjoying venues both small and large in nature, Ditrich concludes SOTW likes a “balanced diet of the two.”
“Each venue has its own set of unique characteristics. There are songs you can play in a small intimate setting that you can’t play in a large arena. The way you talk and converse with the crowd changes.”
SOTW songs that have stood the test of time are clear favourites for the audience, but Ditrich finds certain songs, such as Goodbye Grace and Lights of Man hold significant value to him personally. “They pull at my heart strings,” he explains. “The people these songs are about are in the forefront of our minds each time we perform the song.”
Noting that they are performing Home For a Rest in a dry setting, Ditrich shrugs it off. “It’s a little quieter when that happens, but it’s nice to have people sober and with us. Often by the time in the set Home For A Rest plays people are senseless drunks.”
Having been around for decades, every band member has a family and children and balance their home lives with travel. “There are 14 kids all together,” Ditrich explains. “We joke the kids are a demographic unto themselves. The oldest is 25 or 26 and the youngest is just one.” While noting with so many people on tour at a time SOTW would require their own tour bus, small hotel and pub; each family does get the chance to attend shows.
When asked if they hadn’t ended up in a successful band where their lives would have taken them, Ditrich notes they are all firmly stuck in the arts. “John would be in acting,” he says. “But Geoffrey might have been an accountant, I might have been a history teacher or an astronaut. Hugh, he’s brilliant and might have been a scientist, though he is cursed with a gift in the arts!”
And while not currently working on new material, Ditrich says that may change in the near future for SOTW.
SOTW was inducted into the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame this past March, and while clearly pleased, Ditrich jokes that one can now stumble down Granville and come across the star on the sidewalk.
“I’ve lived in Vancouver for 30 years,” he said. “To think something I’m a part of is permanently part of the city is a good feeling.”
Though Ditrich has driven through Revelsoke and various occasions, admiring the local country and getting Revel stuck due to highway closures, Ditrich confessed he personally never had, or would, stop to ski. “Jesus no,” he says. “Why ski when there is a perfectly good pub nearby?”
Spirit of the West plays at the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre on Thursday, Sept. 11, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $35, available at the visitor information centre, ArtFirst, or the Revelstoke Arts Council website.