After 14 years, frontman Dave Pederson and the rest of the band kickstart things and hope to build off of their legacy.
Punk rock midlife crisis? Pining for the limelight? Last grasp at fading youth?
For Dave Pederson it’s much simpler than that.
“I think I just missed it,” he says. “I just missed being in a band.”
The one-time Calgary skate-punk hero is sitting in a crowded downtown eatery during the lunch-hour rush not looking out of place from the rest of the white-collar crew.
Because he’s not. Not these days. He’s built up an oilfield marketing and sales representation company, had a family and settled into a life far removed from the days when he made a lot of good noise fronting local band Downway.
That band, which formed in the mid-’90s, would go on to tour North America, release a quartet of still-loved melodic punk albums, and play with some of the music’s biggest names.
And then, in 2003, they took a break that turned into a longer break that turned into a breakup for a number of reasons, but mainly, simply, because life and all of those aforementioned things that go with it — jobs, family, etc. — happened.
Pederson would go on to form Red City Anthem, which played around Western Canada for a bit, but then he says he was feeling “musically purged,” so he hung up the guitar strap and his pipes.
Sure, there have been a pair of Downway reunion shows in the past 14 years, but nothing substantial and nothing that breathed new life into his desire to “get the band back together.”
“Seeing Belvedere doing so well and seeing so many bands that I listened to growing up still doing it and touring — and going to see those bands — it just didn’t take that much pushing to make me say, ‘Yes,’ ” he says referring to fellow local legends, who reformed and successfully restarted their career last year.
“But it’s not just me, either, I had to get the rest of the guys to wanna get onboard, too, right? And everyone’s busy with families and kids.”
It was actually at Pederson’s 40th birthday when the decision to truly start back up Downway was cemented. Not surprisingly, it was after a few drinks and some good talk that the other members — Ryan Eagleson, Dave Holmes and Lyndon Strandquist, sitting in the spot of beloved music community champion and drummer Isaac Creasey, who passed away earlier this year — agreed they were all in the same place.
Of course, deciding to revisit and build off of past glories is one thing; doing it and doing it right is something else entirely.
“It’s been really easy,” says Pederson. “The only real work we had to do was bringing a new drummer in. Drummers, you gotta have the right one. It’s the backbone of any song or band, and when you’re playing this fast, it’s gotta be the right guy.
“Lyndon definitely is the right guy.”
They saw that immediately. After jamming a good 20 times they then played a warmup gig in Lethbridge, which was something of a trial by fire for Strandquist, the configuration of the room, the room itself being as if they were “right back at the beginning” of the band’s life — a small, dingy Legion with two speakers, no monitors, and little for the drummer to find his footing in sonic-wise.
“And he killed it,” Pederson says.
Downway’s first hometown show since the reformation was a triumphant one on Canada Day at Distortion, with their next, a highly anticipated one — by fans and band, alike — being the Ship & Anchor’s 27th Bday Bash this Wednesday, July 26 with Choke and Territories.
“It’s going to be off the chain,” Pederson says, noting that this will be the first time the group plays one of its favourite watering holes.
From there, well, some prairie and West Coast dates will follow, with the plan to head east in the near future for gigs in markets that were good to Downway back in the day, including Toronto and Montreal, where Musique Plus were big supporters of the band, the crew even hosting the French station’s punk show a couple of times.
Then the plan is to get past the nostalgia phase and make a new record — “a very, very good new record to come back,” he says pointing again to pals Belvedere and their reunion release The Revenge of the Fifth, which is arguably the best thing they’ve done.
Pederson says they already have new songs written and in the fall they’ll hopefully head into the studio to continue the Downway legacy.
And then? Tour the U.S.? Europe? More albums?
“I feel like we’re still gauging where we’re really at, you know what I mean?” Pederson says. “Your band broke up 14 years ago … with only two shows in that time. I want to believe that there’s a large amount of interest for our band to come back and people to see us, but it still remains to be seen. So there’s a nervousness that goes with that, it’s like, ‘Ah, I hope people actually give a shit.’ I get the feeling that people do, but at the same time it’s what we want to do.
“I just want to play our punk rock songs and to be old.”
Downway perform Wednesday, July 26 at the Ship & Anchor as part of the Ship’s 27th Bday Bash.
Mike Bell has been covering the Calgary music scene for the past 25 years with publications such as VOX, Fast Forward, the Calgary Sun and, most recently, the Calgary Herald. He is currently the music writer and content editor for theYYSCENE.ca. Follow him on Twitter/@mrbell_23 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.