On Thursday evening, Moncton’s Capitol Theatre will play host to two of the province’s acclaimed folk acts when hometown honky-tonk heroes the BackYard Devils will be taking to the stage for a highly anticipated hometown performance. Joining the group will be Saint John duo Tomato Tomato.
In the time since the release of their sophomore record I Go Where You Go last June, Tomato Tomato has maintained a relatively full slate of shows that have not only brought them to all corners of Atlantic Canada, but also provided them the opportunity to travel and play for audiences in Australia late last year.
More recently, the group – comprised of husband and wife team John and Lisa McLaggan – had the chance to help expand their international profile even more with a trip south of the border. The McLaggan’s performed a standing-room only showcase at the high-profile Folk Alliance International Festival in Kansas City, Missouri last month.
The festival bills itself as the world’s largest gathering of the folk music industry, attracting more than 2,000 artists and industry personnel each year, including agents, publishers, record labels, festival presenters, media and more.
Tomato Tomato was in terrific company at the festival. Not only were fellow Atlantic Canadian artists like Vishten and The Once in attendance, the festival also welcomed internationally renowned acts including Billy Bragg, Robyn Hitchcock, and Tift Merritt.
“The overall atmosphere of Folk Alliance International was very similar to what we’ve seen at the East Coast Music Awards,” Tomato Tomato’s Lisa McLaggan says. “It was an amazing weekend of music in virtually every corner of the hotel, from the lobby to the rooms to the stairwells.”
While having the opportunity to both take in and perform among world-class entertainment is a definite perk of attending such events, McLaggan notes the ultimate goal of playing festivals is to expand the reach of the group’s music.
Although it’s difficult to predict any new opportunities that will come Tomato Tomato’s way as a result of performing at Folk Alliance International, McLaggan says the experience alone was worth its weight in gold.
“It’s tough to gauge the exact impact of our showcase, and whether anything will come our way down the road as a result of it, but both John and I feel pretty good about how things went overall,” she says. “It’s always nice to come home and start sorting through the array of business cards we collected over the course of the festival, but it’s also quite humbling to be included in an event that features musicians that you look up to.”
Included in that category of musicians Tomato Tomato looks up to happen to include Moncton group The BackYard Devils. The two bands first performed together in early 2015 when the Devils were celebrating the release of their sophomore record Honky Tonk Heartbreaker. Since then, the groups have nurtured a deep friendship rooted in mutual respect, and, of course, a shared love of music.
“Those guys are very dear friends of ours. Our daughter absolutely adores them too,” McLaggan says with a laugh.
“From the moment I first saw Tomato Tomato, I loved their music,” BackYard Devils vocalist-guitarist Erik Arsenault says of the Saint John band. “I think both bands will bring an easy-going vibe to the stage, especially John and Lisa, who have this amazing chemistry and are just so charismatic. Speaking for my group, we’ve never been ones to take ourselves too seriously, which is something I think helps us connect with audiences.”
Looking back on the two years that have passed since the release of Honky Tonk Heartbreaker, Arsenault says the group let their foot off the promotional gas pedal somewhat in 2016.
“In the 12 months that followed the release of the album, we had an extremely busy year. In the five years leading up to Honky Tonk Heartbreaker’s release, we had been working hard, playing anywhere and everywhere we could, so it made sense that we would slow things down somewhat last year. It gave each of us the chance to pursue different projects, which in turn allowed us to return to the BackYard Devils with a renewed outlook and approach.”
Although he is hesitant to offer a date when a potential third album will emerge from the group, Arsenault says the band has been busy writing in anticipation of an eventual return to the studio. He says the group has been incorporating different instrumentation into some of their newer songs and is excited to see where the songs lead them.
“There is no timeline in stone or anything like that,” he says. “We’re not feeling pressure to release something just for the sake of keeping the name out there. Our approach to the group has always been rooted in a long-term vision. At the end of the day, we are great friends playing music together. It is something we want to last, so we try not to stress too much about what we should be doing. We just prefer to let things unfold as naturally as possible.”
What: The BackYard Devils with special guests Tomato Tomato
When: Thursday March 9, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Capitol Theatre, 811 Main St., Moncton
Tickets are $27 for members, $29 for others. Advance tickets are available at the Capitol Theatre Box Office, by phone (506) 856-4379 and online at capitol.nb.ca