This Saturday evening may mark the Evolve Festival debut for the Sam Roberts Band, but it definitely isn’t their first rodeo, if you catch our drift. Since the group burst out of Montreal in 2002 with The Inhuman Condition EP, the band has become a favourite of festival-goers from coast to coast.
At this point in his career, Roberts has learned not to sweat the small stuff when it comes to performing at outdoor festivals.
“Weather is a huge factor when it comes to playing these outdoor festivals, but I find the unpredictability of it can lend a whole air of excitement to the whole event,” Roberts tells us from a Thunder Bay tour stop – a music festival, at that – late last week.
“When you’re on stage and you’ve got beautiful, cloudless skies, people’s moods tend to reflect that, but people can seem equally happy in the midst of a torrential downpour as well. That can sometimes take the show to a whole other place, but in a good way. We’ve been on stage at festivals in the Prairies where there has been blue skies one minute, but then you just see this ominous black cloud marching toward the festival site. Before you know it, there are tornado warnings issued and lightning strikes happening. It’s crazy to see how fast things can turn.”
Roberts recalls how, early in their career, the group and their equipment were caught in the midst of a downpour while performing at an outdoor festival.
“Our gear ended up shorting out. We spent the next day in a motel, all armed with hairdryers, trying to dry out our equipment,” Roberts says, laughing.
Now more than ever, music festivals are programming a diverse array of artists in order to appeal to the widest audience possible. Arguably, Evolve boasts one of the most diversified line-ups of any music festival on the East Coast.
“Over the last few years, we have definitely seen those musical barriers coming down when it comes to how festivals are programmed. Ultimately though, it’s a reflection of what festivalgoers want to see. I think a person’s ability to absorb and enjoy music gets saturated at a certain point if they are being subjected to the same kinds of bands, one after the other,” Roberts suggests.
“We just performed at the Ottawa Blues Fest, alongside [reggae star] Sean Paul, Death From Above and [country music star] Toby Keith. So if that isn’t the very embodiment of how diverse festival line-ups have become these days, I don’t know what is.”
The imminent return of Roberts and his band marks the first time they’ve performed on the East Coast since this past November, when they played shows in each of the Atlantic provinces in support of Terraform, the group’s sixth full-length record that was released the month before.
“Those shows we played out east in November were vital in terms of us getting to know the music we were playing. Before that, it had just theoretically existed in the rehearsal space and in the studio. Once we wrapped up those first four shows out east, the rest of the tour ended up benefitting from that intense trial by fire.”
Not surprisingly, Roberts remains faithfully humbled by the fact the group continues to be a concert draw more than 15 years since Canadian audiences first heard tell of the band.
“It feels good to know people still care about this band and what we have to say,” he offers. “These days, we are constantly being fed new things, so the fact that anyone still has time in their hearts and minds for us seems nothing short of miraculous, and actually inspires us to continue forging ahead.”
What: Sam Roberts Band, performing as part of the Evolve Festival
When: Saturday July 15
Where: 274 Girvan Road, Clairville, N.B.
Schedule and ticket information can be found online at www.evolvefestival.com