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Hopping Penguins: The Sound of Chester Race Week

The Hopping Penguins are more than Chester Race Week's house band; they're an international touring act with an infamous mystery guest. Supplement to our January/ February 2010 issue

December 22, 2009
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PGPenguinsCock368

Courtesy Gary Edwards

The Hopping Penguins are more than Chester Race Week’s house band; they’re an international touring act with an infamous mystery guest, Cocksolio (left), whom drummer Gary Edwards describes as “the Tito Puente of the penis.”

Most of the band members are also avid racers. “At one point we looked into getting a band yacht and sailing to all of our gigs,” says Edwards, who competed in 2009 Chester Race Week aboard Philippe Paturel’s Archambault 40 CIAO!. ” That would have been a good shtick.”

To see vintage photos of the band in action, click here.

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A Word on Consistancy: Hopping Penguins 25th Anniversary Biography

by Gary Edwards

In a summer that witnesses the reunions of the Payolas, The Police and Max Webster and in a year where the Rheostatics call it quits after a quarter century on stage, a case needs to be made for staying the course, for consistancy.

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As exhibit one in support of this case, we present to you the HP’s: here it is 25 seasons later and the Penguins aren’t going anywhere. A statement like this might be open to ridicule if taken too literally and it has been observed in past missives that the band has masochistic tendencies, but on this, our silver anniversary, the band has nothing to apologize for. It is, simply, a terrific live act.

The band can be sweet in the reggae styles with lush harmonies and it can also be raucous and obscene in a writhing driving funk. Like a good actor, the band has range; like a safe harbour, it has depth. From the lyrical and profound to the guttural and profane, the HP’s bring an eclectic and diverse pastiche to every show.

On bass, Peter King, whose virtuosic if unconventional technique is a revelation to any musician who observes him, is one of the most under appreciated musical gems in Canada–or in any other land, for that matter.

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Andru Lordly, the band’s founder, is arguably the most engaging and unassuming front man in the business. His singing and sax playing are deeply rooted in the blues of Chicago, Jamaican reggae and the jazz of New Orleans.

On vocals and percussion, Peter Baylis is a dynamic and athletic stage presence whose powerful and soulful voice lends the band an air of the operatic and the theatrical.

Gary Edwards anchors the team from the traps and may come up with a few surprises if offered the microphone.

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Basil Chiasson, who has held the principle guitar chair for almost a decade now, is a gorgeous and tuneful stylist whose understated playing has helped to define and refine the sound of the HP’s in recent years .

Bruce Vickery continues to make periodic visits to the Penguin stage where he lends his sweet vocal delivery and explosive conga playing to the cause.

Many other alumni have passed through the HP’s ranks over the past 25 years. From the Phd. scientists, Mark Glover and Steve Mihaly (guitarists of the early days), to the road warrior Don Pardell (who kept the band alive through the tough times of the 90’s) and on through Maritime stalwarts Brad Conrad, Jamie Alcorn, Brian Bourne, Danny Thomas, Paul and Kevin Vienneau and James Logan, the band has always enjoyed the participation of great musicians. Upper Canadians like Jamie Shields of the New Deal and Sandy Mamane of One Step Beyond have also lent a hand when they could.

After years of a sort of self-deprecating celebration of our mediocrity and futility, I am here to recant all of that. We have slowly and painstakingly assembled a rare and beautiful sports car. And every summer we take that baby out of the garage and drive it around the Maritimes. Isn’t that everybody’s dream?

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