Saturday, July 19, 2008

Figgy Duff reunion article in the Independent

‘Musical miracle’

Figgy Duff’s bi-coastal reunion shows one of this summer’s hottest tickets

Saturday, July 19, 2008

When Noel and Phil Dinn played what would be their very first Figgy Duff gig at an exhibition opening for Gerry Squires at Memorial University’s gallery, they were so green they had yet to choose an official band name. Phil Dinn can’t recall exactly who it was, but a faceless member of the audience that mid-1970s night can claim rights to the now legendary title.

“That was our first concert, it was myself and Noel and this keyboard player, Wayne Smith, and the three of us did this little thing in the corner — it was very low budget,” he laughs over the phone from Halifax.

“Somebody named us Figgy Duff, because of the pudding, because we looked so peculiar in this big gallery and Gerry’s paintings are like mountains, some of them, and some are little tiny things, and here we were against his colours, his ferns, his lighthouses, and somebody named us Figgy Duff. So there you go, it stuck.”

Today Figgy Duff is synonymous with Newfoundland folk-rock royalty. At that time, the young, trailblazing members of the band — along with other local cultural icons like Sandy Morris and Neil Murray — were on a mission to unearth the hidden cache of traditional tunes belonging to the inhabitants of the province’s outports and inject them with the energy of electric guitars.

The band combed the island with tape recorders and Ontario folklorist Kenneth Peacock’s Songs of the Newfoundland Outports in hand. They knocked on the doors of the people listed in the National Museum of Canada’s compilation of traditional Newfoundland folk music.

Approaching the older generation of Newfoundland musicians — people like Emile Benoit, Rufus Guinchard and Minnie White, who performed publicly for the first time in their 60s — with instruments rather than academic notepads yielded different results.

“You could see as you go through (Peacock’s) translations, he just didn’t get what the people were saying … we’d go in and play and break the tension that way, by creating the joyful situation, where the university student was much more reserved, not so much a musician, but somebody looking for a degree in folklore. We’d come in and make the party and all the goodies would flow from that.

”The newest “goodie” comes in the form of Figgy Duff Live: Silver Reunion, the eagerly anticipated recording of the band’s 25th anniversary concert at the Delta Hotel in St. John’s in 1999. The album will be officially launched at the Bella Vista nightclub Aug. 7 (The Ducats will open), followed by a performance at the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival in Bannerman Park Aug. 10. The band will then travel to the province’s west coast, where artists such as Ron Hynes, Mark Bragg, Anita Best and Des Walsh will perform a tribute show at the Writers at Woody Point festival Aug. 12 and 13. A late night gig and jam will close out the festivities at the Woody Point Legion.

When asked about coming back with a bang, singer Pamela Morgan says play dates began to develop as soon as the final master recording was completed in Oxfordshire, England. Bookings “snowballed” from there, she says, particularly with the unanimous agreement from all band members to get back together to mark the occasion.

Read the rest of this article at the Independent.