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Bagpiping rock band takes over the Atha-B

If you have a kilt then now is the time to pull it out.

The Johnny McCuaig Band at the Athabasca Hotel on Jan. 20 Doors at 8 p.m. Cover $5 Submitted photo

The Johnny McCuaig Band at the Athabasca Hotel on Jan. 20 Doors at 8 p.m. Cover $5
Submitted photo

The Johnny McCuaig Band is one kilt-wearing, bagpipe playing rock group you don’t want to miss. Kicking off a string of shows through Western Canada, the band promises to bring its high-energy show to the stage of the Athabasca Hotel on Jan. 20.

“We’re used to playing big outdoor shows so this will be more of an intimate show, but we’re hoping people will come out and dance, say hello and get rowdy with us,” said the band’s front man, Johnny McCuaig. “We certainly don’t want to see people sitting on their thumbs, that’s for sure.”

Despite planting their roots in the mid-1990s, the Regina-based group has gone through a bit of transformation with the launch of their 2016 album Hold Fast. Since the release, the band has experienced tremendous success, filling venues in Sweden, Las Vegas and across Canada.

“The last year was a pretty big stepping stone for us, getting into new markets and playing in Europe for the first time,” McCuaig said. “It was quite a journey and we really got to showcase our stuff on the world stage and we’re pretty pumped with the results and how everything is going.”

So, what is it about the band that makes it so alluring to the masses? McCuaig can’t be sure, but he believes it has something to do with his bagpipe-wielding prowess.

“There’s something about the bagpipes that digs up all sorts of memories. They’ve always been associated with death and war, but also with parties. For some reason it always gets people riled up,” McCuaig said. “It’s a very intense instrument and people seem to really relate to that intensity and let the music take them to a place they don’t normally go.

“For us that’s a really special thing to watch because you can actually see the crowd react and begin to transform.”

Later this year the band will be heading back into the studio, laying down some more thrashing rock tracks before shipping back to Las Vegas’ Fremont Street. After that, the band will be jetting off to Japan and Sweden for a slew of gigs.

“Sweden was so great and we’re really excited to go back. Last year we didn’t know what to expect,” the front man said. “It’s a completely different experience. In my opinion, in Europe music is perceived as more of an art. People really sit down and listen and that’s really cool.”

Despite all the excitement, McCuaig said with a young family at home, living the touring musician life comes with its challenges.

“It’s always hard to leave our families, but everyone is behind us. My wife is a huge part of what I do. She helps me with a ton of band stuff,” he said. “We consider all of us to be a part of one big team. I couldn’t do what I do without the support of my wife and family.”

The band will be playing at the Athabasca Hotel on Jan. 20. Doors open at 8 p.m. and cover is $5.

“We hope to see everyone come out and enjoy the night and if anyone has a kilt then I hope they join me and wear theirs too,” McCuaig said.  

Kayla Byrne

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