That Time Thrush Hermit Played An Entire Set Of Steve Miller Band Covers Turns 20 (And 13 Days)

up-thrushOn August 5, 1995, my mother, Jane Kurchak, and I dragged our asses down to the brand new Molson Canadian Amphitheatre in the pouring rain to attend Edgefest 3. It was the most exciting thing that had happened to me in my music-obsessed 13 years of life: The Monoxides, Change of Heart, The Killjoys, 13 Engines, treble charger, rusty, Super Friendz, Mystery Machine, and pretty much every other band I’d ever heard on the 102.1 The Edge’s Indie Hour, all on one bill. It was also, for some reason, billed as “Sloan’s last show,” even though they were playing in Buffalo the next night.

We expected many things from that day, including a blissful barrage of Canadian indie rock, some Sloan-related tears, and the blowing of all of my savings on an entire wardrobe of band-related merch. But what we didn’t expect was that Thrush Hermit would saunter onto the stage and play an entire set of arena rock-appropriate covers. An entire set of arena rock covers by the Steve Miller Band.

On August 5, 2015, I drank too much wine at an afternoon press conference, almost yelled at a Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie poster, and then called my mom. In this unique state, I told her that I wanted to do a “That Time Thrush Hermit Played A Whole Set of Steve Miller Band Covers Turns 20” story, and that I should interview her about it.

She agreed. And then I proceeded to interrupt half of her answers, because I was drunk on nostalgia, and unhealthy Armie Hammer issues. And wine.

My initial plan was to write up and post a story on the actual anniversary of the SMB set, but I soon realized that I was even less equipped to transcribe the conversation than I’d been equipped to have it. So I had a nap and watched six episodes of the original Man From U.N.C.L.E. instead.

Now that I’ve sobered up – at least physically and Hammer-ly, as the fuzzy hew of 1995-related nostalgia is probably a permanent condition for me at this point – I’ve finally managed to revisit our talk.

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Jane Kurchak: It was an introduction to new music, because you listen to the music of your era and often, especially as boomers, we kind of got stuck in that era. So you pulled me out of that and into this new music. But when I was young, the only way you had a record was if you were a huge deal, and then you had a record. So it was surprising to me that all of these smaller bands could have music out there. So then when we went there, I thought “Ok, so you’ve got your own record.” And then we go to this concert and you think “OK, it’s a big deal, you’ve got a record, and then all you do is play someone else’s music?” And I thought maybe I don’t understand the whole new concert thing. Why would you come there? And then I was like “I recognize that…” Which… how many songs do I really recognize except when you play them? And then “I really recognize that.” And it was like living my life over again.

Sarah Kurchak: Before then, I had no idea that you knew that many Steve Miller Band songs. Every song, you were like “Hey, I know that.”

I’m a little surprised now that you point it out, too. You know that I never, ever remember the name of songs.

That’s true. You probably couldn’t have named them at the time.

I always had the radio on in the car. Of course we didn’t have cassettes. Oh wait, we went through that 8 track stage. Remember, I started with AM radio. It was a big deal when we went to FM radio. So someone else was in control of what you listened to. So those were always on. You’re driving, it’s always in the background. I never, ever knew the names of songs.

Going into this, Thrush Hermit were very low on our list of concerns.

I think they were probably almost not a blip on my radar.

I remember thinking I wouldn’t hate it if they played “French Inhale” and I was frustrated that I didn’t get to hear it. But I think the thing that pissed me off more than anything was that we’d gone to the side stage to see The Monoxides. Was that the second stage or the third stage?

It was tiny and The Local Rabbits…

Yeah, we went too early and we saw The Local Rabbits.

That was the tiniest stage that I’ve ever seen at a concert.

It really was. It was so far in the bowels of Ontario Place, next to the water, and there was barely room for the bands on the stage. 

And that was the same stage that The Monoxides played on.

Yes. We went for The Monoxides but we were there too early so we did see Local Rabbits beforehand. And I think we only liked them because they made fun of Sloan on MuchEast. And I think one of their fathers was playing the drums at the time, so the whole parent/child thing was appealing to us, but I think their music was, like, meh. But then when we got back, that was when we realized that Change of Heart had changed set times.

Which is one of the main reasons we wanted to be there, was Change of Heart.

So it was the double fuck you of missing Change of Heart and Thrush Hermit were in their slot instead, playing these fucking songs from the seventies. 

That whole thing I didn’t get.

My initial review of the set, from a terrible personal site I made in 1999.

My initial review of the set, from a terrible personal site I made in 1999.

Years later, I started to appreciate where they were going with that, some sort of super ironic “We’re playing a stadium, we’re going to play stadium rock!” kind of thing. And it’s become a minor legend in Canadian music.

Really!

I’ve talked to other people since. It’s in Have Not Been The Same, the giant book about that era. Originally I wanted to pitch on oral history on it, but Aaron was like “It’s been done.” So I was like “Fine, I’ll talk to my mom about it.”

I remember sitting in the Amphitheatre in those chairs and it was… to be honest, I think you had to tell me that they were Steve Miller songs.

That was later, too. I had to read that in a review. Because at the time, I was just like “Ugh. Suck Hermit are playing another stupid song.”

Yeah. Suck Hermit. And how long after that did we…

It was years later. Honestly, it was probably a good three years. And it was Clayton Park that changed us. And then we were just huge Clayton Park nerds.

Oh, for sure. Because i thought “From The Back of the Film,” that was one of the best songs.

One of the most perfect songs I’ve ever heard. And remember we used to listen to Violent Dreams and sing along like we were Beavis and Butthead?

[In her best Butthead voice] duh duh duh duh duh

‘From the Back of the Film.” that was a really great song. You’re right. It’s perfect. And that’s when I forgave them.

Me too.

I don’t know if it was a case of me forgiving them. I just didn’t get it, I think. You have a platform, you have all of these people. Play your music, and you didn’t. You played other people’s stuff. From when I was young.

And the Steve Miller Band! Why them?

That’s so not the same profile that, if you were gonna do that, you think you would do…

I don’t know! You could have gone… a lot of those bands were influenced by KISS. I remember the Killjoys were huge KISS fans. I think that was why I started buying KISS albums. And they made up for that by also turning me on to Husker Du. But something really over the top spectacular like a whole KISS set maybe would have made more sense at the time? Steve Miller seems like an obscure choice for the point they were trying to make, maybe? Or maybe they were just super into Steve Miller and they were like “Hey! We’ve got this set! Steve Miller, bro!”

OK, but I just thought that maybe if you were doing a stand alone show, then you make one segment of it that and then you play your stuff, but when you go to those things, I go to hear. And you’re right, I didn’t go to hear Thrush Hermit.

That’s true. I can’t complain. I wanted to hear “French Inhale,” but other than that, I wouldn’t have given a shit either way. And when you look back at it, it was still better than the Zumpano set.

Oh.

Or Ma’s set.

Ugh. Yeah.

Or Sugar Ray’s set. It was above and beyond that fucking awful Sugar Ray set.

it was awful. You know what movie he’s in?

What?

Sharknado 3.

Everyone’s in Sharknado 3.

It’s…You can be absurd and have it be catchy and fun. And this is just so beyond that… like, really, David Hasselhoff? Really what’s-her-name? Bo Derek?

And Chris Jericho?

Oh really? I didn’t notice that, because I turned away. These sharks come out of these tornados and I don’t know how they’re taking the President to the safest place on Earth, but they open the door and the sharks are coming out of there. How did they get in there?

Maybe I’m trying to tie this together too hard, but maybe… Sharknado is how the mainstream handles irony. And as much as we think that maybe Thrush Hermit were doing something maybe too obscure, at least their irony was a lot more tolerable than, like, “Fuck yeah! Shark tornado!”

Yes. Yes. And I don’t know how often they did it.

It was a one time thing. They had this one official stadium show and decided to do stadium rock for it.

OK. I can appreciate it now. At the time, I thought “That’s dumb.” But I can appreciate it now.

We would have said a normal Thrush Hermit set was stupid, though, so I feel like our opinions don’t officially count. We loved them at Humble and Fred Fest in 1998, though.

If they’d come up and played their stuff, we would never have spoken of it again.

We would still talk about Edgefest 95, because I feel like that was a really pivotal moment for us.

So isn’t that interesting, isn’t it? 20 years later, we’re still talking about that event. Maybe it was absolute brilliance on their part.

As pissed off as we were at the time. We’re lifelong Thrush Hermit fans now. 

Before I move on from this, we should address one other thing: We saw the last show of a dearly departed Canadian band that night. Imagine what would have happened to Sloan if they’d stuck together.

[laughs] OK. Was that the first time I’d ever seen Sloan?

Yes. And it was supposed to be the last. I cried. I cried because they thought they were done.

Their last show. And now I’ve seen them how many times?

And I’ve seen them even more. I saw them a week ago!

That was a big deal. Sloan’s last show!

What ever happened to those kids?

I don’t know!

I hope they’re doing OK for themselves.

A lot of catchy tunes. I can’t believe they didn’t go anywhere.

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