Norman’s dorm community, Goldsby, punches above its weight this month in the music scene department.
Libby’s Café, 111 N. Main St., is known for serving chicken fried steak and hosting local live bands such as Twang Town. The motto of the restaurant/live music venue is “we serve good American comfort food with red earth music and a cozy atmosphere.”
At 9 p.m. on May 14, their stage will be packed with nine-piece jazz rock fusion band Apollo Suns from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. This will be the inaugural performance of the instrumental juggernauts in Oklahoma. Big Train and the Loco Motives will get the ball rolling.
Guitarist and bandleader Ed Durocher outlined his plans to make a first impression.
“I think a good bet is really funky, maybe sweaty, very rock ‘n’ roll, some jazz jams and a lot of fun,” he said. “We always have a great time on stage, and I think that really comes through and engages the audience whether they like the music or not. We like to play.
The rest of the band consists of drummer Glen Radley, Erika Einarson on percussion, tenor saxophonist Niall Cade, Bryn Herperger on bass, trumpeter Garret Malenko, Benjamin Jameshill on trombone, baritone saxophonist Aaron Bartel and Anatol Rennie on keyboards and synthesizer.
It’s a great tape to keep online, but Durocher considers it a sublime privilege.
“There are so many joys in this job,” he said. “I can travel and get paid to play music that I really believe in, that I can support and be really proud to steer and guide the ship. It’s been wild so far. I am very happy that we have made it out of the pandemic and are now back on the road. A big plus is that I can learn and develop many skills outside of the group that I can then use to sustain my life.
As one would imagine with a combo of this size, there is a wealth of talent.
“It’s very collaborative and no idea will be ignored, which really helps build trust with everyone who comes into the group,” Durocher said. “It allows them to feel a certain sense of belonging to the band and to what’s going on musically. We also come from a lot of different musical backgrounds. I think it really works to our advantage in being creative and pushing the boundaries of the framework in which we work.
Winnipeg is over 1,000 miles from Norman, making an Apollo Suns booking here unlikely.
But the band has a connection to Oklahoma with Michael Bendure. He is radio personality Michael B. (“Don’t Go Nowhere!”) on KGOU-FM’s “Tonic the Funky Groove Show” and host of the “Forty Minutes of Funk” podcast.
Bendure featured Apollo Suns on the Jan. 20 podcast, which he described as “Ed Durocher and I discuss Canadian manners, prog rock, sci-fi tattoos, Victor Wooten’s ‘The Music Lesson’ , three-string guitars and more!”
Bendure’s friendly hospitality warmed Durocher for their visit to the Sooner State. The Canadian described how they connected.
“It’s actually quite funny,” Durocher said. “I was on a forum for Bandsintown and there was a post about finding funk bands, and I just reached out and introduced myself. It was December, and I was a guest on his show, which is fantastic. Then we just came back and talked about putting on a show in Oklahoma.
Apollo Suns’ ambitious 2022 tour includes more than 150 dates across North America. It’s a big squeeze for even the most seasoned road warrior.
“It takes a lot of support from fans, friends, family, band and community,” Durocher said. “It’s a lot of stress, and every setback is felt so strongly, which can really affect the day’s work. I think getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, taking walks, and being honest about what you need is always the way to go. These are also good life lessons.
“I’m doing it because I really think this group has what it takes to make a real impact and can ‘do it’. It’s the thoughts that get me through it.
Durocher does more than pass. Apollo Suns received the “Instrumental Artist of the Year” award at the 2018 and 2020 Western Canadian Music Awards.
Their 2019 album “Dawn Offers” rose to number seven on Vancouver, BC-based Earshot! Top 50 national charts that year. They are great musicians in a dynamic genre.
“I think what we’re doing is delivering a very unique musical experience and spreading a lot of joy around the world with that,” Durocher said. “I love it and I believe in the band. I love being able to travel across North America and play music for people, listen to their stories and get new insights from them, try new foods, make myself new friends and developing strong bonds I love everything about touring except the cost of gas Being a working musician is the best job in the world.
Durocher is ready to do his best in Goldsby, America.
“We’re traveling from Canada and we’re so excited and honored to be playing music and sharing with everyone we can across North America,” he said. “We hope Oklahoma comes out strong and celebrates with us.”