Rock and roll cover band 50 PROOF is set to play the Vankleek Hill Food Bank jamboree at the Windsor Tavern on July 9. Spectators can expect to hear a wide range of classic rock tunes from a band whose members are truly having the time of their lives every time they hit the stage.
“We don’t take ourselves seriously, and I think that’s the key,” said Reid Masson, the band’s lead singer and bassist. “We have so much fun.”
The band’s focus is covers of classic rock songs. They also like to play old rock songs that aren’t normally on classic rock radio – songs that the audience has surely heard, but maybe not for a long time. “We try to stay true to the song, but we try to do it like 50 PROOF,” Masson said. “We want to be true to the original, we want people to be able to recognize the song, but we’ll just do what seems fun.”
Masson said that two songs that audiences seem to consistently enjoy are Lost Together by Blue Rodeo and Sharp Dressed Man by ZZ Top. The band covers a range of artists, including Steve Earl, Tom Petty, The Rolling Stones, ZZ Top and Bob Dylan.
The current members of the band have been together for nine months, although 50 PROOF formed officially four years ago. Masson is the lead singer and bassist, Gilles Lemieux plays rhythmic guitar and harmonica, Shawn Hayley plays lead guitar, and Thaila Riden is the drummer.
For the jamboree performance, Lemieux will not be performing, but his brother, Mike, will replace him.“It’ll be the same show. It’s like we cloned [Lemieux],” Masson joked.
The band is toying with the idea of starting some songs acoustically and switching to electric within the song. However, the show will be mainly electric-based. There will be lots of classic rock songs and a mixture of ballads.
When it came to naming the band with the original five members, one of them suggested the name 90 PROOF due to Masson’s raspy voice. Upon looking it up, it turned out several bands with that name already existed.
“I was thinking at home, trying a bunch of names, and I kept coming back to the ‘proof’ thing. Somehow I was calculating and in the band if you added up our ages and divided them, it came to exactly 50,” Masson explained.
Surprisingly, even with the band’s current members, their ages at the moment still come up to an average of 50. Masson is 56, Hayley is 44, Lemieux is 67 and Riden is 33.
This year the band has already played approximately 15 shows, which Masson said is way more than they were anticipating. “We haven’t had one bad show, and I think that’s the key. Each one gets better,” he said.
One of Masson’s favourite performances to date was actually an all-acoustic set, which took place on a Sunday at the Vankleek Hill May Show last year. “It was a totally different dynamic. It was 10:30 in the morning and we hadn’t played acoustic in a long time,” he said. “It was really fun, it was a beautiful morning, people were drinking coffee… it was relaxed.”
“I would say the our best performance is still to come,” he added. “We’re getting tighter every week.”
More than anything, 50 PROOF wants the audience to have a good time during their performance. “Even if we hit a wrong note or I choke on a frog we’re still having the time of our lives and that’s what’s we want to convey, we want people to feel that,” Masson said. “Hopefully they’re having the time of their lives too.”
“This is the type of event we like to do. It’s a fundraiser, it’s for a good cause. The whole town is going to be there, people we know,” said Masson. “Local events that promote the town make Vankleek Hill the active community that it is. Even if you don’t come to see 50 PROOF, come, buy your ticket, make a donation if you can, and support the Food Bank…It’s an opportunity not only to give to charity but to have a lot of fun doing it.”
50 PROOF will also be performing on Canada Day at the Grand Barn in Vankleek Hill, and the Vankleek Hill Porchfest on July 23.
This article is part of a series of profiles on the bands performing at the jamboree. Advanced tickets for the jamboree are $10 each and are on sale at Scotiabank, The Review, the Windsor Tavern and at Depanneur Lalonde in Vankleek Hill. Tickets at the door on the day of the event will cost $12 each. Children under the age of 14 are admitted for free when accompanied by an adult. The doors open at 2 p.m. Volunteer organizers hope to once again top $10,000 for the Vankleek Hill Food Bank. To view the entertainment schedule visit www.vankleekhill.ca.