Barney Bentall & The Cariboo Express – Vogue Theatre – November 26, 2016

Finishing a cross-country tour in its 11th year supporting the Potluck Café Society, the unstoppable musical force of Barney Bentall & The Cariboo Express popped in to the Vogue Theatre for a night of tunes, fun and funds. An almost uncountable amount of musicians rotated across the stage throughout the evening, playing songs from their respective catalogues, and chiming in on each other’s. In between, various members interjected the most oddball vintage-style corny ads from sponsors, often uniquely managing to segue into whatever the following song was. Prizes were given away, feet were merrily stomped. The players on stage come across as one big, happy family, riddled with talent, and rarely out of arm’s reach of one another. Barney Bentall himself is kind of the mastermind behind the whole enterprise, but despite this, he’s at the forefront less often than the rest of the gang overall (fun fact – when I was in grade 5 or 6, the music teacher at my school brought in her friend, Mr. Bentall himself, to my class to talk about music careers/industry and we gave him a stack of horrific drawings of album covers we ‘designed’ for his band. I knew his videos from MuchMusic so as far as I was concerned at the time, I was meeting the biggest star on the planet!). Looking at the stage wings during songs, you could see any musicians not involved in the number lounging around on some chairs placed there, watching with interest, clapping along, laughing, and waiting for their next turn. They played for hours, with a brief intermission, and of course giving away some meaty and vegetabley raffle prizes to some happy attendees. Their collective energy never waned. The audience in attendance, judging by their reaction when asked, often make this an annual tradition as well. While there were no Christmassy overtones, something about it felt like a big kick-off to the holiday season. The warm, friendly coziness, the charity stuff, the prizes (which, granted, did come in oversized stockings). This event, over the course of its decade-plus-one has now, I hear, netted in excess of $900,000 for Potluck, so good job to all, and we’re already looking forward to the next one.

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