The Northern Pikes: 30 Years Under the Big Blue Sky

By: NedjmaTue, 10/24/2017
The Northern Pikes _ the early years

You may not realize that you know The Northern Pikes, AKA the greatest band to ever come out of Saskatoon (Saskatchewan, Canada), but odds are you would be able to belt out “Teenland” and “She Ain’t Pretty” if they came on the radio while you were taking a cross-country road trip down a (Canadian) Prairie road.

They say you never forget your first love. The same must hold true for the first band you were ever truly obsessed with (with the fiery passion only a 15-year-old is capable of!) 30 years after the release of their debut album Big Blue Sky (1987), my devotion to the Pikes is as strong, pure, and true as it was back in high school when I taped all their TV interviews on VHS tapes (yup, I’m an old!)

The Northern Pikes _ the early years

The Northern Pikes were formed in 1984, first as an independent rock band before being signed by Virgin Canada. It was the single “The Things I Do For Money” that first broke them in the US. Over the next six years, the band toured incessantly and released four more albums: Secrets of the Alibi (1988), the platinum-selling (deservedly so!) Snow in June (1990), Neptune (1993), and the aptly titled live album Gig (1993).

At the height of the MTV era, the band was known for its original, sometimes profoundly beautiful music videos such as those for “Kiss Me You Fool”, “She Ain’t Pretty”, and one of my favorites, the joyful “Hopes Go Astray.”

The highs and lows of touring life took its toll on the bandmates who called it quits in 1993 (thus breaking my heart,) only to come back in full force at the turn of the century. They have since released three independent albums: Live (2000), Truest Inspiration (2001), and It’s a Good Life (2003).

Deeply personal but never cloying, powerful but always melodic, Northern Pikes songs strike a chord like those of few other bands. They’ve never shied away from tough topics such as alcoholism (“Tomorrow Never Comes”, “Girl With a Problem”), rebellion (the teen angst hymn "Teenland"), as well as personal and political conflict (“Green Fields”, "Let's Pretend".)

The Northern Pikes 2017 tour promo image

Much like their contemporaries The Tragically Hip, the Pikes bring to the stage a full-out rocking energy that must be experienced live. It’s a good thing then that the band is embarking on its first cross-country tour in over a decade to celebrate more than 30 years of music.

“The band in many ways sounds better than it ever has,” according to singer-songwriter and bassist Jay Semko. “I just feel there’s a solidity in the songs that we’re playing, I feel like there’s new life to some of the ones we have played forever.”

Do I have my ticket? Oh yes! Am I as excited as when I first saw them live playing a promotional gig at a Montreal record store? You can’t even imagine!

The Pikes might have a few more grey hairs today (don't we all) but their music is as relevant, catchy, and poignant as it was back when they first blew my young mind.

Quick facts

Founded: 1984 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Original members: Jay Semko, Bryan Potvin, Don Schmid, and Merl Bryck who left the band in 2006

Must listens (according to me, but you should take my word for it): “Kiss Me You Fool”, “Teenland”, “Hopes Go Astray”, “Believe”, “Dream Away”…I could go on!

Listen to The Northern Pikes on these Stingray Music Vibes channels and fall in love all over again!

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