No strangers to stirring up an audience with their slate of energetic, Celtic-toned fiddle tunes, Squidjigger performs Aug. 17 as part of the ‘Music in the Park’ Series.
Performances, which are presented by the Lacombe Performing Arts Centre, kick off at 6:30 p.m. at the Lacombe Memorial Centre’s Echo Stage.
Squidjigger launched back in 2004 at a St. Patrick’s Day gig and has pretty much been a fixture on Montreal’s Irish pub scene ever since.
They released the superbly-crafted Seven-Year Itch back in 2010.
“Jesse (Corbell) and I were roommates at the time, and we were stage managing a production of Gilbert and Sullivan that a cousin of mine had dragged me into,” recalls Peter Feldstein with a laugh.
“His sister was in the production, and David (Wood) was one of the singers in the production as well. So that’s how we met David – and started talking about forming a band.
“Jesse played bass, David sang and played guitar, and at that point, I wasn’t really part of the conversation – I was just the roommate! They were talking to a different fiddler who they thought would join.”
But that plan fell through, so Peter came onboard and the rest – as they say – is history.
”I had been a classical violinist as a kid but I had quit for years – I was just starting to get back into it a bit,” he explained.
“So I started learning the Celtic fiddle with the guys, and it just snowballed from there. We kept playing together, learning lots of tunes, getting ourselves stage-ready and looking for gigs. And almost 20 years later, we are still doing it.”
For Wood, a passion for music was sparked early on.
“I grew up in kind of a musical home – there wasn’t formal music, but my dad, when I was younger, used to host acoustic folk-song jams with friends. That was kind of the thing people did in those days,” he said. “There are also pictures of us having family sing-a-longs with me holding a tambourine – I was the youngest.
“So music was always in the house, and I was exposed to folk music growing up because of Dad. He also always made sure to buy varied stuff, so we would always be hearing different things in the house – the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd.
Wood was playing guitar by the time he was about 14.
“I think a lot of people – when they start playing an instrument – something just clicks. I was playing bass at first, and I thought it was really cool the way you could create this sound with your fingers – it was pretty amazing to me.”
He went on to play electric guitar in rock bands through those younger years, too.
“As far as the Celtic stuff, I wasn’t really exposed to it very much early on, but I think the folk stuff isn’t much different. And who doesn’t love fiddle music? That was an easy leap.”
Peter was raised in a family that liked music, but they weren’t really musicians per se. Although both parents did play guitar early on.
“My mom would – once in blue moon – pull out the guitar and play Mr. Bojangles,” he said, adding that his folks opted to sign him up for violin lessons to keep him out of mischief.
“I was a bit of a troublemaker as a kid, so part of it was trying to find ways to teach me discipline outside of school. So they pushed me towards a more difficult instrument, and the violin had that notoriety,” he pointed out.
Feldstein went on to study classical violin for about 11 years.
But there was something missing.
“I still hadn’t found what I really wanted to play.”
Then Squidjigger came along, and a whole new way of playing opened up, along with fresh inspiration. “It was a totally different style, so it didn’t feel like I was going back into the classical stuff – it was a chance to learn to improvise and to play by ear.”
In the meantime, the guys are having a blast performing, and much of that boils down to the joys of connecting with an audience.
“For me, if I like a song, it’s not just a mental enjoyment,” said Wood. “You can almost get goosebumps if it’s something really good – that’s how it will affect me! Any music is also about sharing a moment, and about sharing joy.
“I find there is a lot of that in Celtic music and fiddle tunes, too. It’s kind of like a communal experience.”
“I find that a lot of what I really enjoy is connecting with the musicians onstage, too. David and Jesse are both close friends of mine, and we get this chance to do this together that really keeps you cohesive,” he added. “It almost doesn’t matter what genre of music it is – it matters that we have found a unique way to perform it that feels like it’s personal to us, and still connects to people in a way that they really enjoy, too.”
Next up in the ‘Music in the Park’ series is Flashback Freddy on Aug. 24.