Moxy With a Message The Ottawa Citizen
(sometime late November, 1993)

Moxy With a Message

The Fruvous four, those musical newsboys, are coming to town

by Lynn Saxberg

Moxy Fruvous thrives on news. Knowing what's going on in the world gives the mostly a cappella Toronto-based quartet a satirical edge that sets it apart from other vocal pop groups, most of which are usually concerned with love and romance.

Bargainville, the band's first full-length album, is rich with references to current events, most obvious on songs like Stuck in the Nineties and Gulf War Song.

Even before the album appeared, the group had a history of writing political jingles for CBC Radio, becoming semi-regulars on Peter Gzowski's Morningside.

And in concert, the four personable, twentysomething singers tailor segments of their show to fit the city and/or occasion, offering audiences more than two hours worth of an entertaining blend of music comedy and theatre.

So when the Moxy boys embarked on their first national tour this fall, it was a boon that it coincided wiht the years's biggest news stories in Canada: the federal election and the Blue Jays' second World Series win.

"It's been an amazing time to tour because we have a propensity to write things into the show anyway," says Moxy tenor Jean Ghomeshi on the phone from a radio studio in Thunder Bay, where he's about to do another interview. (Ghomeshi himself showed great promise as an interviewer when he talked to Audrey McLaughlin as part of MuchMusic's election coverage.)

The night of October 25, band members found themselves annoucing election results in song to an audience in Lethbridge, Alberta. Two days later, they conveyed the big game's final score to fans in Kamloops.

"The audience, a packed theatre full of people, didn't know that Joe Carter hit the home run that won the World Series," Ghomeshi says.

"So we wrote this little opening song that ends off with It's great to be here in this lovely city,/Sorry if we're a little late/but the game tonight made us write this ditty,/The final score was Phillies, 4, Blue Jays, 8."

As you can imagine, the screaming applause was louder than usual.

All through the tour, teenage screamers have been showing up in full force to see the charismatic Ghomeshi and his bandmates, Mike Ford, Murray Foster and David Matheson. Concerts are selling out across the country.

Although Ghomeshi is flattered by the attention, he was starting to wonder if the album's social commentary on issue like consumerism, moral decay and the environment was getting across. After hearing from fans who said Moxy Fruovus had provided their first exposure to politics, he decided that at least some of it was registering.

Still, it's no easy task to put on a concert to satisfy enthusiastic kids as well as adult CBC Radio listeners interested in political satire. Ghomeshi admits there's pressure to cater to the younger, noisier crowd.

"In a theatre of 1,500 people, if the first 200 people who run up to the stage are screaming young people, it's easy to forget everyone else and play to them. I think that's something we're conciously working on avoiding," he says.

After all, Bargainville is due for release internationally next year, and when the band starts playing the United States and Europe, they're going to have to rely on more than nice hair, killer harmonies and catchy songs. That's when meaty lyrics and a smart sense of humour help, while a flair for creative self-promotion doesn't hurt.

"We're trying to keep our feet on the ground because when we start in the U.S. and the U.K., nobody's going to know us there. It's going to be back to busking on the streets and pulling out teeth to make sure people come to the show."

With major-label promotional support from 'Warner Music Canada and the mighty Molson-owned promorter, MCA Concerts Canada, on board for the 45-city cross-Canada tour, most of the details are taken care of and the once-indie quartet doesn't have to worry about attendance.

But then there's the probem of being part of the music industry machine.

"This is our first tour with a tour bus and a crew and sound and lights, so it's exciting but it's daunting too," Ghomeshi says. "There's the promoter and the record comapny and the management and the agency and the meet-and-greet before every show.

"There's a little bit of fear that this group that has prided itself as being fiercely independent at least in all ways creative...there's just a feeling that it's more than the four of us in control.

"We're all concerned about maintaining our convictions about why we're doing this in the first place."

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