MUSIC: Alterra sticks to its Guns, Crue

Alterra GigCity EdmontonNot every local band gets to work with a pole dancer who once performed with Motley Crue.

There’s always a little bit of temporal vertigo that comes from hearing young rock musicians inspired by music that was made before they were born. Edmonton’s Alterra – not to be confused with the power company or a mid-sized economy car – also claim to draw from Aerosmith and Guns N’ Roses. And who introduced this quartet of early 20s musicians to the bygone Hollywood party rock sound of our forefathers? Why, their parents, of course. It’s like they skipped right over neo-folk and grunge and punk and went straight to the source, as drummer Keith Tib puts it, of “straight up rock ‘n’ roll you can bang your head to and have a beer and hang out with your friends.”

Is that too much to ask?

So far these guys have nailed it. At the risk of being seen as uncool, Alterra has stuck to its guns, as it were, going hard for the last year to cut a loud swath through the local rock scene. They’re spending a lot of their own money on the gig this Saturday at the Starlite Room: featuring not one, but TWO professional pole dancers, fancy LED lighting, laser beams, video screens and “cryo,” which is like pyro but cold.

“This wasn’t about making money,” says Tib. “It’s about putting on a proper spectacle – not just four guys playing rock ‘n’ roll. We’re trying to elevate the local shows, to bring something that’s going to be remembered.”

Managed by Art Szabo, who’s the booker for the Starlite Room, Alterra released one EP called Amateur Night last year that includes a twin-guitar romper stomper called “Home” that sounds straight out of the Crue-clopedia: “Couldn’t wait get back home to play that rock ‘n’ roll” goes the line. We can’t have enough rock ‘n’ roll songs on the subject of rock ‘n’ roll.

“It’s not typical for people of our age to be creating this type of music,” Tib says, but they are serving an agenda: “Live music is on life support. It’s losing to the DJ, to the electronic music scene, to EDM. And what we’re trying to do bring back the live music, bring back the Guns N’ Roses in the late ‘80s, the big shows, the big party, the good time. All of us are too young to know, but we were raised on it.”

While their generational brethren might dabble in pre-recorded backing tracks, you will find no such lip-syncery in Alterra, promises Tib. The only canned sounds are the intro music and the pshhhht! of the beer can being popped that traditionally starts every show. Everything else is live. A recent experience seeing a favourite rock band that turned out to not be so live after all – no names, please – just hardened their resolve, Tib says.

“Your set should not be carried by canned tracks,” he says. “Why bother playing a show? If you’re going to play, you play.”

Pole dancers optional – but much appreciated!