ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, MAY 25, 2000
By Steve Newton
Last February, Edmonton guitar-rockers the smalls found a unique way to celebrate their 10 years together: they kicked off a month-long European tour with a few dates in that popular wintertime destination, Bosnia-Herzegovina. When bassist-songwriter Corby Lund calls from outside of Winnipeg with the claim that “We’re touring maniacs!”, he isn’t kidding.
“It was interesting,” he says of the Balkan experience. “Looking back on it, it was my favourite part of the tour, but it was a little hairy at the time. The people there were really good to us, but the border guards and police don’t have much of a sense of humour about things. One time in northern Bosnia the police stopped us, and apparently there’s some obscure law where if you’re visiting you have to go and register with the police department. We didn’t know about it, so we didn’t do it, and they detained us for two or three hours, questioning our road manager and pushing him around. It was scary.”
Not only did the Bosnian authorities make the smalls feel tiny, the region’s unforgiving weather got its licks in on the adventurous Canucks as well. “We were goin’ over this mountain pass to make our Sarajevo show, and there was a hell of a blizzard—like, as bad as any I’ve seen in the Rockies. The roads over there are kinda crappy, and the vehicles aren’t so good, so nobody could get over the crest of the hill. Finally the UN trucks showed up and started winching people over the hill.” When the smalls finally made it to their gig, everyone had already left; it was only the second time in their career that they’d missed a show.
While the quartet didn’t make any money during its Bosnian excursion, the feedback it got from the civilians was worth plenty. “Some of the towns we played had never had outside bands before,” says Lund, “so most of our shows sold out. And one guy said that, after the war and everything, it was almost like a healing thing, because it made them feel like someone from the West was making a point of coming there and reaching out and saying, ‘You’re still part of the world,’ you know.”
Having brought loudness—if not peace—to the Balkans, the smalls next level their guitars at Vancouver, with a 10th-anniversary show at the Commodore on Friday (May 26). Later in the year they plan on moving to Texas to “get away from everyone” and write the follow-up CD to 1999’s My Dear Little Angle. “It just sounds kind of interesting to us,” says Lund of the proposed relocation to the Lone Star State, “plus Austin’s supposed to have a really good music scene. Alberta’s kind of the Texas of Canada anyways, so…”