Back in the ‘Wack Vol. 7: Midnight Smoke says Chilliwack is a “gold mine” for a versatile band

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE CHILLIWACK PROGRESS, MAY 6, 1981

By Steve Newton

(In the seventh of a series of stories on local bands, The Progress presents a profile on Midnight Smoke. Next: Homegrown)

Midnight Smoke is a longtime Chilliwack band that is currently composed of Peter Priebe on bass and lead vocals, Ed Porter on lead guitar and back ground vocals, Steve Hannah on keyboards and Dwayne Sininger on drums.

The band has gone through a lot of personnel changes over the years, says Priebe, who joined the band three and a half years ago to play bass in a trio made up of himself, guitarist Joe Richard, and drummer Gilles Laporte. The band remained a trio for a year and a half, and Laporte was replaced by Lee Hantelmann, who played with Midnight Smoke for two years before going on to join The Edge and then his present band, Vancouver-based Dealer. Dan Dube joined Midnight Smoke a year and a half ago on keyboards and, according to Priebe, gave the band a much fuller sound with his playing and vocal abilities.

“That was the best the band sounded,” says Priebe, of the time spent playing with Dube, a professional recording artist who has worked on sessions in Alberta. Porter, the band’s current guitarist, replaced Richard in October of 1980 and, with his KISS method, was able to maintain the group’s basic sound and versatility. Porter’s method has nothing to do with the infamous costumed rockers though, says Priebe, but just stands for Porter’s approach towards guitar playing “keep it simple, stupid”.

Hannah replaced Dube on keyboards last month, and Sininger took over from Hantelmann on drums to make the present line-up. Porter and Sininger had previously played together for three years and, says Priebe, their musical interaction was a plus for the band. Priebe points out that Midnight Smoke has been, if not a showcase, at least a performing platform for a lot of local talent. Drummers Ron Wells, Ray Stewart and Mark Tarras have all had the opportunity to fill in with Midnight Smoke, as have guitarist Jeff Bowman and pedal-steel player Joe Michno.

Priebe recalls a little bit of Chilliwack nightclub history that occurred when he was playing in a group called The Good Time Band in Kelowna, living about a block away from where Chilliwack’s Homegrown was playing at the KoKo Club.

“When Homegrown moved to Chilliwack and bought into Santana’s (nightclub) . . . they named the club after our band,” says Priebe, who points out that his present band is “not a club band”, but strictly a weekend and special occasion band. Midnight Smoke plays a lot of weddings and performs at Evergreen Hall every New Year’s. They also play for such local groups as the Fish and Game Club, the Atchelitz Farmer’s Institute and the Frontiersmen Black Powder Club dances at Foresters Hall.

Next week the band will play for the Real Estate Convention of B.C. at the Harrison Hotel and a bowling club dance at Evergreen Hall. Porter and Priebe also branch off as a duo, performing at such spots as Friendly Mike’s pub and Wellington’s Restaurant. “We’re a very middle of the road band,” says Priebe, giving reasons for the group’s attraction to young people as well as the 50th anniversary crowd.

“We play old-time waltzes, polkas, country and western and current tunes,” he says, adding that “if people want rock and roll we’ll do 1950s and 1960s type rock.” Priebe says that the Chilliwack area is a veritable “gold mine” for a versatile band, and that Midnight Smoke gets solid bookings throughout the year.

“There’s a real demand for good local bands,” he says, because the hometown audience accepts them more readily than a band they don’t recognize. Priebe expects Midnight Smoke to “dissolve” soon, as he will be moving to Fort St. John to carry on his accounting business, but he already has plans to play in a weekend band there as well. “Playing in a weekend band is a big release from business pressures,” he says, just as being in a casual band is “more like a party . . . than a profession” to him. 

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