Entertainment

Special holiday concert put Jon and Roy on the map and now Kelowna's radar

Jon and Roy, the toast of Victoria
Jon and Roy, the toast of Victoria's live music scene, bring the Holiday Special that put them on Canada's indie music map to Kelowna
— image credit: Jennifer Smith

If friendships are to the music biz what networks are to business, then the duo bringing their annual Christmas party to Habitat have a million dollar formula in hand.

Folksy, worldly and distinctively Jon and Roy, Jon Middleton and Roy Vizer met through friends at the University of Victoria and have developed an indie folk rock act that airs toward reggae and boasts a very solid following.

The pair were basically set up.

Vizer’s best friend moved to Victoria to go to the university, where he met Middleton and decided the pair had to play together, as they seemed to eschew a similar taste in music.

Vizer was shopping for universities at the time, ready to transfer from Vancouver’s Langara College, and decided a move to the extreme left coast might be in the cards.

“I didn’t want to be in a traditional rock and roll band. There’s nothing wrong with it, I’m just not like that,” said Vizer, a percussionist with a world beat flare.

Still playing together under the extremely crafty name Jon and Roy a decade later, they’ve made it to the top of the pile in Victoria by simply making friends and making good music.

For example, their new base player is a connection they made through Victoria band Current Swell. The musicians all toured Australia together and when Louis Sadava had to leave Current Swell to have a baby, he found a new home in Jon and Roy a couple of years later.

This is also how the so-called Jon and Roy Holiday Special—now heading to Kelowna—got its start and put the pair on the indie map.

A very popular event on the coast, this musical revue-style show normally includes a string of acts as it was initially designed to help them secure the right to play their dream venue, the cathedralesque Alix Goolden Hall in Victoria.

“At that point we didn’t have enough of a fan base to fill the seats,” admitted Vizer, noting it fits 800 people.

They started assembling musicians, fashioned the performance after the San Francisco musical revues of the ’70s, got CBC on board to tape and broadcast the event at a later date, and started a tradition.

Over the years, they’ve managed to add some pretty major acts to their bill and expand, first to Vancouver’s Vogue Theatre, and now potentially to Kelowna where a very abridged version will hit the Habitat to test the waters.

Playing with fellow Victoria musician Vince Vaccaro, and local boys Fields of Green, the Jon and Roy Holiday Special should give Kelowna a taster of the full event. Previous bills on the Coast have included Bahamas, Aidan Knight, Steph McPherson, Hannah Georgas, Jets Overhead and Ryan Guldemond of Mother Mother, to name but a few.

Jon and Roy rarely tour off the island, so the other bonus here is that Kelowna fans will get to see the trio again before summer festival season.

With three records to their name and big-name friends in the indie scene, one would think they would have been through the city on regular rotation; but Middleton admits, until the Keloha Music and Arts Festival in July, where they thoroughly enjoyed swimming in the lake while listening to Hey Ocean’s set, they haven’t been on a Kelowna stage in a couple of years.

Middleton heard from The Washboard Union, a band that headlined Kelowna's Canada Day celebration and returned to the Rotary Centre for the Arts, that Kelowna is developing a breakout live music scene. So regular visits just might be heading our way.

Anyone who watched Jon and Roy’s set at Keloha will know the band’s fans have long memories and they have a decent following in this neck of the woods.

Jon and Roy return to Habitat (finally) this Dec. 22. Tickets are $17.50.

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