By DEBRAH MISZAK
Capital News Service
LANSING — Steven Page, formerly of the Canadian alternative rock band Barenaked Ladies, recently announced two Michigan concerts in Ann Arbor and Spring Lake.
Michigan wasn’t included on the initial run but the dates were added after fans showed interest — the latest example of the pull Canadian artists have in Michigan..
Page — and Barenaked Ladies — have a strong fan base in Michigan. According to Bell Media DJ Greg Gnyp, that’s in part due to the popularity in Metro Detroit of Canadian radio stations transmitting across the border.
According to Gnyp, many of the Canadian stations heard by Detroiters are owned by Bell Media. Gnyp has been a DJ for the company for 20 years, first at 89X from 1991 to 2006, and now at 93.9 The River.
The Windsor native said he’s witnessed a unique cultural bond between Detroiters and people from Windsor.
“Detroit-Windsor is such a rare thing,” Gnyp said. “It’s a river blocking us. Look at Buffalo, they get some of Toronto, but it’s different. People from Buffalo don’t go to Toronto to drink at 19. You see it in some places, but it’s not quite the same.”
Specifically, Gnyp said he’s seen this cultural phenomenon in relation to music.
“Look at the Tragically Hip,” Gnyp said. “In Canada they’re gods, and in Detroit, there’s a huge Tragically Hip following because of all the love Canadian radio gave to the Tragically Hip. It was so big that they recorded a live album at Cobo.
“That would never be done in Buffalo or Chicago, but it would in Detroit.
“This is a special little area. Detroit-Windsor has a very intense bond,” he said.
Steven Page fan Liz Bogner of Plymouth said Canadian stations, and Barenaked Ladies as a whole, made her a fan of Canadian music.
“My love for BNL kind of helped me grow my love of Canadian music,” Bogner said. “I sat down one day and I was like, I like more Canadian artists than American artists.”
Canadian radio station 89X played a direct role in making Corey Woodhouse, from Temperance, a fan of the band for the past 19 years.
“I’m not sure which hit it started with, but one of their hits brought me in and got me hooked,” Woodhouse said. “89X initially drew me into them, and then it took their own way from there.
“The lyrics on the Barenaked Ladies albums really spoke to me. And then my dad and I, we have a lot of musical tastes in common. We both enjoy music with a lot of meaning in the lyrics.
“The very first concert I went to was Barenaked Ladies with my dad. They were playing as a guest for ‘The Night 89X Stole Christmas’ show in 2001 or 2002,” she said.
Gnyp cited Page’s old band, Barenaked Ladies, as one of the best examples of a cultural bridge between Windsor and Detroit.
“It’s kind of fun because talking about somebody like the Barenaked Ladies, it’s funny because if you see them at DTE, you pull into the parking lot and it’s a sea of license plates, and people just don’t care,” Gnyp said.
“There are people from Troy and Plymouth and Windsor, and it doesn’t matter. It’s cool because in that situation you just become a Barenaked Ladies fan,” he said.
Part of building that fan base, Gnyp said, involved the lengths Barenaked Ladies and Page were willing to go to please fans. He described an incident where the band was scheduled to perform at Border’s in Birmingham to promote the companion picture-book to their 2008 children’s album, Snacktime.
Gnyp was there to host the event, as The River was going to put the 20-minute performance on the air live. When he arrived an hour early, there were 2,000 people waiting outside the store.
“They were only supposed to play on the top floor, and then it turned into 50 minutes of them playing live,” Gnyp said.
“Instead of playing 20 minutes and shaking a few hands, they hung out for two and a half hours with fans who were like 3 months old and rolled on the floor for photos with kids. They understand they’re special to their fans, and their fans are special too,” Gnyp said.
It was actions like these that helped recruit Bogner as a fan when she was only 10 years old, 20 years ago.
“I was a huge Barenaked Ladies fan growing up ever since I heard ‘If I Had $1,000,000’ in my dad’s car, hanging out with my cousins,” Bogner said. “‘Gordon’ was the first album I had, but by then ‘Stunt’ had already been out and they were just about to release ‘Maroon.’
“‘Maroon’ was the first album that I purchased with my own money. It initially started off with some of the songs on ‘Gordon.’ It was very silly, and as a young person, it was really appealing to me,” she said.
Woodhouse — who saw Barenaked Ladies four times before Page’s departure from the band in 2009, and who will see him solo at the Ann Arbor show — also said that the fun of Barenaked Ladies and Page’s wordplay attracted her to the band.
“The energy they brought to the stage and engagement was like nothing I’d ever seen,” Woodhouse said as she described their performance at “The Night 89X Stole Christmas.”
“They were running into the audience. They were telling jokes the entire time.
“They put their hearts and soul into the performance and everyone was so into it. I liked that they were funny and clever, and so I took an interest in them. And now I’m following all of them to this day,” she said.
Bogner went on to see Barenaked Ladies five times before Page left the band. She saw him for the first time as a solo artist earlier this year in Cleveland. Still, she’ll be at his show in June in Ann Arbor.
“I enjoyed going to Cleveland to see that show, but I’m a working person and that’s hard to do on a Thursday,” Bogner said. “It’s nice to have that recognition that there are fans here. I think Michigan BNL fans — I don’t want to say they’re rabid, but there’s a lot of people who are really into it, and just by having a show here, it’s just like saying, ‘I see you.’”
Woodhouse said she’s looking forward to his June 21 show at The Ark in Ann Arbor.
“For me, his lyrics and the way he sings have carried me through all times of happy times and sad times. And it’s helped me get closer to my dad. Having the chance to take my dad and share this with him really means a lot to me.”