THE HIGHROLLERS ('87-'95)
Before there was Jamiroquai, when the Beastie Boys were just getting started, and
the Red Hot Chili Peppers were but a humble bar band there was:
The Highrollers (1988-1994)
In the early nineties, funk pioneers The Highrollers ruled the Calgary music scene with its unique aggressive-groove sound, outrageous image, and most of all its spectacular, jaw-dropping stage performances. Inspired by Parliament Funkadelic and Sly Stone in the late 80s, The Highrollers sold out, show after show playing to packed houses. Their unique sound and captivating stage performances won The Highrollers a devoted following – Many fans would attend each and every gig religiously. At their peak from 1992-93, The Highrollers were gaining momentum, attracting attention from mainstream media, and playing to larger and larger audiences, ultimately performing before thousands at the 92 and 93 Highwood Festivals, to rave reviews.
The Highrollers were also the original curators of the ‘retro’ functions in Canada hosting the
“100% Polyester” parties, held at the Republik Nightclub. Like moth to flame, fans crammed the lineups to get in, dressed in their funky attire and afros to partake in the disco funk mayhem. Between 1992-1994, nine sold out 100% Polyester parties were held.
During their six year run, The Highrollers shared the stage with such acts as The Dead Milkmen, Cadillac Tramps, SNFU, Tommy Chong, Social Distortion, Furnaceface, Look People, Violent Femmes, and Me Mom and Morgentaler…to name just a few. The future looked bright, and The Highrollers seemed poised to make a major breakthrough. Sadly, it was not to be…
Overwhelmed by the pressures and demands of the band and eager to pursue individual goals, The Highrollers imploded under the weight of their own expectations and disbanded in 1994.
The dozen members of Highrollers scattered to the four winds. Some moved away, some went to university; some got married and had kids, still others got incarcerated. Several went on to become successful graphic artists, and work in graphic design to this day. Other band members went on to form or join other successful bands. While all of the original members of The Highrollers remain friends to this day, they never did perform together again.
Too fast to live, but too funky to die, the legend of The Highrollers lives on, but only on video of live shows and in the memory of its adoring fans Tragically, The Highrollers never recorded an album. The Highrollers left a lasting legacy, however: Their inventive, outrageous creativity lives on in the graphic design and artwork of Geoff Mcfetridge (Champion Graphics) and Tyler Gibney (Heavyweight Productions) both based out of Los Angeles. Their revolutionary approach to funk and soul lives on in the music of Marvin Kee’s Flytrap and Los Morenos, Karim Sikanders Rhyme and Punishment and Urban Ambush, and DJ Rice ruling the Calgary club scene. Over ten years after their final performance, people still talk about The Highrollers’ live shows with reverence.
“They put forth something that nobody had seen in Calgary. Nobody had even heard of Parliament or Funkadelic or Zappa or any of the shit that was going on that the Highrollers were trying to put into their music. Unfortunately, they just didnt have the initiative. They had the chance to be the next Canadian groove band that really made a difference and they didnt go through with it.” -Scott Morin,Calgary Straight (1996)
Profile by Ted Kay
Geoff Mcfetridge (vocals)
Tyler Gibney (bass)
Marvin ‘the fly’ Kee (guitar)
Karim Sikander (drums)
Dan Branigan (rhythm guitar)
DJ Rice (turntables)
Richard Sixto (sax)
Natalie Purschwitz (trumpet)
Issa Breibish (sax)
Dan Harmsen (trumpet)
Rich Escobar (rhythm guitar)
Scott Morin (sax)
Craig Soby (trombone)