Opening for Nazareth a career highlight

Tyler Clarke
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Saskatchewan power pop rock group Penny Reign are seen, with Prince Albert member Gary Ostafichuk seen at far left. The group is opening up for Nazareth in Saskatoon on Tuesday and in Prince Albert on Wednesday. 

When he became a fan of renowned heavy rock group Nazareth in his teens, Gary Ostafichuk never dreamed of opening a show for them.


This week, he’s going to do just that with his “power pop” hard rock group Penny Reign.

“I speak for all of us -- that we’re all Nazareth fans,” Ostafichuk said of his band. “They’re definitely one of my influences, so this is going to be a real honour to share the stage with them.”

Penny Reign -- a Saskatoon-based band although Ostafichuk lives in Prince Albert -- will open for Nazareth in Saskatoon on Tuesday and at the Prince Albert Exhibition Centre on Wednesday.

“We’ll do our set and try to get the crowd warmed up for them, but as soon as we punch the clock on our set, I’m going to just be a fan, there to watch them as well,” Ostafichuk said.

“People don’t realize how deep their catalogue is,” he added. “Maybe not every song was as popular as ‘This Flight Tonight,’ but they had a lot of really great material.’”

Nazareth’s long stream of catchy hard rock songs remain radio staples -- most notably their cover of Love Hurts and their original Hair of the Dog.

These catchy hard-rock pop songs have influenced Penny Reign during the group’s six years together, Ostafichuk said.

Like Nazareth, they’re out there to have some fun.

“Everything’s pretty catchy and I wouldn’t say it’s too heavy,” he described. “There’s some dirty guitars and whatever, but we try to keep everything upbeat and energetic.”

Although Ostafichuk’s day job is at a family farm near Wakaw, music is where his heart is -- specifically in songwriting.

In addition to serving as the band’s lead guitar player and backing vocalist, Ostafichuk is passionate about songwriting. The band is currently readying their debut full-length album for release under the title “Weird” (a running title with no meaning, Ostafichuk noted).

They’re definitely one of my influences, so this is going to be a real honour to share the stage with them Gary Ostafichuk

This week’s two 45-minute opening act performances will best epitomize why Ostafichuk and his four-member band do what they do.

“Sometimes when you’re doing three sets a night it’s hard to get up for each set, but (with this week’s shows) you get out, you give it your all and you leave it all on the stage,” he said.

“We have a philosophy where we don’t just want to make it sound good, we want to put on a good live show as well.

“We don’t want to just be cardboard cutouts just playing our instruments. We don’t leave the stage until we’re drenched head to toe in sweat. We give it our all.”

The current incarnation of Nazareth is without 45-year front man Dan McCafferty, whose personal health issues forced him out last year.

Following extensive auditions, fellow Scotsman Linton Osborn filled McCafferty’s spot in the band.

Although the band picked up a new guitar player (Jimmy Murrison) and drummer (Lee Agnew) over the past couple decades, original member Pete Agnew, who has been on bass with the band since 1968, remains on stage.

Wednesday’s Nazareth show will begin at 7 p.m. at the Prince Albert Exhibition Centre.

Local rock group Blackwater will join Penny Reign in opening for Nazareth.

Tickets are $34.50 and are available beforehand at the Prince Albert Exhibition Centre and at O’Brian’s Automotive at 3033 Sixth Ave. E.

Organizations: Prince Albert Exhibition Centre

Geographic location: Nazareth, Prince Albert, Saskatoon Wakaw

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