Everything is still going right for rejuvenated rockers Big Wreck

Quartet fronted by Ian Thornley performs at Peterborough Musicfest on July 18 at Del Crary Park

Canadian-American alt-rockers Big Wreck (Chuck Keeping, Dave McMillan, Ian Thornley, and Brian Doherty) perform a free concert at Peterborough Musicfest in Del Crary Park on Wednesday, July 18, 2018. (Publicity photo)
Canadian-American alt-rockers Big Wreck (Chuck Keeping, Dave McMillan, Ian Thornley, and Brian Doherty) perform a free concert at Peterborough Musicfest in Del Crary Park on Wednesday, July 18, 2018. (Publicity photo)

Apparently love isn’t the only thing that’s better the second time around — it can apply to making music too.

That’s the case with Big Wreck, originally formed in Boston in 1994 by then Berklee College of Music students Ian Thornley and Brian Doherty. Along with Dave Henning and Forrest Williams, the band played shows around Boston under the name “Still Waters”. That name really didn’t fit the band’s style of alt rock, so they renamed the band “Big Wreck” — reportedly a phrase Doherty frequently used to refer to things going wrong.

Despite the name or maybe because of it, everything started going right for Big Wreck. The band signed with Atlantic Records, released its debut album In Loving Memory Of… in 1997, and found instant success on the strength of high-charting singles “The Oaf”, “That Song”, and “Blown Wide Open”.

When follow-up album The Pleasure And The Greed failed to match that success, band members went their separate ways in 2002. It was there things sat for eight years, until Doherty guested one night with his former bandmate’s new outfit Thornley. One thing led to another and Big Wreck was soon back in business in a very big way.

On Wednesday, July 18th at Del Crary Park, the fruits of the second coming of Big Wreck will be on full display as Peterborough Musicfest presents the Juno Award-nominated rock quartet (who last performed in Peterborough at The Venue this past January). Admission to the 8 p.m. concert is free.

VIDEO: “The Oaf” – Big Wreck

“With the initial break-up, everyone was just disillusioned with the entire industry, where we were going, what we were doing, and why,” recalls Thornley in a July 2017 interview with Jason Setnyk of The Cornwall Seeker.

“Looking back, we were burned out, doing too much of the wrong things for the wrong reasons, and it had to change,” he says. “The band started the friendship I had with Brian when we were roommates in college and afterwards. I think getting back together stemmed from that — just missing a friend and reaching out.

“We started hanging out a little bit, both at similar points in our lives, and we rekindled a friendship. Things just sort of fell into place, with the Thornley thing winding down and steering towards a Big Wreck sound.”

VIDEO: “That Song” – Big Wreck

Things fell into place indeed.

With Thornley members Dave McMillan and Paulo Neta in the fold, the rejuvenated band released its first single in 10 years in 2011: “Albatross” featured on the 2012 album of the same name. It peaked at #2 on the Canadian alt-rock singles chart.

Two years later, Ghosts was released, with the title track charting in the Top Ten on both the Canadian alt-rock and rock singles chart and earning Big Wreck a 2015 Juno Award nomination in the Rock Album of the Year category.

VIDEO: “Blown Wide Open” – Big Wreck

Big Wreck’s latest album is 2017’s Grace Street, featuring the hit single “One Good Piece Of Me”.

“When it (Grace Street) was initially done, I listened to it a lot,” Thornley says.

“I love how everything comes together sonically and song-wise. I think we’re touching on new territory. Lyrically, I think it cuts closer to the bone and I think it’s the most revealing. There is a lot of stuff on the album that is bare bones. Here’s what is going on and here’s where I’m at. Having said that, I don’t think it’s dark and heavy. There is a lot of optimism and hope as well. It feels like there is something a little more upfront as far as content goes.”

VIDEO: “Albatross” – Big Wreck

VIDEO: “Ghosts” – Big Wreck

With Big Wreck now comprised of guitarists Thornley and Doherty alongside Dave McMillan (bass) and Chuck Keeping (drums), the frontman concedes that while much has changed since the first go-round, there remains a built-in familiarity.

“The whole thing feels different in many ways but it’s still just four guys doing what they do best together — looking for that spark in every song, sometimes once a night and sometimes not at all,” Thornley says.

“That spark, that’s something that has always been there and, knock on wood, I hope it’s something that will always be there. That search for that feeling — like you’re almost outside yourself and you’re completely in the moment and everyone is there at the same time, on the same page — it’s quite the rush. That’s always been the singular focus of our band: trying to find that within a song and within a performance.”

VIDEO: “One Good Piece Of Me” – Big Wreck


Peterborough Musicfest is presenting 18 free-admission concerts featuring a total of 20 acts during its 32nd season — each staged on Wednesday and Saturday nights at Del Crary Park.

Overseen by general manager Tracey Randall and staff, a board of directors, and numerous volunteers, Peterborough Musicfest’s stated mission is to “provide diverse, affordable live music to enrich cultural and economic prosperity in our community.”

For more information on this concert or the entire 2018 season, visit www.ptbomusicfest.ca or phone the Peterborough Musicfest office at 705-755-1111.

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Paul Rellinger
Paul Rellinger a.k.a Relly is an award-winning journalist and longtime former newspaper editor still searching for the perfect lead. When he's not putting pen to paper, Paul is on a sincere but woefully futile quest to own every postage stamp ever issued. A rabid reader of history, Paul claims to know who killed JFK but can't say out of fear for the safety of his oh so supportive wife Mary, his three wonderful kids and his three spirited grandchildren. Paul counts among his passions Peterborough's rich live music scene, the Toronto Maple Leafs, slopitch and retrieving golf balls from the woods. You can follow Paul on Twitter at @rellywrites.