Last summer, during rainy night, David Mann caught a city-hosted concert at the TD Community Plaza in Coquitlam — the outdoor venue close to the Evergreen Cultural Centre, where he works as its program manager.
Despite the downpour, the Motown show by the Hitsville USA Band was remarkable: “Energetic, danceable, and the musicians and vocalists top notch,” Mann remembered.
Afterward, band founder Mike Henry asked Mann what he thought of their performance. “I was wet and happy,” Henry recalled Mann telling him.
The lively gig led to an invite by Mann — for the following year — to open the season for the Coquitlam arts venue.
And, on Saturday, Henry’s eight-piece band will headline the reception, getting down to tunes made famous by The Temptations, Smokey Robinson, the Four Tops and Marvin Gaye, among others, at a dance in the studio theatre.
Henry, who also fronts the reggae tribute band Mostly Marley as well as Funkdalicious, Jay Ray and the Odd Trio, said Hitsville USA has a different vibe from other Motown cover groups as they take a deeper dive into the historic music scene from Detroit.
While they play the standards, Hitsville USA also touches on songs not heard in regular rotation. Henry also offers a bit of music education to the crowd along the way “so that people have an understanding of what was happening during that time in the band’s career.”
A Louisiana native who had no formal music training, Henry moved to Vancouver in 1989 after a friend asked him to audition for a band; at the time, he was living in the Bay Area and singing for Power Play.
Five years ago, lamenting over the Motown acts he was listening to in local clubs, Henry put together Hitsville USA to “represent the pure sound of Motown music. There are people doing Motown tributes but I grew up in the USA and what I heard in Vancouver is not Motown. It doesn’t cover the full spectrum of it.”
Now, Hitsville USA plays about eight shows a year — most recently, in the Tri-Cities, closing the Summer Sundays series at Rocky Point Park, a music fundraiser for the Crossroads Hospice Society.
The show is always well received, he said.
“People love Motown. It lives on forever. It’s easy to dance to and it’s happy and positive. People gravitate to it.”
The season launch party for the Evergreen Cultural Centre (1205 Pinetree Way, Coquitlam) begins at 7 p.m.; the gallery reception for Angela Teng’s solo exhibit, Up A Lemon Tree, is at 6 p.m. Call the box office at 604-927-6555 or visit evergreenculturalcentre.ca for tickets.