Spirit of the West Short Biography

Nearing the three-and-a-half decade mark, Spirit of the West continues to rock audiences with their original and potent blend of Folk, Celtic, Rock, Pop and Punk.  The band that began in 1983 as an innocent trio of acoustic guitar, flutes and bouzouki is now a musical and performance powerhouse that features 6 musicians and dozens of instrument changes in a night’s worth of timeless and beloved songs.

With 13 albums to their credit, five of them gold and three platinum, a history of extensive touring throughout the western world, and the authorship of a drinking song (”Home For a Rest”), so well known and loved that it is often called ‘Canada’s unofficial national anthem’, Spirit of the West’s legacy has grown to legendary status.

Fan favourites such as ‘And if Venice is Sinking’‘Save This House’‘Puttin’ Up with the Joneses’ and the quintessential drinking song ‘The Crawl’ have etched themselves into the soundtrack of youth of several generations of Canadians.

In recognition of Spirit’s long career they have been inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Western Canadian Music Association, have received the National Achievement Award from the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada, and were, in 2014, presented with a star in Vancouver’s ‘Starwalk’, located on Theatre Row on Granville Street.

The band consists of John Mann (vocals); Geoffrey Kelly (vocals, guitar, flutes, whistles, bodhran); Hugh McMillan(vocals, basses, nearly all other stringed things on Earth); Tobin ‘The Gull’ Frank (basses, accordion, keyboards); Matthew Harder (vocals, guitars) & Vince Ditrich (vocals, drumkit, percussion, management, refreshment coordination).  Spirit enjoys a brilliant technical crew that is well worthy of mention:  Chris Hibbins (FOH Mix/Tour Management) & Andre Arsenault (Stage Management/Guitar Tech).

July 2014


Individual Biographical Notes:

john mannJohn Mann – Guitarist, vocalist and charismatic front man. John is also an accomplished actor who can be seen on episodic television and movies often pretending to be an assassin, ghost, devil, redneck, spy, and other characters that simply don’t scan if you know this vegetarian peacenik. List of both big & small screen appearances as well as starring roles in live theatre far too numerous to mention here. It’s ridiculously long – We’re not sure how he fits us in. Solo albums include ‘Acoustic Kitty’ & ‘December Looms’, and more recently ‘The Waiting Room.’
Visit John’s website
geoffrey kellyGeoffrey Kelly – Flutes, whistles, bodhran, guitars. Geoffrey was born in Scotland and raised in North Vancouver. One of Canada’s finest Celtic musicians, he can be found appearing all over the world as a guest with acts such as The Irish Rovers and the Paperboys. His solo album Gringo Star was released in 2002. Geoffrey has, through some of the most remarkable thrift and horse-trading, amassed the most gargantuan personal music collection in human history. Only the Library of Congress has more CDs. His family cannot be located in the home but are presumed to be misfiled somewhere between ‘F’ and ‘J’. He owes the Musician’s Union $4 in unpaid death benefit fees. Visit Geoff on CD Baby
hugh mcmillanHugh McMillan – Multi-instrumentalist. Hugh is capable of playing practically anything with strings on it. He is a producer, composer/arranger session musician and audio engineering nerd, as well as a bit of a mad scientist. Quick to hand out dietary supplements to those who look a bit peaked. He plays concerts with erstwhile troubadour James Keelaghan and Chilean-Canadian wildcat guitarist Oscar Lopez from time to time, and can be heard on CDs from Sarah McLaughlin, The Town Pants, The Irish Rovers, James Keelaghan, Oscar Lopez and is currently organizing boxes of notes to coalesce into a collection of his own material. Hugh is the only member of Spirit of the West who can reliably read a map. Vince R. Ditrich – Drums, percussion, vocals. Although well known for his comedic onstage antics, Vince has appeared in concert and in the studio with artists the likes of Sue Medley, Long John Baldry, Doug & the Slugs, Great Big Sea, Oscar Lopez, James Keelaghan, Mae Moore, and many others. (He is currently combing his CV for reference to ANY artist from the 21 century). Vince manages and acts as producer for House of Doc, Quinzy, and also gets to hold the tiller for Spirit of the West. He recorded a solo CD called Supertonic in 2001 and is still paying for it. Artist Management has taught him to type with his thumbs as effectively as a teen. He coordinates all refreshments for the band and has been known to instigate outrageous hotel upgrades.
Visit Vince’s website
tobin frankTobin “The Gull” Frank – What began as a temporary guest slot with the band in 1997 has grown into a long-time association. Tobin plays basses, piano, organ, and accordion. He is only occasionally allowed to sing. There is a reason for this. In real life, before descending to the Batcave for special appearances, he is a team-leader, producer, programmer and brainiac for the very successful Victoria-based music software company PG Music. This means that he can help the less gifted log onto hotel internet. Tobin is author of the upcoming book Rock Stars & Tupperware: 101 surprising tales of food preservation. Matthew HarderMatthew Harder
Hailing from the far reaches of Southern Ontario and now Winnipeg, Matthew holds the main guitar chair, although is capable of replacing nearly any one of us at any given time. He is a luthier, cabinetmaker, violin repair person, drummer, bassist, guitarist, banjoist, mandolinist, keyboards player, a fabulous singer and long-distance driver. He can also be seen performing with family band “The House of Doc” and indie project “Indicator Indicator.”