SOUTH SURREY â€” Bob and Brian Sumner, better known to their fans as the Sumner Brothers, have been organizing a yearly Christmas concert for nearly a decade, and this time around, the boys have it down pat more than ever.
The local folk-rock band of brothers, whose other bandmates include Joseph Lubinsky Mast on bass and Leon Power on drums, are preparing their ninth annual Sumner Brothers Xmas Holiday Extravaganza, and the duo says theyâ€™ve come a long way since their inaugural bash.
But where did it all begin? Well, just a healthy love of the Christmas season.
â€œIt seems like you either love Christmas or hate Christmas, we love Christmas,â€ Brian said at the brothersâ€™ South Surrey guitar and music studio on King George Boulevard.
The Elgin Park Secondary School grads clearly arenâ€™t of the population who think that the holiday has become too corporate in recent years.
â€œThe more corporate the better, as long as it starts December first,â€ Brian said. â€œI donâ€™t care, as long as itâ€™s December first, get in my face about it. I wanna know itâ€™s Christmas.â€
Bob, however, says he had different motivations for throwing the once-a-year bash.
â€œI think we started doing (A Sumner Brothers Xmas) just for a party,â€ he said, noting that the brothers put on three recurring shows each year: a Sumner Brothers Xmas Holiday Extravaganza, a Sumner Brothers Halloween and another called Old Bones, a birthday party for a friend.
The first time around, in 2005, the boys rented out Vancouverâ€™s Anza Club and fronted thousands of dollars for their own security, bartenders, dÃ©cor and more.
Another South Surrey band, the Star Captains, featuring Semiahmoo grad Jim Black, headlined the event.
â€œThey (the events) used to be much more difficult because we used to do them at the Anza Club or the Wise Hall and those we had to get our own security, our own door person, our own bartenders and then decorations and all that, so that would take months of preparation,â€ Brian revealed.
â€œBut now because weâ€™ve been doing it so long, we already have the Christmas chair, all the lights, all the fake greens,â€ Bob chimed in. â€œHalf our folksâ€™ crawl space is like Tupperwares full of Sumner Brothers Christmas gear.â€
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Besides fake foliage and mistletoe, a staple in the boysâ€™ Christmas show is Sheldon, the whiskey-drinkinâ€™ Santa who takes photos with concert-goers for $5, which includes a Sumner Brothers shotglass. The same Santa also played the part of Satan at this yearâ€™s Sumner Brothers Halloween show at Vancouverâ€™s Rickshaw Theatre.
â€œWe have Sumner Brothers shot glasses that we make, so it would be five bucks, a shot and a picture with Santa, and he would generally have a shot with every single person who came through, and Santa would have to be carried out every year,â€ Bob said with a laugh.
â€œHeâ€™s tried to curb that,â€ he jokingly assured.
Now that the boysâ€™ annual Yule time show is almost a decade old, theyâ€™re doing things a little differently.
â€œWe just want Christmas to be… a sort of family and friends affair, so weâ€™re inviting a ton of musicians who will do about two or three songs each,â€ Bob told the Now.
Bands and musicians performing this yearâ€™s show include The Wild North, Ben Rogers, Rob Butterfield, Real Ponchos, Khari McClelland, Colleen Rennison, Twin Bandit, Dirty Luke, Johnny 99 and more.
â€œItâ€™s going to be such an extravaganza this year, there are going to be at least 20 songwriters or bands and then weâ€™ll play a longer set at the end,â€ he said.
Brian added that this year will be a lot less stressful than previous parties.
â€œIt used to be thousands of dollars on the table, â€˜cause when you rent a room, you have all this money that goes out for beer, security, liquor licenses, everything. Weâ€™d just be nervous wrecks all night, hoping weâ€™d get our money back. Now, for us, itâ€™s just hoping that people show up.â€
Judging from their previous successes, it seems that the brothers will probably have a few repeat customers.
Asked if the hassle seems too much to bear some years, the brothers replied, â€œit feels like that a little bit every year.â€
â€œBut it always feels worthwhile when youâ€™re done,â€ Bob was quick to add.
A Sumner Brothers Xmas IX Holiday Extravaganza takes place at Vancouverâ€™s Rickshaw Theatre on Dec. 13 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance at Liveatrickshaw.com or $15 at the door.