Leisurely raft down the ‘ol Bow

One of Calgary’s best summer past times is a slow, leisurely rafting trip down the Elbow or Bow River. Hot Panda’s guitarist/vocalist Chris Connelly is well aware of this relaxing activity and, if the weather is right, he says the Edmonton band hopes to find themselves lounging about on an inflatable dinghy before their Thursday, June 25 show at the Plaza.

“We wanted to the last few times we’ve gone through Calgary when it’s warm,” says Connelly excitedly. “We’ve seen people doing it and it looks really fun. I’ve really wanted to do that, so we were like, ‘Oh, maybe we’ll do that.’ “

The band’s jingle-jangle pop-rock is the perfect summer soundtrack, especially for a lazy Saturday on the river. With accordion, synthesizer and back-up guitar provided by Heath Parsons, harmonica by bassist Keith Olsen and Maghan Campbell’s ecstatic drumming, Hot Panda’s music is refreshingly fun. Connelly’s vocals, too, are a delight — pleading on some songs, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in others, but always shockingly emotive.

It’s surprising, though, with the band’s summer jams sound, that Connelly doesn’t even own a rubber raft. With songs like “Whale Headed Girl,” you’d think the group would have their own transport to chat with the marine mammals.

“Somebody said that you could rent them,” contemplates Connelly. “I personally don’t have my own raft to bring, but if you can rent it that’d be good. Grab a case of beer and a raft and just laze down the river.”

The group, fresh off a European tour with the Von Bondies, is currently relaxing after spending their time blasting through Europe. Starting off in Germany, they slowly meandered around the continent. He was especially effusive with praise for Germany, the land of plentiful beer, brats and good times.

“As a whole, all the [European] shows are a bit better,” explains Connelly. “There’s always food, always a place to stay. They just treat you better there. It’s a lot shorter to drive and play around.”

Of course, the group chose to spend a little extra time in the Netherlands — specifically, Amsterdam. When questioned, Connelly’s voice perks up considerably as he begins talking in an excitable rapid-fire.

“Amsterdam was great, we had a great time,” he says. “We took off from and landed in Amsterdam, so we had a few extra days on each end.”

Like any hip, bohemian group of 20-somethings, Hot Panda spent their extra time in Amsterdam right — chasing the Green Fairy.

“We got a bottle of absinthe. We bought a bottle of absinthe and we were drinking that — that was a pretty neat experience . . . [It was] a good drunk, a weird drunk.”

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