The name Portage and Main brings to mind Winnipeg’s bustling intersection for many.
But for John Sponarski and Harold Donnelly it’s a term that sums up where their rural roots and suburban lifestyles meet.
And it is the perfect name for a band.
Portage and Main is a folk rock group based out of Vancouver; its members are Sponarski and Donnelly on vocals and guitars, Georges Couling on keyboards, Ben Appenheimer on bass and drummer Dave Gens.
Sponarski and Donnelly started Portage and Main not as a band but a songwriting duo.
“We hadn’t intended to be a band,” said Sponarski in a telephone interview with tbnewswatch.com.
“We wanted to get together once a week and write and work on getting better at that,” he said.
From there, the pair accumulated a decent set of songs, enough to catalogue and record an album.
“Once that started to happen, it just started to roll and evolve naturally. Even when we were recording, we weren’t totally convinced it was going to be a band then all of a sudden things were happening,” Sponarski said.
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Their first show as a band was their album kickoff show. Since then Portage and Main has had a rotating cast, but now it’s set at a five-piece touring band and seven-piece in-town ensemble.
Naming the band was a process Sponarski said he and Donnelly didn’t take lightly.
“Naming a group is the funniest thing. You usually end up hating the name a month after you do it. We didn’t want it to be a random thing,” he said.
During a brainstorming session, the duo realized they both had family roots in Portage La Prairie, Man. That made Sponarski think of Winnipeg’s Portage and Main intersection he visited once as a child.
“In that we have Portage in reference to Portage La Prairie, which is our rural element, and then Main, a street you’d find in any large urban area,” he said.
“We had that little silly juxtaposition to make fun of ourselves and a little Canadiana to boot.”
Portage and Main released their second album Never Had the Time earlier this year and so far have seen mostly positive reviews.
But Sponarski said the real test will be when they hit the road this spring.
“We’re just getting out of the hometown market and get onto the road and see how it is going to be received,” he said.
Portage and Main is playing Crocks St. Patrick’s Day Bash on March 17. Doors open at 8 p.m. Admission is $5. Age of majority required.
On their way back across the country, they’re stopping at Crocks again for a show on March 26.
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