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Mormon Girls and Black Mastiff hit local stages this week

Posted on December 19, 2013 by Lethbridge Sun Times

It is another excellent week for local shows leading into Christmas. Toques and Beards are back to play a show with the Juxtaposers (Taylor Ackerman, Tyler Bird and Don Cassels) at the Slice on Dec. 19. That is competing with B.C. rock band Willhorse, who return to the Owl Acoustic Lounge Dec. 19 with Vancouver Island-based songwriter Rolla Olak.

Also in the rock-and-roll vein, local band the Mormon Girls officially release their debut cassette — yes, you read that right, cassette tape — with betterhalf at the Owl Acoustic Lounge, Dec. 20.

If you really want to bang your head, Edmonton sludge rock trio Black Mastiff are back in town to rock the Slice with the Void, Mormon Girls and an excellent new local band called Advertisement. Tickets are $10.

If you like something a little more jazzy, more mellow and a lot of fun, check out Edmonton’s the Rooster Davis Group at the Slice, Dec. 19. They feature David Aide tickling the ivories Dr. John style, special guest Ann Vriend and trombonist Brad Sigeta, who used to play with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. It will be lots of fun if you like jazz music and lot of upbeat keyboards.

The other excellent jazz gig this week is the always awesome Herb Hicks Jazz Quartet, who play the Mocha Cabana, Dec. 20 and Dec. 21.

And Cal Toth is playing the Mix Lounge at Ric’s Grill, Dec. 21 as well. And the Cotton Blossom Lounge in the Lethbridge Lodge is also bringing in jazz music on Thursdays now; James Oldebnburg plays from 5-11 p.m., Dec. 19.

There are also couple excellent roots and country shows this week with Shaela Miler and Treeline playing the Slice, Dec. 20 and the Matt Robinson band with Rusty Klok playing the Owl Acoustic Lounge, Dec. 21. More mainstream country fans will want to check out the Dean Ray Band at Casino Lethbridge, Dec. 20-21 as well.

For something more cultured, the Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra winds up a three-day run of Les Miserables at Southminster United Church, Dec. 18.

Golden-based southern rock band Willhorse is a workhorse.

They just placed fifth in the PEAK Performance Project designed with the B.C. government and 102.7 the PEAK Radio station, to help develop British Columbia musicians.

“It was a really great experience being in a seven day boot camp with 20 bands who are like you. It’s how good bands become great bands. And the knowledge we learned is priceless,” said Willhorse bassist Todd Menzies.

They received $5,000 for placing fifth, which Menzies said they are putting toward merchandise and the expenses for this tour.

They are in the middle of a 16-shows-in-19-days tour with Vancouver Island singer-songwriter Rolla Olak, which brings them to Lethbridge, Dec. 19 to play the Owl Acoustic Lounge.

The tour began in Vancouver Island and goes through the B.C. interior, out to Lethbridge, then Fernie, then Calgary and Edmonton and home to Golden.

They are enjoying the tour with Rolla Olak.

“He’s a singer-songwriter. He has a band he uses in Vancouver, but this time we’re in one van, so he decided to jump in the van with us,” said Menzies, having just got said van pulled out of a ditch full of “sketchy snow” en route to a gig in Kamloops. It has been about eight months since Willhorse rocked Lethbridge.

“We’re co-headlining this tour. He’ll play five or six songs on his own, then we’ll join him.

Then Willhorse will do a set and he rest is a big jam session as he’s learned a few of our songs so we’ll play them then we’ll play a few songs we wrote together,” Menzies described.

They have already written a dozen songs for the next CD, but the band wants to take their time with it.

“We want to write 30 songs for this CD, then whittle them down to 15, then put 10 on the album. We did the last album quickly. We’re going to take our time with this one,” he continued.

“We’re getting away from the southern rock and getting more into more straight-ahead rock and roll,” he added.


Highway 3 Roots Revue

The umpteenth Highway 3 Roots Revue show, featuring Leeroy Stagger, Dave McCann and John Wort Hannam, was exactly what you’d expect, Dec. 12 at the Slice.

There was plenty of solid heartfelt songwriting from three of southern Alberta’s best songwriters. They didn’t have as many people as usual for the abbreviated tour’s kickoff in Lethbridge.

The show, which is usually sold out and usually starts at 8 p.m. sharp, was delayed as more people trickled in. Each songwriter took turns playing some of their favourite songs as well as new songs and added extra guitar and vocal harmonies and the occasional harmonica solo to each other’s songs when it was needed.

Leeroy Stagger began with one of my favourites —”Stormy,” about an old biker. Dave McCann was next with a song I didn’t recognize then John Wort Hannam followed it up with “Church of the Long Grass,” another crowd favourite.

They took turns playing in that order. McCann played “a folk song for people who like AC DC” and played “Standing In the River,” one of his older songs.

Hannam followed that with one of many pretty ballads with “Love Lives On.” Another of his highlights was a new song, “20 Hours,” which he prefaced with a story abut going up north to write with Inuit children.

Stagger quoted songwriter Tom Womack about every songwriter is about a millimetre away from being found out as a fraud, and followed that up with sad, minor key number autobiographical song called “10 Long Years,” about his career in the music business.

None of them were to be found out as a fraud, though.

McCann delved way back into his back catalogue for one of the first songs he ever wrote and told a story about moving to Alberta from Peterborough 22 years ago and busking on Calgary streets and playing for residents of a homeless shelter

Hannam ended the first set by leaving everybody though an old country song “Goodbye Rosalie.”

The second set began with Stagger thanking sound man Jon Martin and congratulating him on graduating with a music degree. Hannam began that set with another new song, while McCann followed it up with “Unfamiliar Ground.”

It was time for audience requests after that as Stagger played “Dirty Windshields,” a highlight from his CD “Radiant Land.”

Hannam told a story about a girl he met and fell in love with at Mount Royal College only to discover she was just graduating from high school and a sang “Molly May.”

McCann decided to play a new song after that and played a catchy number called “Wooden Wings,” which had Stagger singing along.

Stagger decided to go full on country and did his best Marty Robbins impression with “Maria.”

Stagger also played a really touching newer song “Brothers” for a friend he grew up with and did everything with.

McCann played one of his newer songs “Can’t Cheat The Mountain,” about the Crowsnest Pass, which is my new favourite.

He talked about his father-in- law’s cabin in the Crowsnest Pass where McCann goes to get songwriting Done while his kids watch TV.

Stagger wound things down by singing “Radiant Land,” the title track from his latest CD, and got Hannam to sing a verse as it is also on his new CD.

Stagger also went way back to his early career with the last song, which he wrote in a theatre in Victoria while Jim Carrey’s “Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind” was playing, and got everyone to sing along with “Beautiful Houses.”

They ended with an encore of Robert Earle Keen’s “Merry Christmas from the Family” as per usual.

Deaner hosts a party

The Deaner, of cult hit Canadian film FUBAR fame, sure knows how to host a party. He returned to Lethbridge to rock Studio 54 for an intoxicated and enthusiastic audience.

While Calgary band Shelbi couldn’t make the show, the crowd was well lubricated after a set by local band the Space Wolves, whose set I unfortunately missed.

The Deaner took the stage dressed as Santa Claus, a can of Pilsner in hand as he led the audience through a beer shotgunning contest. He got a handful of guys on stage to shotgun for a prize — a rare FUBAR T-shirt, and gladly joined them.

And just for kicks, the ladies came up on stage next for a shotgunning contest of their own.

By that time, local punk band The Scallywags were ready to go. They crashed into an exciting set of expletive-filled, beer-fuelled punk rock mayhem.

They added a second guitarist for the show which was a good thing as vocalist/guitarist Bob Scallywag broke a string on his guitar a song and a half into the set, which lead to him asking the audience if anyone had a spare guitar or string. But the Deaner Claus kept the party going as he took centre stage to belt out “Wild Thing” with the rest of the band while Bob took care of guitar repair business.

Deaner sings Wild Thing while Bob Scallywag changes a broken guitar string a song and a half into their set

Calgary’s answer to the Shins, Savk returned to the Owl Acoustic Lounge, Saturday, Dec. 7.

They didn’t have as many people as they usually do, but they had the audience mesmerized with hypnotic percussion and haunting vocal harmonies and a lot of ambient indie rock, with a strong nod to the Shins and just a touch of Pink Floyd psychedelia.

Everyone in the room sat listening intently awash in layers of guitar and keyboards, which highlighted frontman Stephen VanKampen’s vocals.

They picked up the pace near the end of the show with a massive, percussion filled jam as the band members multi-tasked, playing an array of drums, maracas and tambourines.

Local musicians came out for a good cause at the Slice, Dec. 7 — raising money for monsoon victims in the Philippines.

They had a good crowd of approximately 70 people.

I arrived in the middle of a psychedelic jam with Lethbridge’s New Weather Machine, who I haven’t seen for a few months.

They had special guest Jesse Plessis playing keyboards, Paul Holden on standup bass and Kris Hodgson playing cello which added an extra dimension of sound to the band.

They played a more laidback groove for this show. They ended their set with David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” and some Beatles to end their set.

Rancho Deluxe was up next to play some roots and country music with George Arsene on guitar and vocals, Tyler Bird on bass and Brad Brouwer on drums and Taylor Ackerman adding extra guitar.

They played my favourite D-Rangers song, “Trois Rivieres,” Andrew Neville’s “Brand New Song” and several originals.

Local punk/garage rock band The Ruby Plumes ended the benefit taking the stage around 1:30 a.m. beginning with their cover of Mclusky’s “To Hell With Good Intentions” and several originals.

Huron Carole

While the weather outside was frightful, the Southminster United Church was full of warm fuzzies, love and peaceful thoughts, Dec. 6 as Tom Jackson brought the Huron Carole to Lethbridge to raise a lot of money for local food banks.

They had at least 600 people filling the venerable church. I’m a pretty good mix of the Grinch and Scrooge when it comes to Christmas-related activities and concerts, but the Huron Carole melted even my heart.

What I like the most about host Tom Jackson is how he makes me feel about myself. He welcomed a close to 600-strong crowd with open arms and talked to them as if each and every one of them were one of his closest friends.

He opened up by welcoming everybody and thanking them profusely for supporting the food banks.

All of the performers including Shannon Gaye, Beverley Mahood, One More Girl and George Canyon, got to play solo sets backed by One More Girl’s band to begin the show including one of their hits after which they told the story of their favourite Christmas story, followed by their favourite Christmas Carol followed by one of their newer songs.

Shannon Gaye played the first set of sultry jazz beginning with a sexy “Merry Christmas Baby” and joked about George Canyon wearing something that could only be described as a beaver pelt on his head. He would come out in the second set wearing said beaver pelt, which everybody including Tom Jackson tried on.

Beverley Mahood was incredible, singing beautiful pop country and talking about getting her first record player for one of her early Christmases and a couple of seven-inch records including Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas,” which led to her singing it. Bandleader Tom McKillip played a hot saxophone solo on one of the songs. Jackson emerged from one of the side doors to introduce One More Girl and praised the band including bandleader and the girls’ father Tom before talking about watching them grow up singing.

One More Girl were next, bringing even more pop and gorgeous vocal harmonies to the event as sisters Britt and Carly McKillip harmonized. Carly kicked off her shoes as she played the keyboards while singing while her sister danced and sang one of their hits, a carol and a new single “Love Like Mine.”

Jackson returned from he other side of the stage, wearing a spangled Santa hat to talk about George Canyon, then retrieved Britt McKillip’s shoes.

Canyon talked about his early Christmases and a lot about his family, noting he and his wife had been together for 20 years and dedicated his hit “I Believe In Angels” to his children. He then sang “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” and a brand new ballad called “Slow Dance,” which the crowd loved.

He talked about his Christian upbringing and ended the first set with “O Holy Night.”

After a brief intermission, Scrooge made an appearance on stage to observe how far the food banks can stretch cash donations and observed the Rotary Club’s annual reading of “A Christmas Carol” would return next year.

During the intermission Jackson observed the doors to the tour bus had frozen shut because of the brutal chill which may have locked Canyon inside. So Jackson welcomed everybody else back to the stage. They proceeded to sing pretty much every Christmas carol in the book, which showcased some lovely vocal harmonies. Gaye stood out with gorgeous jazz numbers.

And while I can’t stand Christmas carols, two of these versions stood out for me — “Little Drummer Boy” and an angelic version of “Carol of the Bells.” Canyon played a fourth Christmas carol in his set, which was a good thing as he was barely in the second set at all which featured everybody else telling stories and harmonizing together like angels on their favourite Christmas carols. But they had some unusual numbers, too. Canyon added a touch of Celtic music reflecting his roots growing up in Pictou, Nova Scotia.

In between acts, the always affable Tom Jackson appeared out of pretty much every door on the Southminster Church stage and told a story, a joke and thanked everyone for coming out and supporting the local food banks.

Canyon returned for the end of the set as the group got the crowd to sing “Silent Night” together before calling it a night with everybody going into the crowd shaking hands and wishing everybody a Merry Christmas.

The Owl Acoustic Lounge as all about indie rock, Friday, Dec. 6 as Calgary’s Hunger Hush and local band the Utilities played for a decent-sized crowd.

I caught the end of an impressive set of catchy indie rock from the Utilities which blended elements of Vancouver indie rock along the lines of Said the Whale and catchy ’90s rock like the Gin Blossoms. There were layers of ambient guitar and a bit of feedback near the end. It has been a while since I’ve seen them and they have improved a lot since then.

Hunger Hush was impressive.

Their set was more alt country-driven, with a lot of groovy bass and catchy pop and rock like a blend of Wilco and a touch of Jesse and the Dandelions indie rock. They also had excellent vocal harmonies. What was impressive was how everybody switched up instruments throughout the set. In addition to a lot of guitar, appealing vocal melodies and harmonies and some keyboards, they even added trumpet for a couple songs, which drew a lot of applause.

Dec. 18

Owl Acoustic Lounge — L.A. Beat open jam

Southminster United Church — Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra Masters Series III Les Miserables

Slice — Ann Vriend with the Rooster Davis Group

The Coast — LA Chefs – Small business party with Fast Times

NAAG Gallery — Drama Nutz Uncensored Improv

Dec. 19

Owl Acoustic Lounge — Willhorse with Rolla Olak

Slice — The Juxtaposers with Toques and BEards

Inferno — open mic

Cotton Blossom Lounge — James Oldenburg

Dec. 20

Casino Lethbridge — Dean Ray band

Honkers — Open mic with Steve Keenan 8 p.m.

Owl Acoustic Lounge — Mormon Girls with betterhalf

Jimmy’s Pub and Brasserie — open mic

Slice — Treeline with Shaela Miller $10

Wolf’s Den — bluegrass jam

Mocha Cabana — Herb Hicks Jazz Quartet

Dec. 21

Mocha Cabana — Herb Hicks Jazz Quartet

Ric’s Grill — Cal Toth

Casino Lethbridge — Dean Ray band

Owl Acoustic Lounge — Matt Robinson and his band, Rusty Klok

Slice — Black Mastiff, Mormon Girls, The Void, Advertisement $10

Dec. 23

Owl Acoustic Lounge — open mic

Dec. 26

Slice — Tod Robinson and the Gleu with Philip Saucer $10

Inferno — open mic

Dec. 27

Casino Lethbridge — Shannon Smith

Owl Acoustic Lounge — A Very Void Christmas

Slice — Rancho Deluxe

Mocha Cabana — D’Arcy Kavanagh and Ian Hepher

Dec. 28

Ric’s Grill — Cal Toth

Casino Lethbridge — Shannon Smith

Owl Acoustic Lounge — Ben Mahoney

Mocha Cabana — D’Arcy Kavanagh and Ian Hepher

Dec. 29

Moose Hall — Blue Ridge Mountain Country Society open country jam

Dec. 30

Slice — Ghost Factory, the Void, JJ Thomas, Mormon Girls ugly Christmas sweater party $5 ugly sweater, $10 without

Owl Acoustic Lounge — open mic

Dec. 31

Jimmy’s Pub — Undefined

Owl Acoustic Lounge — Cosmic Charley

Casino Lethbridge — New Year’s Eve Roaring 20 with Westside Jazz Messengers

Slice — Queen of the Worms $10

Exhibition Park — New Year’s Eve Family Fest

Mocha Cabana — Dana Honey

Italian Canadian Club — Bamboo Guppies

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