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Holiday cheer fills local music venues this week

Posted on December 26, 2013 by Lethbridge Sun Times

Once you have had your fill of eggnog, topped off your tummy with turkey, stuffed yourself with stuffing and may even been a little fed up with family over Christmas, you are probably going to be ready to rock to some live music. Because even musicians come home for the holidays. They all come back eventually, no matter where they go.

There are a couple of great events this week.

Tod Robinson and the Gleu will be playing their typical high-energy set of piano and guitar-based pop rock at the Slice for Boxing Day. Phillip Saucer is the special guest. There is a $10 cover.

For something slightly different and more ’90s-flavoured, the Void celebrate Christmas a couple days late at the Owl Acoustic Lounge, Dec. 27.

If you want to show off your favourite ugly Christmas sweater, they will be playing again at an Ugly Sweater party, Dec. 30 at the Slice with Calgary folk punk band Ghost Factory, local rock band the Mormon Girls and blues/rock band JJ Thomas. Admission is $5 with ugly sweater and $10 without.

If you want to dance and sweat away those Christmas calories, Hippodrome will bring the funk and bring the noise at their annual late December show at the Slice on Dec. 28. Tickets are $10

There are also some pre-New Year’s folk and country gigs this week with Ben Mahoney playing the Owl Acoustic Lounge, Dec. 28, and Rancho Deluxe playing the Slice, Dec. 27. Also on the mellower side of the spectrum, the Bryant Watson Duo will be at Ric’s Grill.

If you are saving your energy and perhaps your liver for New Year’s Eve, there are a lot of options Dec. 31, which falls on a Tuesday this year.

Undefined will be rocking the blues at Jimmy’s Pub. For more psychedelic, funky rock, check out Cosmic Charley at the Owl Acoustic Lounge.

Also in the rock vein, Queen of the Worms, featuring Tyler Bird on guitar and vocals, will be at the Slice. There will be a $10 cover for the show.

The Bamboo Guppies will also be playing rock and roll at the Italian Canadian Club at the annual New Year’s Eve dinner and dance, Dec. 31. Doors open at 7 p.m., dinner is at 8 p.m. and the Bamboo Guppies will be playing after that. Tickets are $35 each. Contact Vicky at 403-381-7947 to reserve tickets.

Another big dinner and dance night features the Chevelles who play the Coast Hotel.

Dinner of rainbow sorbet and beef tenderloin will begin at 6 p.m. as Cal Toth entertains with dinner music. The Chevelles will bring the house down after that. Tickets are $80. Call 403-320-0072 for more information and to get tickets.

For something with a little jazz, Casino Lethbridge features dinner and the New Year’s Eve Roaring ’20s party featuring the Westside Jazz Messengers. There will be a three-course dinner, party favours and even showgirls. It begins at 6:30 p.m. Also for jazz music, Dana Honey plays the Mocha Cabana for New Year’s Eve.

The Mocha Cabana brings back Ian Hepher and D’Arcy Kavanagh for the weekend.

Have a merry Christmas and a happy new year.


Willhorse at The Owl

I always look forward to Golden, B.C. rock band Willhorse’s Lethbridge shows, and I needed a pick-me-up more than ever on Dec. 19. So I was somewhat disappointed that the show was a laidback acoustic show. I was counting on Willhorse to wake me up, but it was pretty laidback. That disappointment faded right from their first note. You could still hear an excellent rock band distilled to its essence with a stripped-down acoustic show. The electric guitar was plugged in for solos and everyone else grooved on acoustic guitars and bass. They got a lot of dancers with a cover of Tom Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” and kept them there.

I enjoyed the songs from their CD especially a great acoustic version of “Tempered Hearts.”

Other highlights from the CD were “Little Things” and “Stoke it Up.”

Throughout their set they sang some excellent harmonies and played a lot of new songs including a handful with Vancouver Island singer Rolla Olak, who opened the show with a strong set of folk singer-songwriter songs backed by Willhorse. He sat front and centre and tossed his hirsute head, while strumming guitar and playing harmonica solos. His music ranged from straight-ahead folk to more tender bluesy material.

They slowed things down after that and were well into a version of “The Weight” before I called it a night.

Toques and Beards and the Juxtaposers

It is always great to see a new band in town.

This time, Don Cassel took centre stage with the Juxtaposers at the Slice, Dec. 19 where they were releasing their debut CD for a decent-sized crowd of about 40 people.

Cassell played guitar and harmonica and sang in a weathered, raspy voice that would do CCR’s John Fogerty proud. He played a variety of gritty rock influence original songs with most of Toques and Beards as the backing band featuring Tyler Bird on guitar, Brett Skauge on guitar, Taylor Ackerman on bass and electric piano and Avery Friesen on drums

Their classic rock-styled music sounded like a blend of Credence Clearwater Revival and Crazy Horse. So there were a lot of big guitars and gritty choruses.

They also had a very strong blues influence especially in the guitar solos.

Ali Stuart also joined them on stage to sing guest vocals on a couple slower, more stripped-down songs.

Rooster Davis Group

Edmonton-based the Rooster Davis Group warmed up a chilly night for a handful of people at the Slice, Dec. 18. A trombone is a happy-sounding instrument. Couple that with a kazoo and some hot New Orleans-style boogie woogie piano, and it is sure to crack that sour puss. Especially when the trombonist is so good. It is to be expected as trombonist Brad Shigeta used to play with the Duke Ellington orchestra. Pianist/vocalist Rooster Davis, a.k.a. Dave Aide, was no slouch, blazing on the ivories and performing like a one-man band as if each hand had a mind of its own.

They were well into their first set by the time I arrived as he was in the midst of a battle with a rollicking old Professor Longhair number while about a half dozen people watched from the back of the room and applauded genially after each solo. Drummer Chris Budnarchuk looked implacable as he kept up with that. Ann Vriend looked blissed out as she danced and wiggled in place, hitting her tambourine as Shigeta blew one of many gorgeous trombone solos.

They followed that up with Vriend singing a hot version of blues classic “St. James Infirmary” while Aide harmonized with her and laid down hot piano licks. Everybody got to solo and the audience clapped appreciatively after each one.

Vriend also gave the audience a taste of her brand new CD, taking a seat behind Aide’s piano. She sang a dark song in a distinctive upper register warble and while it wasn’t as crazy as Aide, she held her own on the keyboards.

Budnarchuk sang a song from behind his drum kit after that.

Then Vriend tried to lead the audience in a singalong with catchy Mardi Gras classic “Jock-a-Mo (Iko Iko).”

She was featured some more on the piano in the next set. That set included more hot solos and heaps of toe-tapping piano.

His cover of Dr. John’s “Such a Night” was a highlight as Vriend and Sigeta traded kazoo and trombone solos during it.

Vriend sang after that in her appealing bluesy chirp. The crowd had expanded to 20 by that point.

Blackberry Wood played another great show for no people at the Slice, Monday, Dec. 16. Missing a Blackberry Wood show is like missing the circus when it comes to town. On a crossword puzzle, a 14-letter word for fun is Blackberry Wood.

They always have something new when they play their incendiary blend of folk, jazz, random circus music and assorted weirdness which sounds like Geoff Berner without the accordion.

This year they had a new lineup backing frontman Kris Wood. Two beautiful mimes, a.k.a. Shannon Miss Eerie Marie grooving on standup bass and new trumpeter Maren “The Professor” Lisac, held everything together as flamboyant frontman Kris Wood weaved and bobbed all over the stage.

As usual there were lots of highlights including a cover of Tom Waits’ “I Don’t Want to Grow Up.”

They didn’t have a drummer. Instead they had a computer set in an old wooden suitcase balance on a bass drum, holding down the drums. They played a hyperactive set of jazzy gypsy music. The end of second set was the time for bass tricks as Shannon Miss Eerie Marie showed her circus (they actually did get her from a circus sideshow) and her acrobatic rockabilly side as she balanced on her standup bass with an evil grin. While she was doing gymnastics, new trumpeter Maren “The Professor” Lisac wandered into the audience and jumped on top of the Slice bar where she played her solo from the top of the bar. She would later play on the Slice’s piano.

One of the highlights of the set included “Strong Man and the Russian Bear,” the title track from their most recent album which ended set two.

By the third set the audience had swelled to 12. It was full of more energy, lots more gypsy music, a couple new songs and lots more fun and, even better, the cantina theme from Star Wars. How can you not love a group that covers the cantina theme? They played a new song about a strange man they met in a truck stop.

Kris Wood ended show by breaking a guitar string, taking a break and returning for two more songs.

If you missed the show, they will be playing the South Country Fair next summer and will have released a new album by then.

It was a time for some rock and or roll at the Slice, Dec. 14, with a whole passel of local bands.

While I missed Johnny Greenshields’ band Johnny G and the Spots, I caught most of the set of a hot new, young band called Advertisement.

They played a tight set of noise rock and punk music strongly influenced by the likes of Sonic Youth and the Pixies. They got a lot of applause from the enthusiastic crowd.

They were a tough act to follow for local band the Yeah Dads, who played a big, loud set of energetic ’60s-inspired garage rock.

The Ruby Plumes finished the night of with their usual set of old punk, garage rock and original music.

Junkman’s Choir

The Junkman’s Choir played several times this past week, including for the Lethbridge Folk Club at the Moose Hall on Saturday, Dec. 7. Because I missed those shows, I made a point of catching this innovative local band at the Owl Acoustic Lounge, Dec. 14.

As always they played a hot set of music blending everything including jazz, country music, Celtic music and folk and pop music for an enthusiastic audience.

Megan Brown played a lot of frenetic, foot-stomping fiddle over top of excellent vocal harmonies and seamless interplay between a variety of different instruments including guitars, standup bass a cello and saxophone.

I arrived in the middle of an excellent cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire” featuring Megan Brown singing lead vocals. Her voice reminded me of Texas troubadour Tif Ginn.

George Fowler played guitar and cello and added excellent vocals, Ross Samuel switched between guitar and saxophone while Steve Martin held down the bottom end on stand up bass while Isaac Neufeld kept the beat.

One of the more world music/French Celtic/cajun songs had the crowd clapping along during the second set. Brown sang a sexy version of ’90s hit “Sex and Candy.”

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

Slice — Hippodrome $10

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

Ric}s Grill — Bryant Watson Duo

Coast Hotel — The Chevelles $80

Jan. 2

Slice — Public Animal

Inferno — open mic

Jan. 3

Owl Acoustic Lounge — Jay Bowcott

JImmy’s Pub — open Mic

Wolf’s Den — bluegrass jam

Honkers — Open mic with Steve Keenan

Jan. 4

Owl — Michael Coughlan

Studio 54 — open mic

Jan. 6

Owl Acoustic Lounge — open mic

Jan. 7

Slice — open mic

Bo Diddlys — open mic

Jan. 8

Slice — Jazz jam with HBO3

Owl Acoustic Lounge — L.A Beat open jam

Jan. 9

Slice — Big Dave mcLean

Inferno — open mic

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