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Public Animal brings new life to keyboards

Posted on January 2, 2014 by Lethbridge Sun Times

As expected coming off Christmas, things slow down a little this week.

But one key show to catch, especially if you are a rock-and roll fan, is Southern Ontario band Public Animal, who play the Slice Jan. 2.

The keyboard-powered juggernaut features members of C’mon, Tricky Woo and Bela Clava.

Other highlights this week take place at the Owl Acoustic Lounge. Jay Bowcott plays the Owl Acoustic Lounge Jan. 3, while Michael Coughlan returns to the Owl Jan. 4.

Public Animal are stoked to come out west for probably the first and only time in the year. They kick off a quick four date tour on New Year’s Eve in Calgary at the Broken City, the Slice on Jan. 2, Saskatoon on Jan. 3 and Jan. 4 in Edmonton before they fly home.

“We’re just touring on a seven-inch and a T-Shirt, so we probably shouldn’t be doing this, but whatever, we just love to play,” said co-frontman Ian Blurton.

He shares lead vocal duties with keyboardist Caitlin Dacey. Eric Larock plays bass and Ryan Gassi is on drums.

“There are a lot of keyboards. It’s pretty different. We started writing together about a year ago. We wanted that big Hammond organ early ’70s sound like Deep Purple and Uriah Heap but without the insane lyrics,” he described.

“So we started writing about a year ago and came up with 14 songs and whittled them down to eight for a record,” he said.

“It excited me to have those types of textures in the band. This is the type of band I needed at this time in my life and I think the other band members feel the same way. And I’ve been playing with Eric (bassist Larock) for like forever,” he said.

They are finishing up their debut, full-length record which they expect will be released in the spring.

“It’s about 70 per cent done. We want to put out a really good first record,” he said.

“We’re stoked to play. I haven’t payed out west in January for a long time, so I’m curious to see just how cold it gets,” he continued.

“We always play from the heart. We want each show to be fresh. Each show is different. Some days we’re dancing on the tables, other days we’re not,” he said.

Year in Review

I’m sure a lot of people will be glad to see the back of this mean, nasty, tumultuous and tragic schoolyard bully of a year that has been 2013. There have been floods, fires, hailstorms and prominent deaths in the community. At times it seems like Armageddon is near.

This year the local music community community was rocked by the loss three of their prominent members — Salem Abraha in May and Randy Shaver and James “DJ Booda” Nishima with weeks of each other in August and September. They will be missed, mourned, and more importantly, remembered. They may be gone, but their spirit lives on in the number of great musicians, promoters and personalities carrying on their work.

Other members of the community (Bente Hansen and sound man Rod Minty) have suffered serious car accidents and illnesses which they are still recovering from.

Chris Lipinski and his wife Courtney lost their house to a fire; Frank Dooley had a serious construction accident.

But the silver lining of these tragedies, should you choose to see it, is the community has rallied around them and others who need help.

The community came together to organize well-attended benefits for some of these folks including the Lipinski’s July 10 George Arsene and Murray Nelson event. Two other groups of musicians stepped forward to raise money for victims of the floods in High River — one really great day-long event at a new bar in town, the Smokehouse, and at Casa.

The opening of Lethbridge’s new downtown arts centre Casa back in May was a major highlight of the year for the local arts community. It has been home to several new art exhibits, gives local artists studios and equipment to use and has hosted some truly great concerts including Oscar Lopez and Awna Teixeira who opened it May 22 in a collaboration with the Geomatic Attic and, among others, Saskatchewan bluesman Jack Semple during this year’s Lethbridge Jazz festival.

It has been another exceptional year for touring acts. I got to interview one of my all-time favourite punk musicians, Joe Keithley, and see one of my favourite bands, D.O.A., play in Lethbridge at a disco (Studio 54) of all places. That was one of my favourite all-time interviews. I also got to interview Great Big Sea, though I was unable to see the show, being in the middle of a road trip to Vancouver to see my favourite band, Govt. Mule.

It has been a great year old school punk rockers, most of them playing the Moose Hall. The Dayglo Abortions and Bunchof—ingoofs played there as well.

The Geomatic Attic had some of my favourite roots acts including Little Miss Higgins with the Winnipeg Five, Grapes of Wrath, the Sadies and ones I haven’t heard before like Virginia string band the Steel Wheels.

They also had the best gospel/religious act of the year with the The Sojourners who played Oct. 6 at the Geomatic Attic.

The Slice has had a lot of great roots/alt country and indie rock acts. The Weber Brothers Band continued to be one of my favourite and one of the most underrated Canadian bands now touring.

They also had a spate of great blues acts within the span of a month including Tim Vaughan and Paul Reddick with Ben Sures, to name a few. Winnipeg blues-rock trio the Perpetrators tore apart the Slice again, Nov. 2, this year as well and Wild T and the Spirit played their usual incendiary show for no people at the Slice.

Look for more of the best of 2013 next week.


Tod Robinson and the Gleu

People were in a mellow mood for a Boxing Day show featuring a variety of local acts including Ben Mahoney, visiting from the Yukon, as well as Tod Robinson and the Gleu and a strange band called Phillip Saucer.

Ben Mahoney, who lived here several years ago opened the show with a solo set featuring him singing, accompanying himself on a 12-string guitar. He sang a variety of songs, including one written in Lethbridge about a blond-haired girl.

He wrote another unusual one while living in Vancouver about the city of Nelson.

He also played a spooky songs called “Long Winter.”

He switched to Robinson’s keyboard for a quirky cover of the Police’s ‘Wrapped Around Your Finger.”

Tod Robinson and the Gleu, a.k.a. Brad Brouwer on drums, Tyson Wiebe on background vocals and guitar and bassist Jason Schultchen, played an addictive set of catchy rock/pop and folk along the lines of Matchbox 20 and Ben Folds, when Robinson got behind the keyboards for the second half of the set.

Wiebe and Robinson played a sweet harmonized guitar solo on one song.

Robinson blew everybody away when he played piano. He played some older songs and some newer ones from his most recent CD. I didn’t catch the titles, as he didn’t say them. He played some slick piano licks on one impressive song.

Philip Saucer is a group including Tyson Wiebe on guitar, Quint Viskup on bass, Brad Brouwer on drums and Ben Mahoney on 12-string guitar and trading vocals with guitarist Tod Robinson. They played weird experimental country/psychedelic with weenish jams on a variety of songs like Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice.” Their jams included all sorts of other songs including some Pet Shop Boys’ “West End Girls.”

The rock before Christmas, Dec. 21 at the Slice, included the cassette release party for a new local band the Mormon Girls, who are neither Mormons, nor Girls, but are Mick Hayward on guitar, Jon Vornbrock on drums and vocals, Tyson Wiebe on bass and Dave Banman on guitar.

They played catchy alternative ’90s-style Weezer-tinged rock which sounded a lot like local band Planet Telex.

Before that, Edmonton’s Black Mastiff brought forth a bludgeoning stoner rock groove of big, brutal guitar and bass along the lines of the Smalls and Black Sabbath. They had a huge sound and led to a lot of head-banging.

While I missed Advertisement, I caught local ’90s rock-influenced band the Void who played their usual set of upbeat Smashing Pumpkins-influenced rock music.

The Matthew Robinson band played a good crowd at the Owl Acoustic Lounge, Dec. 21. They had a revamped lineup including Kyle Harmon on drums, a bassist I didn’t recognize but who could have been Harmon’s twin and Scott Mezei on guitar, coming fresh off a gig with New West Theatre’s Razzle Dazzle.

Together they made Robinson’s original folk rock really sing, allowing Robinson to come front and centre.

They played an up-tempo set of originals which were familiar to anybody who had seen one of Robinson’s shows, but which had an extra kick thanks to the tight band.

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

Jan. 10

Slice — Paul Kype and Texas Flood

Jimmy’s Pub — open mic

Wolf’s Den — open mic

Honkers — Open mic with Steve Keenan

Owl Acoustic Lounge — Joel Bryant and Pete Watson

Jan. 11

Moose Hall — Lethbridge Folk Club Go Ask Earl with Common Ground

Studio 54 — open mic

Jan. 12

Enmax Centre — Blue Rodeo

Average Joe’s — Hotel California- A tribute to the Eagles 8 p.m. Tickets $20

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