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Blues dominates local music scene

Posted on January 8, 2014 by Lethbridge Sun Times

Things pick up a lot this week.

A couple big gigs are happening.

If you like the blues, don’t miss Winnipeg bluesman Big Dave McLean at the Slice, Jan. 9.

McLean is the patron saint of most of Winnipeg’s blues community and always puts on an excellent show of mostly acoustic delta blues music.

It is a good week for blues music in general.

Paul Kype and Texas Flood play the Slice, Jan. 10. That same night, Steve Keenan hosts a blues jam at Honker’s Pub.

There are also several local jazz gigs this week with James Oldenburg playing the Mocha Cabana on Jan. 10 and 11. He is also playing the Slice’s Jan. 8 jazz jam with HBO 3 and his regular Thursday night solo gig at the Cotton Blossom Lounge.

There are also several roots gigs with Pete Watson and Joel Bryant playing the Owl Acoustic Lounge, Jan. 10.

The Lethbridge Folk Club is also back this week with Calgary bluegrass band Go Ask Earl and opening act Common Ground.

Go Ask Earl features Jack Loree on resonator guitar, Bruce Leinan (fiddle, vocals), Carolin McBrien (guitar, vocals), Keith Uyeno (upright bass, vocals) and Brad Lindberg (banjo, vocals).

The show begins at 8 p.m. sharp. Tickets are $20 for members, $25 for non-members which includes a membership for the year.

And Blue Rodeo is playing the Enmax Centre on Jan. 12. They have been playing together for close to 30 years. They have just released their latest CD, “In Our Natures.”

Also on that Sunday, Jan. 12, Average Joe’s brings back Eagles’ Tribute Hotel California.

For folk with a more punk edge, check out Winnipeg’s Greg Rekus at the Owl Acoustic Lounge, Jan. 13. He always puts on energetic fun-fuelled shows with a lot of activity on stage.

Also on Jan 13, the Lethbridge Folk Club has a special show featuring Banff based roots band the Wardens.

Greg Rekus may wield an acoustic guitar, but he is a punk rocker at heart, especially on his most recent CD ‘Punkcoustic,’.

The Winnipeg musician returns to the Owl Acoustic Lounge for their Jan. 13 open mic.

While the CD features bassist Nick Kouremenos (This Is A Standoff, The Johnsons and Morals) and drummer Jamie Carrasco (Flying Fox and the Hunter Gatherers), he won’t be bringing them on tour which takes them to Alberta as well as a lot of dates in the United States.

“I don’t know if you have the deep freeze we have here, but it is a good time to leave here,” said Rekus from his Winnipeg home, deep in the throes of a Winnipeg winter.

“Plus I’m getting cabin fever here. I spent the fall recording so I didn’t get a chance to get out,” said Rekus, who has a job as an audio technician which keeps him from touring in February as well as during the summer festival season.

Paul Peters, who recorded Propagandhi’s most recent album as well as Royal Canoe and Comeback Kid, recorded Rekus’s album.

He hadn’t intended on using a band on the CD.

“But a lot of singer songwriters I know were using bands on their CD and I thought that is exactly what this CD needs,” he said.

He is pleased his punk influences comes through on the CD.

“You definitely feel it even though it is an acoustic guitar plugged into an amp. The drummer likes punk music and Nick is a punk rock bassist,” he said.

“It is a really good record. I wanted it to sound like if you’ve been listening to NOFX and Pennywise for the past 20 years, you would still get this record,” he described.

He is excited to return to to Owl Acoustic Lounge.

“I’ll be playing a lot from the new album, the John Prine cover and a Simon and Garfunkel cover I’ve been working on. There’s this song off ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ called ‘Keep the Customer Satisfied,’ and I listened to it and it’s like ‘that’s a punk rock song in disguise,’” he said.

“It’s a Monday night, so I don’t expect there to be a lot of people. But there will be enough people who come out to make it fun,” he said.

It is the Owl Acoustic Lounge’s open mic night, so he is excited to play it.

“People who are the biggest music fans tend to be people who play music,” he observed.

Winnipeg bluesman Big Dave McLean is excited about returning  to Lethbridge to play the Slice, Jan. 9, with drummer Brendan Nagle.

He is still touring in support of his most recent CD “Outside the Box” which was released in 2011.

“It isn’t full band arrangements. It’s just vocals, guitar and drums. There’s a lot more space without lead guitar and harmonica,” McLean explained before a Saskatoon gig, one of several this week, which brings him to Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge.

He is currently enjoying touring with Nagle, one of two drummers featured on the CD.

“We’ve got a good show going. I tell stories about  the songs and the musicians who played them. I’m looking forward to it a lot,” he continued.

“I’m playing a lot from ‘Outside the Box And it’s all different  arrangements for drums and guitar, so people won”t be saying ‘Oh, I’ve heard him play this one before.’ It’s a pretty fresh approach to the blues. I’ve got a lot of  friends there now, so hopefully they will come out,” he said.

Big Dave McLean’s show is scheduled to start at 9 p.m., Jan. 9 at the Slice.

Looking back at last year

Last year was pretty amazing for live acts both touring and local.

Unfortunately poor attendance still remains a plague upon the scene. I’ve been at countless amazing shows this year which drew very few people. One of the best poorly attended shows this year was Bocephus King. Another great poorly attended show was Roger Marin, also at the Slice, just to name a few. And not just at the Slice. We have amazing talent playing Lethbridge and more often than not — nobody there to hear it.

Casino Lethbridge also brought in some great classic rock acts plus bluesman Jack Semple who brought the house down. They also featured another of my favourites, Doucette, plus Helix, Doug and the Slugs and even country music.

Average Joe’s was home to great Canadian ’90s rock including stellar shows from Matthew Good and Sloan, plus ’90s “supergroups” like Crash Karma as well as excellent metal from the Cancer Bats.

They also featured some experimental pop music with bands like Rykka and Dragonette.

Bo Diddly’s have also hosted excellent shows with Vancouver ’90s punk band Gob, another excellent St. Patrick’s Day-themed show from the Real McKenzies and my favourite new discovery of the year — Thee Attacks. I predicted big things from the Sheepdogs a couple years ago just before they won the Cover of the Rolling Stone contest. This year I’m predicting big things for Thee Attacks.

This Danish band brought back the spirit of ’60s rock and roll with liberal dollops of The Who and brought more energy to the stage than I have seen in quite some time.

I’m also predicting big things for Saskatchewan-born, Vancouver transplants One Bad Son who played a couple excellent shows in Lethbridge of neo-classic rock.

Another new favourite this year is the punk band the Last of the V8 Interceptors who played a couple times this year opening for some of the classic punk bands.

They are a punk band inspired by “Mad Max” and “The Road Warrior,” post-apocalyptic movies starring a young Mel Gibson. And you how can you not love that? The Thrashers, a surf-punk band from Winnipeg played two excellent shows at the Owl and Studio 54, and are starting to get a following here.

The biggest spectacle of the year took place at the Enmax Centre, with — who else? — Kiss.

The ’70s glam rockers played an energetic set of hits from throughout their 40-some-year career; they had plenty of testosterone and lots of fireworks, gadgets, gizmos and hydraulic lifts.

Other highlights of the year were the return of Delhi 2 Dublin who celebrated Halloween at a new club in the old firehall building called the Inferno. They played an exciting double bill with another of my favourites, Shred Kelly, who played a couple of their own excellent shows of stoke folk this year.

The Owl Acoustic Lounge also had a lot of excellent singer-songwriters and even a little bit of punk music including Winnipeg surf punk trio the Thrashers and crazy experimental metal with Krang.

But the Owl was home to the most interesting indie rock, particularly the Jung People plus Devonian Gardens and local band the Clockwork Towns. The Owl has also hosted one of my favourite new Calgary rock bands, Go For the Eyes, several times this year, sharing big bluesy riffs and keyboards and couple of great lead singers.

There was also a lot of indie rock in 2013. Hollerado stood out as a crowd favourite when they played with the Zolas, at the Slice, Nov. 7, Freshfest at the university of Lethbridge and at Bo Diddly’s on June 20.

It is tough to choose favourite local acts when there are so many that are so good.

Shaela Miller, Treeline and many others are always something to look forward to but new bands continue to form every day.

Garage rock/punk trio the Ruby Plumes tore up the town this year. A couple excellent new alternative rock bands have also just started playing. Advertisement is exceptional as are the Mormon Girls, who just released their debut cassette tape. The Dirti Speshuls, including several veterans of the Lethbridge scene, are starting to play more, beginning a with the annual Bigwood music festival outside of town. They also played an excellent show at the Slice. They are just finishing their new CD. I don’t follow a lot of rap shows, but there were several excellent ones. While I missed Machine Gun Kelly in November at Inferno, Madchild played several times at Studio 54 as did Transit, who also performed several times this year.

There have been several shows that have just been playing strange. On Nov. 15 pop/rap star Josh Martinez had few people at his show at the Slice, but performed most of his set while balancing water on his head while dancing.

B.A. Johnston shows are always strange, not to mention packed. He filled the Owl again with unusual stage antics, wandering through the crowd and rolling on the floor like a demented Weird Al Yankovic.

There were some excellent mainstream country shows this year, particularly Emerson Drive, who played Average Joe’s, Nov. 7.

There was lots of great music to dance to. Fernie stoke folk band Shred Kelly played several awesome Lethbridge shows this year including a superb Halloween bill at inferno with Delhi 2 Dublin, who always make you shake your groove thing.

There is nothing like a solid rock-and-roll show. The Weber Brothers were just the ticket for that at a couple of Lethbridge shows in 2013 at the Geomatic Attic and again at the Slice. This is old-school rock and roll at its finest, complete with a stand up bass and ensuing tricks.

Average Joe’s was home to some female-powered modern pop-rock out of Vancouver with Dragonette on Aug. 6 and PEAK Project winner Rykka, Nov. 30.

Festivals are a great way to see a lot of great acts. This year the third edition of Love and Records Sept. 14 in Galt Gardens featured Five Alarm Funk and a whole whack of other band during the day as well as at the Owl and The Slice.

The South Country Fair is always a summer favourite, July 19-21. This year I got to see one of my favourite new blues band the Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer among others.

And the Lethbridge Jazz Festival made full use of Casa, with a big outdoor festival featuring most of the performers from during the week including ukulele powered jazz-folk band the Polyjesters, who I haven’t heard for years. They also brought isn Saskatchewan bluesman Jack Semple to play Casa, which was only the tip of the mountain of great blues shows this years. Some of those highlights including the Perpetrators at the Slice as well as Wild T and the Spirit to name just a couple. It is always great to see one of Gordie H Johnson of Big Sugar fame’s new projects. This time he went jazz and gospel with a touch of the blues for a n awesome show with his new band Sitdown Servant at Scores, Oct. 29.

There was politics mixed with comedy this year as well. Some of my favourites were Geoff Berner and Kris Demeanor at the Slice, Oct 17 and the always hilarious Washboard Hank for his Rob Ford and Stephen Harper songs, which he played to an intimate audience, Dec. 4 at the Slice.

The Slice had some of the best world music shows this year with Danny Michel and the Garifuna Collective a popular Belize band which featured among other wild percussion instruments — a musician playing a brace of turtle shells. Other great world music shows were Dr. Zoo at the Moose Hall for the Lethbridge Folk Club and Jungal, a cool Australian blues/rock trio who played some excellent blues on pedal steel guitar.

I mentioned some great fundraisers last week. The most prominent for me was the The Huron Carole at the Southminster United Church, Dec. 6 featuring Tom Jackson, Beverly Mahood, George Canyon and One More Girl.

Leo Lives April 20 at Studio 54 was another excellent fundraiser featuring Michale Graves and the Pindolls And of course there were plenty of excellent fundraiser for the flood sin High River.

The most innovative of these was Fred Eaglesmith’s pie auction during his July 17 show at the Slice.


My ears will be ringing for a week after seeing Public Animal at the Slice on Jan. 2. Already the best show of the year, every other act coming to town had better up their game. They played massive, meaty ’70s guitar riffs at an excruciating level of volume guaranteed to either put hair on your chest or burn it off. They played plenty of wicked Deep Purple style organ coupled with rock solid bass and drums, the sum result was like an earthquake rocking my eardrums. They were 100 per cent awesome. With Ian Blurton involved, a veteran of the Toronto music scene who has fronted a variety of bands including C’Mon and Blurtonia, how could it be otherwise? They were definitely one of the loudest bands I’ve ever heard at the Slice. And that’s saying something. The guitar sound was massive and in your face, but you could hear every part perfectly including some intricate bass grooves and whining organ that took the intimate audience back in time to a Deep Purple concert circa 1977.They added a touch of Govt. Mule and more modern ’70s rock revivalists like Monster Truck.

The vocals were an interesting contrast of keyboardist Caitlin Dacey’s more punk mid-range(a la Meisha and the Spanks) melody and Blurton’s hard rock upper range which complemented each other perfectly.

Eric Larock’s bass groove and Ryan Gassi’s drums were locked in tightly.

There were a lot of highlights including “Vault Doors” from their self-titled EP which ended the show as well as One Way Ticket which began the show.

They also added a huge Deep Purple Cover of “Lay Down, Stay Down,” sung most excellently by Caitlin Dacey.

The Band had about 10 people in the audience on a nice Thursday night, including opening act the Void, but deserved 10 times as many people.

To open the late-starting show just before 10:30 p.m., the Void put on their usual solid set of ’90s-style rock including several new songs which were more screamo than the Smashing Pumpkins they usually channel.

New Year’s Eve

Lethbridge rocked in 2014 and sent 2013 packing with some excellent live music, very little of which started on time.

Nothing starts on time in Lethbridge, not even the new year.

I only hit four of about 14 gigs featuring live music on New Year’s Eve. The one party that was in full swing by the time I arrived was a dinner featuring Dana Honey who came straight from playing cruise ships to playing the Mocha Cabana. He played some laidback piano which was pretty much drowned out by a chattering dinner crowd.

Most of the other downtown venues didn’t have a lot of people considering it was New Year’s Eve.

Most of them were at the Owl acoustic Lounge for Steve Foord who opened the night around 10:30 p.m., Cosmic Charley and the Delawares who broke in the new year.

Most of the people were there to see Cosmic Charley rock the funk out of an energetic set, which had a huge crowd making the floors shake by bouncing up and down in time to the music.

Cosmic Charley played an energetic and sweaty set of Red Hot Chili Peppers-influenced funk and punk, mostly concentrating on catchy Cosmic Charley originals. They threw in a couple hot covers of the Vandals’ Christmas song “Oi To The World” and very-well-done cover of Hollerados song “Philadelphia,” which had the audience singing along.

They took a brief break before ringing in the New Year.

I wanted to catch the other downtown gigs, so missed the last part of their set as well as the Delawares.

Over at Average Joe’s, local band the Raw Dogs tore through a set of popular classic rock and metal which had a decent-sized crowd cheering.

Some of the highlights included “Signs” and a guest appearance by Phao’s Kevin Gnandt who played some extra guitar. They played an array of classic rock and more modern rock and roll from bands like the Black Keys and the White Stripes.

One show I was expecting to be packed was a rare local gig from Tyler Bird’s band Queen of the Worms. They only play once a year, and usually have a pretty dedicated following. They had an alright audience listening to Tyler Bird on guitar and vocals, Taylor Ackerman on bass and Jon Vornbrock on drums.

They played a little bit of ’90s-style rock, a little classic rock and some blues

Ben Mahoney and some of his old friends from Lethbridge played an easygoing and informal set of original music and covers for an intimate audience at the Owl Acoustic Lounge, Dec. 28.

So old band mates like Tod Robinson and Tyson Wiebe joined him on stage for a relaxed set of music, which they mostly played spur of the moment. He mostly let his guests sing, preferring to play in the background and adding very melodic solos on his 12-string guitar. He always played a couple songs from his latest CD, which some of his guests had learned well enough to play along with him.

When it comes to disco music, I’m firmly in the camp of “Disco Sucks,” but when I hear Hippodrome play all the disco hits of the ’70s, it opens my mind up a little. I caught parts of two sets of their annual December show at the Slice, Dec. 28, where they had a good-sized crowd dancing to the funk, while they brought the noise. And the ones who weren’t in front of their stage, were dancing in their seats.

At the very least I’m very impressed with the musicianship they display. And besides, it gets pretty girls dancing.

Dancing was the theme of the night, not only because of all the dancers, but all of the songs about dancing which they played.

They also played a lot of the soul and R and B hits of the ’60s and ’70s including their usual superb version of “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” and Sly and the Family Stone’s “Everyday People.”

As usual they had a crack horn section in Sarah Marie Burger-trombone; Don Robb-trumpet and Ryan Heseltine — saxophones plus solid drums from Brad Brouwer. Kyle Harmon added extra percussion while James Oldenburg and Paul Holden kept the groove going on guitar and bass respectively.

As usual, lead vocals were shared between affable frontman Juran Greene, the always charismatic Erica Hunt and the beautiful soul of Shawna Romolliwa.

“Everyday People” was a highlight as usual, but they also added a few new numbers to their repertoire, particularly a hot cover of Steely Dan’s “Josie Comes Home.”

Shawna Romolliwa shone in the third set leading the band through hot versions of the Jackson 5s “Blame It On the Boogie” and “Good Loving.”

Jan. 8

Slice — Jazz jam with HBO3

Owl Acoustic Lounge — L.A Beat open jam

Ric’s Grill — Bridgett Yarwood

Jan. 9

Slice — Big Dave McLean

Inferno — open mic

Cotton Blossom lounge — James Oldenburg

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

Casino Lethbridge — Trace Jordan

Mocha Cabana — James Oldenburg

Ric’s Grill — Sheldon Arvay and band

Jan. 11

Mocha Cabana — James Oldenburg

Casino Lethbridge — Trace Jordan

Owl Acoustic Lounge —  Ric’s Grill—Cal Toth

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

Jan. 13

Owl Acoustic Lounge — open mic

Wolf’s Den — The Wardens

Jan. 14

Slice — open mic

Bo Diddly’s — open mic

Jan. 15

Ric’s Grill — Sheldon Arvay and Scott Kanashiro

Owl Acoustic Lounge — L.A Beat open jam

Jan. 16

Enmax Centre — the Band Perry

Inferno — open mic

Cotton Blossom lounge — James Oldenburg

January 17 Owl Acoustic Lounge — Aerosubtle

Jimmy’s Pub — open mic

Wolf’s Den — bluegrass jam

Honkers — Open mic with Steve Keenan

Casino Lethbridge — Soup of Flies

Mocha Cabana — Karen Romanchuk

Jan. 18

Mocha Cabana — Karen Romanchuk

Slice — Cowpuncher

Casino Lethbridge — Soup of Flies

Ric’s Grill — Cal Toth

Jan. 20

Owl Acoustic Lounge— open mic

Jan. 21

Slice — open mic

Bo Diddly’s — open mic

Jan. 22

Owl Acoustic Lounge — L.A. Beat open jam

Ric’s Grill — James Oldenburg

Jan. 23

Yates Theatre — Los Lobos with Leeroy Stagger tickets $65

Inferno — open mic

Cotton Blossom lounge — James Oldenburg

Jan. 24

Slice— Johnny Don’t

Owl Acoustic Lounge — The Palmers

Jimmy’s Pub — open mic

Wolf’s Den — open mic

Honkers — Open mic with Steve Keenan

Casino Lethbridge — the Chevelles

Mocha Cabana — Herb Hicks

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