This is the week everybody gets to be Irish for St. Patrick’s Day. While there are several gigs happening on St. Patrick’s Day itself, there are several more sprinkled throughout the week.
Most prominently, Vancouver Celtic punks The Real McKenzies make their annual St. Patrick’s Day pilgrimage to Lethbridge when they play Scores, March 14. They will be joined by the Lethbridge Firefighters Pipes and Drums and Montreal punk band the Boids. Tickets cost $20.
Folk/roots/jazz band the Junkman’s Choir plays another early St. Patrick’s Day ceilidh, March 15 at the Italian Canadian Club beginning at 7 p.m. There will be green beer, wine, Irish food and prizes. Tickets cost $35 from Blueprint.
St. Patrick’s Day itself offers a variety of options. Classical music aficionados will enjoys the Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra’s St. Patrick’s Day Celebration, March 17 at the Southminster United Church. Their fifth Masters series presentation features oboe player Gerard Gibbs, who will lead the Symphony through Bloch’s “Concerto Gross No. 1,” George Frideric Handel’s “Obbligato,” and Anton Dvorak’s “Serenade for Winds Op. 44.” And keeping in with the St. Patrick’s Day theme, a set of Celtic folk tunes including “Londonderry Air.” The concert begins at 8 p.m. Tickets cost between $20-$55.
Of course there is lots of traditional Irish music with O’Reely playing Backstreet South at 8 p.m., D’Arcy Kavanagh and Ian Hepher playing the Mocha Cabana and Oliver Swain and the Big Machine playing at the Owl Acoustic Lounge.
For a weirder take on jazz music, Blackberry Wood are back in Lethbridge, March 14 to play the Slice — on a weekend this time. They are brilliant and put on a magnificent show of upbeat, quirky circus jazz music. So check them out.
And if you like sultry jazz music, Ann Vriend returns to Lethbridge to play a solo show at the Slice, March 15.
They are competing with a lot of big shows.
The Geomatic Attic has a special two-day spectacular of the Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin tribute March 14 and 15. The show begins at 8 p.m. each night. Tickets cost $35 advance, $40 at door.
The Geomatic Attic has a busy weekend as they are also having a rockabilly night March 16 with Bent 8 and Alistair Christi. The Toronto-based musician combines the best of honky tonk, country swing, roots rockabilly, jazz and blues Tickets cost $22.50.
If you like hip hop, local rapper Strong V is having a release party for his new single at Inferno, March 14. Special guest Raymundo is also on the bill.
For a complete contrast to that, Inferno hosts another metal night, March 15 featuring Fox Eyes, SS Doom, Penitentz and Soggy Moccasins.
The Lethbridge Folk Club also has a show on March 15. They bring back Back Porch Swing who will be playing some cow jazz, western swing, folk and bluegrass music at the Moose Hall. The show begins at 8 p.m. sharp.
Other cool shows this week include the return of Spencer Jo and the River Jacks to the Owl Acoustic Lounge on March 14 and Sault Ste Marie songwriter Kalle Mattson to the Owl Acoustic Lounge, March 15.
Last, but definitely not least, if you always like the cover of the Rolling Stone, don’t miss Dr. Hook featuring Ray Sawyer, who return to Lethbridge to play Average Joe’s, March 13. The show begins at 9 p.m. Tickets cost $25. They will be playing their many hits including “On The Cover of the Rolling Stone.”
Sault Ste Marie musician Kalle Mattson has had a great year already. He just returned from a three-and-a-half week tour of Europe and now crosses most of Canada.
He comes to Lethbridge March 15 to play the Owl Acoustic Lounge.
“It’s been great. Really awesome and exciting. I just got back from Europe and now I get to see most of Canada,” said Mattson.
“I had a lot of sold-out shows in Europe and I had never even been there before. It’s been very exciting,” he enthused.
His brand new CD “Someday, The Moon Will Be Gold” was released in Canada three weeks ago and won’t be released in Europe until next week.
He credited the Internet for his success in Europe.
“I was fortunate enough to have a couple videos that have done very well and I put all of my CDs up for free online. So people knew exactly what they were getting,” he said, adding he couldn’t choose one single highlight from the European tour.
“Music has a different place in European society. People go out to see music on Monday and Tuesday nights. Here it’s like pulling teeth. In Canada Mondays and Tuesdays are usually off nights,” he observed.
His latest album was inspired by his mother’s death when he was 16.
“I wrote the album in 2012. I had come back to my childhood home. I was working at a terrible job and living in my childhood home all alone for the first time and my grandmother passed on after that. And it gave me a chance to deal with things I hadn’t dealt with when I was 16,” he said.
“It really puts it out there. The lyrics are really frank. But there are definitely two sides to the album,” he said.
He will be touring with his band — drummer Kyle Woods, bassist Andrew Sowka, keyboardist/guitarist Rory Lewis and JF Beauchamp playing trumpet, flugelhorn, samplers and percussion.
It is always interesting to talk to Paul McKenzie of Vancouver bagpipe-powered Celtic-punks Real McKenzies who play Scores with the Boids and the Lethbridge Firefighters Pipes and Drums. Because he always has something interesting on his mind whether he is talking about fellow Vancouver punk Joe Keithley’s new book, or the new book being written abut the Real McKenzies or talking about raising money for charity by putting Stephen Harper in the stocks and getting people to pay $200 to throw rotten fruit at him. He is excited about a new line up of the band and an upcoming album.
“We’re all-Canadian again,” said McKenzie, noting he fired half his band and replaced them with bassist Troy Zak, guitarist Mario Nieva and drummer Jesse Pinner.
“Jesse used to play with D.O.A. so when they threw him out of their van, our van was the first van that came along and picked him up,” McKenzie said.
Guitarist Mark “Bone” Boland and bagpiper Matt McNasty complete the lineup.
“After the last European tour, I got tired of the snivelling Americans,” he said.
“I’ve got nothing against Americans. But they had the ‘I’m better than you’ attitude. And that really pissed me off. It is important to say please and thank you and open doors. It means a lot. I’m a gentleman,” he said.
He is pleased with the new McKenzies.
“These guy are always asking me what they can do. They are easy to get along with,” he said.
He is also excited about an upcoming book about the Real McKenzies which Chris Walters is writing.
“The poor bastard has no idea what he’s in for. He thought it was only going to get to 100,000 words, but it’s already up to 280,000,” he said.
“We’re working on some cool stuff,” he said.
He is excited about returning to Lethbridge where he has several relatives.
The Real McKenzies with Montreal punk band the Boids and the Lethbridge Firefighters pipes and drums, perform at Scores, March 14 at 9 p.m. Tickets are $20.
Peterborough-raised, Nashville-based songwriter Tebey Ottoh has had his songs cut from everyone from pop stars One Direction, Canadian Idol runnerup Rex Goudie, pop icon Cher and numerous country stars including Big and Rich and his old friends Emerson Drive.
He brought his music and a couple members of Emerson Drive To Average Joe’s, March 6, to help Average Joe’s cook Lorne Miller and his family.
“We were starting this cross-Canada tour and I heard about this tragic accident. We want to put on amazing show and raise some money and have a good time,” he said.
“So if we can get 300-400 people in the room, that would be absolutely amazing,” he said.
The first single “Wake Me Up,” which features Emerson Drive on it, already hit the Top 5 on the charts.
“Even Dean Brody doesn’t do that. It’s pretty amazing,” he said.
He is excited about playing Lethbridge for the first time.
“It’s a full band. We play a lot of originals and there’s a set where we take Top 40 pop hits and turn them into country songs. So we play some Bruno Mars and One Direction,” he said.
He still considers himself to be a country singer though he has written a lot of pop hits for bands like one Direction, Shawn Desman, Tara Oram and scored a number one hit in the United Kingdom with Pixie Lott’s “All About Tonight.” Some of his hits Emerson Drive cut include “Never a Good Day For Goodbye,” ‘ Love Hangover, “ Alone Tonight,” “We Fit Together” and “With You” from their CD “Roll” as well as their top 10 singles “When I See You Again” and Sleep It Off.” He also has several solo country hits including “Somewhere In The Country” from his debut CD “The Wait.”
“Just because I’ve written some pop hits, it doesn’t mean I’m not a country singer. There are guys like Gord Bamford and George Canyon who write more country music, then there are people like Brett Kissell who write more pop songs,” he said.
“In country music the lyrics and the story are more important. In pop music it is all about the hook and beat and lyrics can be more vague,” he said.
He noted his career has happened pretty naturally.
“I grew up singing in church, then I got my first guitar when I was 12 and writing songs just happened,” he said.
His friendship with Emerson Drive goes back a long was.
“Canadians in Nashville tend to stick together. They call my place in Nashville the Canadian embassy. Everyone comes here. I got to know the guys in Emerson Drive so me and my wife invited them over and we eventually started writing songs together,” he said.
Emerson Drive guitarist Danick Dupelle and drummer Mike Melancon will be joining his band for this tour.
“They had some down time, so I asked them ‘why not come on the road with me,’” he said.
He noted getting the Cher cut “Take It Like a Man” came as much of a surprise to him as anyone.
“My publishing company BMG had it and she must have heard it and liked it,” he enthused.
“She’s an icon.”
Working with pop stars One Direction was similarly serendipitous.
“It was sudden. They heard them and must have liked them (“They Don’t Know About Us” and “Loved You First”) because the next thing I know I’m on a plane to London. I even got a producer credit,” he saidadding he was responsible for the vocals on the songs.
The fundraiser was a success.
“It was great,” said Average Joe’s manager Tim Carter “It was awesome. Lorne Miller’s whole family was there. They’ve had such a stressful time. They needed a lighthearted time. They needed it so bad. The silent auction raised $5,000. Oh man, the public was so generous and so happy with the things they received. We haven’t even counted the ticket sales,” he continued, adding he couldn’t even estimate how much money was raised.
“Lethbridge is so awesome. With the way they mobilized for Lorne Miller and his family,” he continued.
There were approximately 350 people at the event. He said he appreciates the media support for the event. “We couldn’t have done it without you,” he said.
Lethbridge rocks the nation
Curt Young and Friends “rocked the nation” March 1 at the Smokehouse, with a day-long feast of great local talent, fashion and good feelings.
There were only a handful of people at the beginning of the event which began at 3 p.m., but the numbers picked up.
Young opened the show for an extended “soundcheck” of blues music backed by bassist Mark Hall and drummer Raz Bruce.
I haven’t heard him play the blues as he usually plays more folk and traditional music with Jamie Medicine Crane, which he did later in the show.
But for his blues set, he picked up a Les Paul and made it sing beautifully .
Jolene Draper, backed up by bassist Steve Martin and guitarist Dano Douglas, were up next with a solid mix of originals, a few obscure covers and more well known covers including “Save Tonight” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop.” Her appealing, reedy, sweet voice even made me a fan of pop star Rihanna’s “Found Love.”
She shone on her jazz-tinged originals, which sounded like a blend of Norah Jones and Cyndi Lauper.
I especially enjoyed her aging song “State of Mind” and “Night Falls,” her song about a sunset. Dano Douglas sang harmony vocals on these. She ended her set with a pretty version of Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart.”
The Dudes equal “good times”
It is always a party when the Dudes come to Lethbridge. A sold-out, energetic and enthusiastic crowd clustered in front of the stage at Scores, March 1, singing along with almost every word of every song. And while you couldn’t see a thing if you weren’t among the masses crowded in front of the stage, nestled in the corner of the room hidden behind a huge stack of speakers, you sure could hear them.
They had a heap of singable melodies, and guitar hooks you could hang your hat on. I’m not as much of a fan of the Dudes as most of the audience was, so I couldn’t relate a set list, but I enjoyed “Girl Police” and the especially apt “Good Times,” as that was exactly what everybody was having.
“Long Time Coming” was another highlight as it was an especially upbeat rocker. Most of the set was upbeat, but they slowed things down in a couple of places.
Norwegian Blue Records takes flight
Local record label Norwegian Blue Records got some buzz happening for their upcoming sampler “the Windy City Sampler,” with a hot night of local rock, March 1 at The Owl Acoustic Lounge. I missed Steve Foord, Cosmic Charley and Planet Telex, but caught an experimental set from progressive rock trio Lustre Creame.
They played a lot of complex arrangements and introduced a few new songs among extended jams of complex bass, guitar and drums from Geoff Orriss, Aaron Trozzo and Chris Lipinski.
They had a good crowd listening to them who filled most of the room.
The Janni Lee band played a more sedate set of soulful blues at the Slice, March 1 for approximately 40 people. Janni Lee sang beautifully as always with her huge, soulful blues, while her band nailed a solid groove and stuck to it.
I didn’t recognize a lot of the set. They turned blues classic “Hoochie Coochie Man” into Hoochie Coochie Girl” though but still sounded great. There was some excellent guitar playing.
“Hug Me, Kiss Me” was a highlight as was “That’s the Way I Feel,” which they ended their set with.
CKXU celebrates 10 years on the air
University of Lethbridge-based community radio station CKXU celebrated 10 years on the air by hosting a huge, free party for students in the University of Lethbridge Zoo, Feb. 28, with free food and lots live music including Doug Hoyer, Transit, MaseOne, Night Committee and Jesse and the Dandelions.
While I could only stay for Jesse and the Dandelions, I was excited to see their new lineup which featured Doug Hoyer adding extra guitar and keyboards.
They nailed the Jesse and the Dandelions’ setlist, featuring upbeat, immediately appealing, chirpy indi e rock sung by frontman Jesse Northey. As always they were reminiscent of indie band like Said the Whale. Doug Hoyer jumped on the drum riser and jumped back to his microphone and added keyboard, while Northey stood at his microphone singing the melodies while his band filled in the extra space.
Brenna Lowrie returns to stage
Lethbridge singer songwriter Brenna Lowrie returned to the stage Feb. 28, opening for Two Bears North at the Owl Acoustic Lounge.
While I missed Two Bears North, I caught most of Lowrie’s set. She played solo, accompanying herself with an acoustic guitar.
She sang with her usual distinctive squeak and sounded fabulous.
Prism’s still got the classic rock
Canadian classic rockers Prism played two shows in Lethbridge at Average Joes, Feb. 27 and 28.
While I missed the officially scheduled show on Thursday, they had a day off, so played a free second show the next day.
I arrived at the end of one of my favourite Prism songs, “Flying” but got there just in time for another favourite, “See Forever Eyes,” which is always a highlight because it is the song where they play the drum solo and frontman/lead guitarist/lead singer Al Harlow’s amazing bluesy slide guitar solo. He jumped all over the stage beaming a mile wide, borrowed a beer bottle for some of the solo, returned it to its owner then finished it off by rubbing his guitar against his microphone.
It is always a pleasure to watch him perform because you can see it on his face that he enjoys it as much as the people watching him.
I caught a lot of hits like “Young and Restless,” “Don’t Let Him Know,” Harlow’s tribute to original lead singer, “the blond street fighter Ron Tabak” who died in a cycling accident in the mid ’80s. They played Tabak’s favourite song, “Take Me Away.”
They also dug into their back catalogue for their song about World War Three “Vladivostok,” which started slow, then picked up the tempo with another one of my favourites, “Mirror Man.”
Zojo Black play the blues
I hadn’t seen local blues rock band Zojo Black play for many months, so it was great to see Greg Gomola, Paul Kype, bassist Tyson Maiko and drummer Brady Valgardson playing together again, Feb. 28 at the Slice.
While I was hoping to hear new material, they played a whole bunch of covers on which Gomola and Kype alternated singing lead vocals.
There were familiar standards like their version of “Simple Man,” the apt “Cold December Night”and Neil Young’s“Heart of Gold,” plus a few songs from the Zojo Black album including one of my favourites “Keep it Real.”
Both Paul Kype and Gomola are as exceptional singers as they are guitarists and showed it. They nailed the note-perfect harmonized guitar solo for “Hotel California.”
They played some Stevie Ray Vaughn of course with a hot version of “Pride and Joy.”
They also had a cool cover of the Cars’ “Just What I Needed” which got a lot more people on the dance floor. They also played some modern covers of the Black Keys and an excellent cover of Violent Femmes’ “Blister In the Sun.”
For a special treat they brought Jenn Pellerin up on stage for a goosebump-raising blues cover of “I Just Want to Make Love To You.”
And of course, they played crowd favourite “Hush.”
Slice — jazz jam with HBO 3
Ric’s Grill — Bridgette Yarwood
Owl Acoustic Lounge — L.A Beat open jam
Average Joe’s — Dr Hook
Owl Acoustic Lounge — Lethbridge Public Library Trivia night
Honker’s Pub — Open mic with Steve Keenan
Jimmy’s Pub — open mic
Wolf’s Den — open mic
Scores — Shamrocks and Shenanigans with the Real McKenzies and the Boids and Lethbridge Firefighters Pipes and drums $20
Geomatic Attic — Ray and Aretha Tribute show $35 advance, $40 at door
Mocha Cabana — Lori Williams Freeman
Ric’s Grill — Sheldon Arvay and Band
Inferno — Strong V and Raymundo launch party
Owl Acoustic Lounge — Spencer Jo and the River Jacks
Slice — Blackberry Wood
Inferno — Fox Eyes with SS Doom, Soggy Moccasins and Penitentz
Owl Acoustic Lounge — Kalle Mattson
Italian Canadian Club — St. Patrick’s Day Party with the Junkman’s Choir $35 7 p.m.
Slice — Ann Vriend
Geomatic Attic — Ray and Aretha Tribute show $35 advance, $40 at door
Moose Hall — Lethbridge Folk Club Back Porch Swing
Mocha Cabana — Carla Olive
Ric’s Grill — Cal Toth
Geomatic Attic— Alistair Christi with bent 8
Southminster United Church — Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra St. Patrick’s Day $20-$55 with oboe player gerard Gibbs
Mocha Cabana — St. Patrick’s Day with D’Arcy Kavanagh and Ian Hepher
Owl Acoustic Lounge — St. Patrick’s Day Celebration with Oliver Swain and the Big Machine
Owl Acoustic Lounge — open mic
Backstreet South — O’Reely
Slice — open mic
Ric’s Grill — Sheldon Arvay and Scott Kanashiro
Owl Acoustic Lounge — L.A. Beat Open jam