It has been one busy May for the music scene in Lethbridge. So I’m able to take a bit of a breather, but there are a couple of key shows coming up.
Celtic punk mainstays the Mahones make a long-awaited return to the Slice on Wednesday, May 17. They never get the turnout they deserve here, so I’m glad they are returning. Expect a lot of whiskey-drinking, Celtic-powered punk music with lots of energy accordion, whistles and punk intensity. They are celebrating 25 rocking the world with Celtic punk for the second year in a row in support of their new CDs “The Hunger and the Fight Parts 1 and 2”
Admission is $15.
The other big show of the week is the return of Geoff Berner and Kris Demeanor who play a ticketed event at the Owl Acoustic Lounge with Carolyn Mark on Saturday, May 20.
And pianist Jesse Plessis returns home from Montreal to play a couple of shows this week. The most interesting one is at the University Theatre, May 18 where he will be joining forces with Bente Hansen to perform the Beatles’ classic “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album in its entirety. The concert begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30.
Plessis has also set up a concert at Casa, May 18. Shadowinnower is a collaboration with Lisa Mulgrew which took third place in the Eckhardt-Gramatte Competition in Brandon. The concert begins at 7 p.m. Admission is $20 for adults and $10 for students.
For the complete opposite to that, AC DC tribute Who Made Who returns to Lethbridge to play Coyote Joe’s, May 19 at 8:30 p.m. Admission is $10 in advance, $15 at the door.
If your are up for a road trip to Fort Macleod, Curt Young returns to Southern Alberta from his Edmonton home. He will be playing the blues at the Queen’s Hotel with the Angel Sinners including Kiit Kiitoki. The show begins at 9 p.m. They will be shooting alive video of the show as well.
It is a great week to see local bands. The Mark Hall band plays country music at Casino Lethbridge, May 19 and 20. Tyler Bird’s band Queen of the Worms will be rocking the Owl Acoustic Lounge, May 19. And Leon Barr returns to the stage to play the blues at the Mocha Cabana, May 19.
For something completely different, improvised soap opera Gay’s Anatomy returns to Club Didi, May 19. The show begins at 9 p.m. Admission is $10.
Victoria-based singer songwriter Carolyn Mark loves to be on the road. The quirky and perky country/folk songstress just returned from a month-long tour of Europe with Rusty Ford and is getting ready to join Geoff Berner and Calgary poet laureate Kris Demeanor on an Alberta/B.C. tour which comes to the Owl Acoustic Lounge for a special ticketed event, Saturday, May 20.
“I’ve been doing the Amsterdam-Fort St. John tour which is a pretty popular touring circuit,” Mark laughed from Vancouver.
“I was in Europe with Rusty Ford and I was touring northern B.C. with Twin Peaks,” Mark observed.
It has been a while since she officially played Lethbridge.
“But the last time I was in Lethbridge was for Shaela Miller’s wedding last summer,” she said.
“I’m going to be spending a lot of time in Alberta this summer. I’ll be working on Lance Loree’s farm in between tours. I’ll be doing chores — weeding and things like that on Mondays and Tuesday because those days are hard to book,“ she said.
She released her latest CD “Come! Back! Special!” in September.
“They’re all songs I’ve been playing, so I thought I’d record them. I recorded them in New Mexico, California and Weimer, B.C.,” she said.
“And we filmed a video for ‘Get It Up’ over the Calgary Stampede. Washboard Hank was in it. He should have been in it more. We shot it over the Calgary Stampede fireworks and it was the best day of my life without getting married,” she laughed.
She is pleased with the CDs.
“They’re all originals except for an Alejandro Escovedo cover called ‘Last To Know’ about the joys of touring,” she said, noting that song spoke to her.
“I was stuck at home for a couple months in the winter and hating it, so I sublet the house and booked a couple of tours. Now I feel a lot better,” she said, adding she loves touring with folk/punk/accordion player Geoff Berner and Kris Demeanor.
“I tour with them a couple times a year. I love it. We’re always laughing,” she said.
“I’m sure Geoff will have something political to say with so much going on. And I don’t know if we’ll have room for all of Kris’s awards in the back of the Prius,” she laughed.
“We‘ll play on each other’s songs. But you have to make it sound better by playing rather than not playing. And there may even be some dance moves on stage,” she promised.
Carolyn Mark, Geoff Berner and Kris Demeanor play the Owl Acoustic Lounge, Saturday, May 20 at 9 p.m. Admission is $10.
Peterborough-born singer songwriter Kayla Howran moved three times and finally overcame a serious case of writer’s block to record her sophomore CD “Spare Parts” with producer and songwriter Colin Cripps.
Howran and Dylan Ireland come to the Slice to play an early show beginning at 8 p.m., Wednesday, May 24 in support of the new CD.
“I was just there in October, but I only released it two weeks ago,” said Howran from a tour stop in Dauphin. Her last CD, “Pistol,” was released in 2013.
Working with Cripps, a well-respected producer, who is also part of Blue Rodeo, was a long time coming.
“We’ve been friends for years and started talking about doing a CD together four years, ago, but I wasn’t ready. I had horrible writer’s block and couldn’t come up with anything I wanted. When I was ready, i called him up and he was just as excited about it as he was back then,” she said.
“Saying it was very cool is an understatement,” she continued, adding Cripps plays all the lead guitar parts on the album.
“There was such a great vibe. He’s so professional. It was so neat to sit and watch him work. He’s so well put together. I’d play him a song and I’d watch him figuring out how it was going to work. He‘d explain it and I’d just get it,” she enthused.
She noted the lyrics are mostly about heartbreak.
“It’s about relationships ending and not just romantic relationships,” she said.
Howran moved to Toronto from Peterborough when she was 20 and moved back to Peterborough when she was 27, just recently moving to a cabin near a village of Cordova Mines north of Havelock in Southeastern, Ontario.
“I moved from a small city to a big city then back to a small city and now a village. But It’s right on the river and I love to fish,” she said.
“When I was living in Toronto, I saw the best players in the world. I was going out to see all of these players, but I never worked on my own music. Here there aren’t as many distractions,” she observed.
“My songs reflect more life experience and my musical style is changing. ‘Pistols’ was pretty much straight ahead honky tonk, now it’s more alt country or some people are calling it folk roots rock,” she said, noting she is very pleased with the result.
She is used to playing with a full band, but she is excited to play as a stripped-down duo. “Though we aren’t really a duo because we don’t write with each other. We each do our own sets and play on each other’s songs. I sing background vocals’s on Dylan’s songs and he plays kick drum and lead guitar and sings harmonies on my songs,” she said. “I don’t know how to play solo. I started out playing in a band. With the duo, people pay more attention to the lyrics.”
Hudson Falcons at Moose Hall
Long-standing New Jersey-based street punk icons Hudson Falcons made a great first impression during their first visit to Lethbridge, and indeed Alberta, May 11 at the Moose Hall.
They had an enthusiastic crowd of approximately 30 moshing in front of the stage.
Hudson Falcon, including frontman Mark Linskey, founding drummer Alyson Cina, guitarist Matty Davalo and bassist Nick Ferrero, sounded like Bob Mould jamming with Bruce Springstreen and the E Street band. They focused on more straight-ahead punk edged older material and were impressed the audience knew the songs.
Hudson Falcon struck quickly with a solid rock and roll shot to the downstairs regions, with unbelievably catchy and unbelievably tight musicianship and hair raising lyrics of being chased by the police in “Johnny Law,” a great older song “Worker Fate” about “workers getting screwed over which I wrote 18 years ago,” according to Linskey, trade unionism and a fantastic ode to working-class bars being closed down due to gentrification called “Monahans.” A highlight was a slower, harrowing tales including “Long Live the King,” about a freed gangster seeking revenge from a CD from a few years ago called “Dancing Underneath the Moonlight.” In a similar vein, another highlight was “Jersey City Streets.“
Linskey was alternately chewing nails and spitting venom while telling stories about the songs. While they were focusing on older material, they played several outstanding newer songs including “We’ll Fight Back,” one of several extremely literate and insightful songs preceded by diatribes about the working man’s plight in the face of corporate greed and ignorance.
But there was some more lighthearted fare including the outstanding “Rich Kids Can‘t Play Rock and Roll.” Hudson Falcons provided plenty of working class politics hit guitar solos and huge gang vocals.
Before calling it a night, Linskey brought out the old bluesman’s trick, by playing slide guitar with a beer bottle, which translated well into the band’s brand of punk and rock and roll.
They ended their set and the show before midnight with a hot cover of Stiff Little Fingers’ “Alternative Ulster.”
While I missed the Galacticas’ opening set, I was just in time for Streetlight Saints, playing in front of the Galactica’s banner. They played an energetic, incredibly fast and super tight set of straight ahead three chord punk punctuated by “oi’s” and gang vocals. A couple highlights were a tribute to Princess Leia called “Sweet Prince,” and and a hyperactive “First World Problems.”
Windy City Opry at the Slice
As always, the Windy City Opry at the Slice had great music. The May 11 edition didn’t have as great a turnout as usual, but there was still plenty of excellent music. While I missed Winnipeg musician Dave Quanbury, I caught most of Edmonton singer/songwriter John Guliak’s set, arriving just as he invited Ryan “Skinny” Dyck on stage to add some beautifully spontaneous pedal steel guitar to a set featuring plenty of keyboards, accordion and solid bass.
Guliak told stories and strummed a little acoustic guitar, playing a set mostly of music from his three CDs. But he was winding down his set with a couple of covers including a Richard Thompson song.
Windy City Opry organizer Shaela Miller joined Guliak on stage to sing some spontaneous harmonies.
I left after an excellent version of his original song “Tryptych” as I didn’t want to miss Kimberley MacGregor and Elliott Thomas at the Owl Acoustic Lounge.
I arrived in the middle of a long set break at the Owl Acoustic Lounge, May 11 where Edmontonians Kimberley MacGregor and Elliott Thomas were playing a songwriters in the round show with local musicians Ryan Phillips and Burning Bridge.
They were pretty much done, as the audience started to trickle away, but they played a special encore, playing a couple of songs each. Elliott Thomas played some deadly lap steel slide guitar, singing a touching version of Neil Young‘s “Long May You Run.”
Kimberley MacGregor brandished her beautiful red electric guitar and belted out a hair raisingly beautifully bluesy version of a song I think was called “So Many Ways You Done Me Wrong.”
Ryan Phillips of the Silkstones followed that with a slower, acoustic number, to which Thomas added subtle slide guitar.
Steve Foord also stayed in a the mellower mood for his song.
Elliott Thomas wound down the second set with another big, bluesy number, and more powerful , electrified lap steel.
Kimberley MacGregor brought the show to a close with a rousing version of my favourite Kimberley MacGregor song “Trouble.”
South Country Fair Songwriters
I forgot how much fun the South Country Fair Songwriting competition is, if only because it shows how much talent there is in Southern Alberta. The event didn’t happen last year, but it returned in style to the Slice, Sunday, May 7. A lot of people missed it, as the Slice was standing room only, as it usually is for the competition, for a more-or-less quiescent crowd. Host Corlee Torok was forced to shush some of them, as were the audience members, which I still find more distracting than people talking during a song.
A lot of people have been hard at work writing great songs. Judges George Arsene, Jesse Freed and John Wort Hannam were doing the devil’s work of choosing the best song from an impressive slate of performers featuring a lot of familiar faces from the Lethbridge music scene like Jon Martin, Cathy Hawley, Megan Brown, George Fowler and several folks who have frequently played here including Carter Felker, Chris Gheran, Jay Bowcott and Amy Nelson. And some folks who returned to play like Michael Granzow and a couple I had’t heard including Emily Triggs. Chris Drew and Maddie Conrad.
Most of the ones I saw accompanied themselves, but a few others brought accompanists.
The competition was so close, the judges added a fourth prize, which went to Chris Drew for the Whiskey Song. Cathey Hawley, who won the competition a few years ago, took third place. George Fowler won second place for his song Raven Bairne. Carter Felker, who has played Lethbridge a lot in the past couple of years won first place and the opportunity to play his song “Ain’t Got Time For” on the south stage of the Fair. Fowler will also be playing his song on the South Stage during this year’s Fair, July 21-23.
Artistic Director Jana Mackenzie and East stage co-ordinator Gillian announced some of the highlights of this years fair including Jaxon Haldane and Gordie Tentrees doing a tribute to Willie P Bennett, Eliza Doyle, Ben Rogers, Joe Nolan and the Dogs. Other highlights will be Scott Nolan, Lindsay Beaver and the 24th Street Wailers, Chicken-like Birds, Bad Pop and much more, which can be found at http://southcountryfair.com/.
Danny Brooks at the Slice
Barely a handful of people showed up to see Toronto born Texas based Texassissippi Soul Man Danny Brooks and his wife Lil Miss Debi at the Slice, May 6.
They played an impassioned set of Delta-style blues with Brooks on guitar and an array of harps as and Debi adding a variety of percussion, mostly from a cajon box drum. Brooks’ impassioned voice that was equally soulful and blues with a Shel Silverstein tinge.
He played beautiful upbeat blues music, witching between several guitars including a battered acoustic and a beautiful resonator.
“Hard Working Man” was a highlight which ended the first set of the show.
Debi was singing a wonderful version of “Angel From Montgomery” by the time I called it a night.
The Lethbridge folk club wound down their season, May 6 at the Lethbridge College Cave with a great show from Edmonton/Saint Albert-based Back Porch Swing.
An attentive audience of approximately 60 enjoyed a set of jazz-tinged western swing, bluegrass and quirky country music from guitarist/vocalist Penny Malmberg, mandolinist/guitarist Jim Malmberg, violinist Cam Neufeld and upright bassist Kevin Jacobson.
Everybody got to solo, especially when Jim Malmberg traded his guitar for the mandolin.
I arrived in time to hear a quirky song about aging called “Muffin Top.”
Penny Malmberg introduced the songs and told stories in addition to singing most of the lead vocals. As usual, Cam Neufeld played beautiful violin lines.
They happily fulfilled a request for a song about a pig called Francine who made a bid for freedom en route to the abattoir. Jim Malmberg played a hot acoustic guitar lead before exchanging it for the mandolin and playing sizzling leads on that including a medley of “What the Fox,” which incorporated a wicked version of the “Spider-Man” theme song, which wound down the show.
One highlight was a song about canned music as was a bluegrass version of the Rolling Stones “Can’t Always Get What You Want.”
Sam Weber at the Owl
Not a lot of people were out and about on the weekend, at least not that I saw, though SoundGarden was packed for comedians Randy and Mr. Lahey of the Trailer Park Boys.
I missed that, but caught a couple excellent but poorly attended shows.
I caught the last couple songs from the Sam Weber band at the Owl Acoustic Lounge, Saturday, May 6.
The Saanich, B.C. trio including Sam Weber on guitar and vocals plus Marshall Wildman and Esme John, played an up tempo set of music which was equal parts, country, blues and rock and roll with a touch of funk and R and B.
Weber, not the Sam Weber from The Weber Brothers who return to the Slice, Sept. 11, played some excellent guitar including some beautiful slide on a slower song.
J Blissette at the Owl
The Owl Acoustic lounge had an excellent show, May 5, but I only caught the end of an energetic set from local alternative rock band J Blissette, who kicked off their new tour. The band, featuring Jackson Tiefenbach on electric 12-string guitar,guitarist Cory Fisher, bassist Arnaud Sparks and Matthew Rederberg, playing his last local show with the band on drums.
They played a solid set of groovy psychedelic rock tinged with elements of punk.
They were called back for an encore of some Pink Floyd.
Unfortunately I missed the Shiverettes and Snake River’s opening sets.
Rodney De Croo at the Slice
A great candidate for best show of the year that nobody saw was the long-awaited return of Vancouver based songwriter/author Rodney DeCroo, who played the Slice, May 5.
I was one of a handful of people who caught an energetic and tortured set of dirty country and alternative rock, which mostly focused on DeCroo’s great new CD “Old Tenement Man.”
DeCroo and his hot band of lead guitar Bryce Jardine, drummer Ed Goodine, bassist Ken Nakamiki and drummer Sean McPherson were pretty much playing the album track by track.
DeCroo strummed a battered acoustic guitar and sang his powerfully tortured and plaintive lyrics about the downtrodden and forgotten, making the audience feel every little bit of pain of his characters. The band sounded like the bastard child of the Drive By Truckers, Steve Earle and Neil Young, especially because of Jardine’s lead guitar sound.
One of my favourites, “Lou Reed On the Radio,” was a highlight, as I expected. Jardine broke a guitar string , which gave DeCroo the opportunity to play a quick solo acoustic set including “Radio” from the new Cd while Jardine left the building to change his string.
A highlight of the first set was an older song “You Ain’t No-One” which he played again as an encore for the second set which ended around 1 a.m. as the audience had doubled to about 12 people. He ended the first set on a slower, haunting note with “Ariel.”
I arrived for the end of set two, which was louder and more boisterous. “Stupid Boy in a Stupid Town” was a highlight, and has people finally showed up. he brought back “Lou Reed on the Radio” and “You Ain‘t No One.”
The Slice — The Mahones $15
University Theatre — Jesse Plessis and Bente Hansen present Sgt. Pepper’s lonely Hearts Club band 7 p.m
Slice — open mic
Mocha Cabana — Leon Barr
Owl Acoustic Lounge — Queen of the Worms
Casino Lethbridge — Mark Hall band
Coyote Joe’s — Who Made Who
Honker’s Pub — open mic
Club Didi — Gay’s Anatomy 9 p.m. $10
Casa — Shadowinnower:Lisa Mulgrew, Jesse Plessis $20, $12 for students 7 p.m.
Queens Hotel (Fort macLeod) — Angel Sinners — Kiit Kiitokii with Curt Young — 9 p.m.
Owl Acoustic Lounge — 1:30-4 p.m. Family jam, 9 p.m. Geoff Berner, Carolyn mark, Kris Demeanor $10 ticketed event
Casino Lethbridge — Mark Hall band
Coyote Joe’s — open mic
Honker’s — open mic
Owl Acoustic Lounge — open mic
Onion — open mic
Club Didi — unplugged open mic
Slice — Kayla Howran
Mocha Cabana — Amos Garrett and Julian Kerr $78.75
Slice — open mic
Southminster United Church — Lethbridge Symphony Feel the beat 7:30 p.m.
Slice — The Silence Factory $10
Mocha Cabana — Herb Hicks Jazz Quartet
Owl Acoustic Lounge— Mike Fury
Casino Lethbridge — Uncovered
Coyote Joe’s — Duelling pianos
Smokehouse — open mic with Daylan Delaney (First Tuesday and third Friday of the month) 8 p.m.
Club Didi — Season launch 8-10 p.m. no cover
Owl Acoustic lounge — Ricky Diamonds
Slice — Aaron Trozzo and the Electric Few
Honker’s Pub — afternoon open mic
Coyote Joe’s — open mic
Casino Lethbridge — Uncovered
Club Didi — No Way Out 8 p.m. $5
Smokehouse — Social Arsonist with Fifth Circle 6:30 p.m. $10