The first week of September cooks with lots of live music.
The big event at the University of Lethbridge is Freshfest, where an array of musicians will be performing Sept. 9 in the grove outside of the Students’ Union Building. There are a variety of activities this week, but the annual jamboree part of Freshfest will be a highlight, especially if you are a fan of EDM, electronic music as Haywyre and Walshy Fire will be headlining.
Another EDM act, Halifax-based duo Neon Dreams, are also on the bill. But Vancouver indie rockers Said the Whale return for Freshfest also with Juno nominee Scott Helman and local rock band Scotch Whiskey Liimousine plus local rapper Treymark. Letterkenny’s Dylan Playfair will be on hand to host the day. Unfortunately you have to be a university student or the special guest of a student to attend the event.
But there are a lot of other things happening in Lethbridge this week.
Jazz jams return to the Owl Acoustic Lounge, Wednesday, Sept. 6, as HBO3 and Josh Davies host this open jam beginning at 9 p.m.
Blueprint records celebrates their 11th anniversary at the Slice, Sept. 6 with an exceptional show featuring Vancouver pop musician Jay Arner, local rock band Open Channels and a new band called Fast Colours. Tickets are five dollars in advance, eight dollars at the door.
The Slice rocks Sept. 8 with Calgary stoner rock band Woodhawk who bring their Woodhawk Strikes back tour to town with local alternative rock trio the Supervoid and Cope. Doors open at 8 p.m.
Local alternative rock band Fox Eyes rock the Owl Acoustic Lounge, Sept. 8.
The Owl rocks again on Oct. 9 as Abbotsford post punk band Loans play a show with Salmo band Rainboard and local psychedelic folk orchestra Unbroken Circle. The show begins at 9 p.m.
The monthly ukulele jam returns to Casa on Sunday, Sept. 10 from 2-3 p.m.
The fun doesn’t stop after the weekend either as there are two excellent shows on Monday, Sept. 11.
Winnipeg folk punk Greg Rekus returns to host the open mic at the Owl Acoustic Lounge, Sept. 11 whole just down the street, Peterborough rock band the Weber Brothers Band make a long-awaited return to the Slice and to Lethbridge with Emily Burgess. Tickets for the show are $15.
A little way down the road, Calgary-based Celtic punks the RiverJacks and Quebec punks Mansbridge are scheduled to play the Moose Hall on Tuesday, Sept. 12. Admission is $10.
Dave McCann plays this month’s Windy City Opry, Wednesday, Sept. 13, with Peterborough-based bluegrass/folk duo the Mayhemingways. The show begins at 8 p.m. Admission is $10. That will be a busy Wednesday as Irish crooner Daniel O’Donnell plays the Enmax, Sept 13 as well. Meanwhile the Owl Acoustic Lounge features Vancouver’s Douse (YVR) plus local acts WINT and Curtis Windover.
Calgary-based riff rock band Woodhawk are excited to make their debut at the Slice, Sept. 8, with local rock duo Cope and alternative rock trio The Supervoid.
“We’ve never been to the Slice, so we’re very excited,” said guitarist vocalist Turner Midzain. Bassist Mike Badmington and drummer Kevin Nelson complete the riff rock/science fiction movie-inspired trio. They released their first CD in 2014 and just released the latest, “Beyond The Sun,” earlier this year.
“We love ’70s rock like Black Sabbath, but we also like modern bands like Sword and Monster Truck,” said Midzain, who formed the band in 2014.
“We like playing huge riffs,” he continued.
“And we just want to have fun.”
The band’s lyrics are inspired by science fiction and fantasy themes.
“We’ve named the tour ‘Woodhawk Strikes Back,’ because one of the songs on the CD is called ‘A New Hope,’ which is a Star wars reference,” he said, adding it is also one of the most popular tracks on the CD.
“We want to let people find their own vision. Our music is a nice escape,” he continued, noting he doesn’t read a lot of science fiction.
“I’m more influenced by old science fiction movies,” he continued, noting their next CD will move away from science fiction and fantasy themes. But that won’t be for a while.
“We’re almost sold out of ‘Beyond the Sun,’ so we’re re-pressing them. We have 50 left to take with us on this tour,” he observed, adding the tour begins in their hometown of Calgary, comes to Lethbridge Sept. 8, then goes out to Regina, then Golden, Vancouver and Kelowna before ending in Edmonton on Oct. 7.
“The new CD is one-quarter or a third done, so there is a lot of work to do,” he said, adding they will take some time in the winter to play, write and record.
Woodhawk will be joined by Cope and the Supervoid, Sept. 8 at the Slice.
Winnipeg based folk punk Greg Rekus is used to doing things his way, writing his own music and booking his own tours.
So he was delighted to get a Sept. 11 tour date at the Owl Acoustic Lounge in support of his new CD, “Greg Rekus and the inside Job Sibling Cities.”
“I’ve done a lot since I was last in Lethbridge last January,” he said.
“ I just released ‘Sibling Cities,’ so I’m touring a lot in the United States and I’ll be going to Europe for six weeks,” he said, adding he enjoyed playing a big punk festival, Pouzzafest, in Montreal back in May.
“It had a lot of punk bands from the ’90s and 2000s,” he recalled.
“So it’s been great,” he said.
“I’ve been playing in punk bands since I was in my 20s and now I’m in my mid-30s, and I’ve found you really have to do it yourself,” he said, adding he enjoys booking his own tours dates around his work schedule without having to answer to anybody else.
“I have a good career doing sound, so I have really busy seasons in June, July and August, and then I can take six months off to tour,” he said, adding he released “Sibling Cities” in April with a band, but he will be touring with it as a solo artist.
“I’m touring by myself with my big stomp box. It’s a Monday night, But I love playing the Owl Acoustic Lounge,” he continued.
“They have always been supportive of independent musicians. And Steve (Foord, Owl owner) is a really good musician,” he said.
The stars continue to align for Peterborough-based rock band the Weber Brothers band who are always up for a new creative venture.
It has been several years since they played Lethbridge, but they have been far from idle.
“We just put out an adult colouring book for one of our songs, ‘The Last Days of the Broken Hearted Jester,’ we had a documentary done about us and we put out a Christmas movie in which we all acted for the first time. So we have three weird things we’ve been doing,” related upright bassist/vocalist Ryan Weber, who returns to the Slice, Sept. 11 with brother and guitarist Sam Weber, keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Rico Browne and guitarist Emily Burgess, who is a well-known solo artist her own right who used to play with the 24th Street Wailers and who has a new solo album due out in November.
Long-time drummer Emmet “Corndog” Van Etten, who relocated to Edmonton and has been playing with the Boogie Patrol since moving to Edmonton, will also be joining the band on this 10-date Alberta and Ontario tour.
“Oh, and we also got to re-record ‘Me and Bobby McGee’ with Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Gordon Lightfoot and Ronnie Hawkins,” Weber noted.
“And that was another case where the stars just seemed to align.”
“We‘re a hard-working band,” Weber understated, adding they are looking forward to returning to Lethbridge.
The Weber Brothers band spent their early career touring with and working Ronnie Hawkins.
They released their last studio CD “We” in 2014 in addition to working on all of these other projects.
The documentary, “Before We Arrive,” arrived naturally.
“Our early manager Michael Bates filmed everything for like six or seven years from our early days up to about 2007 going back to playing with Ronnie Hawkins. Director Rob Viscardis wanted to tell our story and shot a little more footage. We didn’t tell him how to do his job because it’s not our area of expertise, so we had to wait to see it with everybody else. I think it looks great,” Weber enthused.
“For the Christmas album, every year we used to record a couple of Christmas songs every year and sent them to friends and family. Before we knew it we had enough for an album. But we wanted to do something cool with ii to release them, so we wrote a play with the six of us in it as characters including (former band mate and slam poet) DJ Prufrock Shadowrunner. We performed it in Peterborough and released the CD,” he continued.
“Then we adapted it for a film,” added Rico Browne.
The stars similarly aligned for their new adult colouring book, inspired by one of their more epic-length songs, “The Last Days of the Broken Hearted Jester.” Weber noted they were looking for other creative way to get their music out there and thought they would draw inspiration from that song.
“We got our friend Sheldon Sveinson from Northern Ontario to do something with it. He’s a great artist, so we told him to just go for it and thought he’d just do a painting, but instead he decided to do a colouring book with each verse being a page and there are a lot of verses in the song. So he really surprised us,” Weber added.
“I think the last time we were in Lethbridge was my first tour with them,” recalled Browne. “So the lineup is a little different. We’ve reconnected with ‘Corndog’ for this tour and Emily Burgess is with us now.”
“She’s usually well behaved. She has a good attitude most of the time,” Weber chuckled, adding her guitar prowess allows the band to experiment with a dual and sometimes triple guitar attack.
“We enjoy having her in the band. She’s been with us for about three years now,” Browne added.
“And it’s always good to see ‘Corndog.’ He usually has a good attitude, too. He always has ideas,” Weber laughed.
“Lethbridge is always fun. I remember the pizza being really good. It’s always a great time. We‘re looking forward to seeing old friends,“ Weber added
“It’s going to be a beautiful night. It’s going to be fun. You’ll hear new stuff and old stuff from the new album,” he said.
The Weber Brothers band play the Slice, Sept 11 at approximately 9 p.m. Tickets are $15.
Derek Hoyle fundraiser at the Owl
It is always a pleasure seeing local musicians coming together to help out their own as well as their biggest fans.
So a variety of local musicians got together at the Owl Acoustic Lounge, to wind down August, Aug. 31 and raise over $2,000 for Derek Hoyle, a scenester who has always been a big supporter of local music, who had a serious workplace accident.
I missed opening sets by George Arsene and Steve Foord, but arrived just in time for a solo acoustic set from Jon Martin of the New Weather Machine, who has been keeping a low profile on local stages while earning his master’s degree and recording other artists.
He played his usual solid set of original folk rock. His strong, impassioned voice rang through the room for approximately 50 people as he accompanied himself on acoustic guitar on a variety of heart-wrought originals, including one of my favourites, “Sinking Like a Stone.”
He tapped into the spirits of David Bowie and Freddie Mercury and ended his set with a cover of Queen’s “Under Pressure.”
The Crooked Creek Warblers a.k.a. Gabriel Thaine and Chris Drew added a bit of blues to the proceedings during their long set which featured Thaine and Drew taking turns singing their songs and accompanying the other. Thaine’s songs were more blues-influenced while Drew added more of a country/folk sound. They added excellent vocal harmonies to each other’s songs.
For a special surprise, Dave McCann made a surprise visit to the stage to play the crowd favourite “Standing in the River.”
Don Cassell and Dil Jopp finished the night with an original set of laidback folk rock featuring Dil Jopp on upright bass and Cassell seated and strumming guitar while singing.
Snake River at the Owl
A decent-sized crowd was on hand to listen to some rock and roll courtesy of local rock band Biloxi Parish and Regina psychedelic country band Snake River plus an Ant and an Atom on Wednesday, Aug. 30.
I missed Sean Warkentin a.k.a. An Ant and An Atom, but arrived in time to get my eardrums blown out by Biloxi Parish. The local rock band, who I saw playing as a duo the last couple of times, were back up to a quartet with bassist Caden Boyce and lead guitarist Taran Duncan adding to the impassioned vocals, rhythm guitar and anguished energy of Zach Passey and thunderous drumming of Cole Howg. They made enough noise for two or three bands, with a bass heavy set of intense rock and roll. Passey whirled and gyrated around the stage, tossing his guitar around and writhing like every one of his nerve endings were on fire.
They ended with a couple of their more exceptional originals, “Odetta” and “Coyote.”
Regina’s Snake River also played a loud set of weird, delay-laden, psychedelic rock. The biting Strat of John De Gennaro, solid drums of Dustin Gamracy and bass of Jeff M drowning out vocalist/rhythm guitarist Christopher Sleightholm, who gave the band the air of a louder, psychedelic and more rootsy Radiohead with a touch of Pink Floyd. DeGennaro created weird ambient sounds with a green glowing Ebow he held over his guitar strings to create sinister sounds.
Perception of Pain/S—t Talkers at the Onion
A poorly advertised and last minute relocated show lead to a trio of choked touring bands playing for a small but enthusiastic audience at the Onion, Monday, Aug. 28.
I caught the end of local metal act Drearius who played an upbeat and menacing set of death metal tinged metal full of growling vocals and some big guitar riffs.
I never like to miss a show from Calgary/Creston metal duo Perception of Pain, who popped as a stripped-down duo as they lost a bassist since the last time they played Lethbridge. Drummer Colleen Spence was a blur behind her kit, grinning as she bashed wildly away at the skins and brutalizing her cowbell as guitarist/vocalist Tanessa van Meisel howled tortured vocals that alternately wailed and growled.
She played beefy metal riffs with punk urgency through a brief and energetic set of originals which left bodies sweaty and ears ringing.
I also never like to miss a show by East Vancouver Riot Grrrl/punk band the S—t Talkers, who are taking Perception of Pain on tour to Winnipeg and back. They are always a lot of fun when they play Lethbridge, so I hope they come back.
They had a lot of new songs to share with the audience, including “Shut Up” and “Eight Dicks” plus a few off their two EPs including “East Van,” “F——n Guys” and “Canadian Peasant,” which ended the set just after midnight.
Guitarist Liz Mantle sang most of the vocals though her bandmates, bassist Michelle Duff, guitarist Brooke Fujiama and drummer Nadja Feutlinske, also sang lead on a couple of songs and added gang vocals to the other songs.
They played a tight and furious set of up tempo punk and ’90s Riot Grrrl rock.
Adequate at the Owl
Things got a little funky at the Owl Acoustic Lounge, Saturday, Aug. 26. While just I missed Calgary’s “Well Mannered Thieves,” I was in time for another fun set of ’70s R and B, disco and funk from local trio Adequate who have delved even further into the ’70s by adding synth bass and keyboards played by Scott Mezei, who had just got off stage from the last performance of Barn Dance with New West theatre. Guitarist/vocalist Josh Thorlakson added a talk box to his guitar to add just a little extra ’70s fun. They also added more psychedelic ’70s lights to enhance the greasy air of Studio 54 debauchery.
Drummer Keenan Pezderic, hit those castrati high vocal notes on a number of songs in the set which they began with a medley which included “Shaft” (with Pezderic adding Scott’s name in the place of Shaft) and the Fresh Prince of Bel Aire theme song, so you knew the night was going to be a lot of fun.
They played plenty of disco hits like “Brick House,” some rare Rick James and a sexy version of Dr. John’s “Right Place, Wrong Time.”
They also added a new Josh Thorlakson original called “Get the Funk Outta My House.”
Whoop Up Days: Steve Keenan Band and Glorious Sons
I didn’t catch a lot of Whoop-Up Days this year, but made a point of catching the glorious return of Kingston rockers the Glorious Sons, Friday, Aug 25. But first, I got a chance to be blown away again by hot local blues rockers the Steve Keenan Band, who happily jammed on older Steve Keenan songs like one of my favourites “Whiskey Drinking Blues” as well as some new, more country-inspired originals inspired by Keenan’s experience raising his daughter.
They also cut their musical jobs with some inspired jams on blues classics like Eric Clapton’s “Lay Down Sally” and BB King’s “The Thrill is Gone,” for which, Keenan and lead guitarist Pete Watson effortlessly traded guitar solos as if they shared on brain and four sets of fleet-fingered hands.
Rhythm section drummer Darwin Romanchuk and bassist Steve Popovich played completely in synch as if they too shared a single brain.
By the end, rambunctious Glorious Sons fans had gathered up close to the fence separating the Gas King Stage and the audience to get a closer look and listen to the long-awaited, rare performance from the local bluesmen, as a cadre of cops gathered backstage to keep an eye on the stage, and the bustling crowd.
The Steve Keenan Band ended their set with a hot version of the driving blues rocker “Going Down,” one of my favourite blues classics, done by everybody from Govt. Mule to Colin James.
The police presence ended up being necessary as the Glorious Sons started their high-energy set. Security admonished them to step back from the fence as a couple idiots started throwing cans at the band, which led lead singer Brett Emmons, brandishing a mic stand and a bottle of whiskey, to admonish them about throwing things at the band. He ended up throwing his mic stand at them, though it never cleared the fence.
In the meantime, the Glorious Sons delivered a hot, sweltering set of uptempo rockers including hits like “Heavy,” “Lightning” and “The Union” which had everybody singing along and a couple of others I didn’t recognize, but which many of the people in the front row sang along with. The new single “Everything is all Right” was a laidback highlight.
More introspective, piano-powered newer songs like the new singles were counterbalanced by new harder edged rockers like “Sometimes The Devil Is All You’ve Got,” and another outstanding, heart-wrenching rocker “Shotgun.”
Emmons played a hot harp solo during “Mama,” conducted a crowd in the sing-along of the chorus and eventually sat on the edge of the stage, whiskey bottle in hand, and ended up wandering up to the fence to get the audience to help sing along with the more popular numbers like “Heavy.”
They wound down their set with the single from earlier this year, “Kill the Lights” and “I’m Your Wrecking Ball.”
Erin Ross, Columbia Jones
It was a good night for the blues with very few people to hear it at the the Slice on Friday, Aug. 25.
I always look forward to Calgary Songstress Erin Ross, so cut Whoop-Up Days a little short so I wouldn’t miss her.
I didn’t and, as a bonus, was lucky enough to catch Murray, Utah blues/roots/Americana musician Columbia Jones, backed by lead guitarist/didgeridoo player Brandon and a bassist.
The audience was treated to a didgeridoo solo to begin the set from Brandon.
Jones, strumming an old resonator guitar, and his trio reminded me of Elliott Brood, but without the banjo. They played a gritty set of old-school Delta blues with folk leanings before playing a few original songs from his CD “Blue Collar Blues.”
A couple of highlights were a song about plans falling apart called “25,” a slower train song “Cold, Cold Desert Night” and “Trouble.” He stomped out a rhythm on the stage as his bandmates added extra flavours and textures to his music.
Erin Ross is always a pleasure to see and hear. She accompanied herself on electric guitar singing impassioned folk and roots-influenced originals but showed she has a way with a guitar on a couple of instrumentals.
She invited the Columbia Jones trio on stage with her to end the night by jamming on some JJ Cale.
Cranbrook folk duo Clayton Parsons and Joelle Winkle from the Good Ol’ Goats stopped by the Owl Acoustic Lounge, Friday, Aug. 25 to sing a few songs for an appreciative audience. While I only caught the end of their set, I could tell their vocal harmonies ring true through the room for this show. They were just perfectly placed. Parsons strummed guitar and sang, while Winkle added the beautiful harmonies on a set of originals including “Fresh Cotton,” “Hallelujah” and the upbeat set-ender “Little Moments” about appreciating all of the simple little pleasures of life.
Slice — Blueprint 11th anniversary show Jay Arner Open Channels Fast Colours
Owl Acoustic Lounge — jazz jam with HBO3 and Josh Davies
Slice — open mic
Club Didi — Showtunes Singalong
Slice — Woodhawk, Cope, Supervoid
Mocha Cabana — Don Robb and Randy Epp
Owl Acoustic Lounge — Fox Eyes
Honker’s Pub — open mic
University of Lethbridge — Freshfest with Walshy Fire, Haywyre, Said the Whale, Scott Helman, Neon Dreams, Scotch Whiskey Limosine, TreyMark with Dylan Playfair of Letterkenny
Owl Acoustic Lounge — Loans, Rainboard, Unbroken Circle
Slice — Phanamaneorm old school DJ night
Honker’s Pub — afternoon open mic
Casa — ukulele jam,
The Slice — Weber brothers $15
Owl Acoustic Lounge — Greg Rekus open mic
Onion — open mic
Moose Hall — Strange Adventures with the RiverJacks and mansbridge $10 all ages
Club Didi — drop-in improv
Enmax — Daniel O’Donnell
Owl Acoustic Lounge — Douse (YVR) with WINT and Curtis Windover
Slice — Windy City Opry
Slice — open mic
Mocha Cabana — Ian Hepher and D’Arcy Kavanagh
Moose Hall — Artificial Dissemination
Club Didi — DMTV’s got talent $5
Honker‘s Pub — open mic
Slice — Roberts Hall and Tom Savage
Owl Acoustic Lounge — Crooked Creek Warblers
Southern Alberta Ethnic Association — Fiesta Latina Fundraiser with DJ Tizio $25 6:30 p.m.
Honker’s Pub — afternoon open mic
Slice — Dirti Speshuls, Ornament and Crime, From the Flame
Average Joe’s — The Hip Show $15 advance $20 day of show 8 p.m.