Festival season continues in Lethbridge with the annual ATB Financial Lethbridge Rotary Dragon Boat Festival featuring three busy days of local entertainment at Henderson Lake Park.
The usual suspects are performing this year. Country singer Dusty Dee Litchfield opens the festival at 6 p.m., Friday, June 22, followed by the opening ceremonies at 6 p.m. Scott Davidson‘s Chinook High Rock and pop program play at 6:30. But the big act of the day are local classic rockers the Chevelles who play two sets beginning at 7:15, with a break at 9 for the Desert Wind Belly Dancers.
Things start early on Saturday, July 23 at 11 a.m. with Dory and the Weathermen opening up the day. The Rose Ceremony is at noon.
Calgary bluesman Eric Braun follows at 12:30 p.m. followed by Hibikaya drummers at 1:30 .m.
Winnipeg-born, White Rock based musician Sketch is on at 2 p.m. Young local songwriter Nicole Donaghy Hughes performs at 3 p.m. and local ’90s aficionados Uncovered are on at 3:30 p.m.
Exisdance show their best moves at 4:30, while local funk rock trio Adequate get funky at 5 p.m.
For a break, the RockyMountain Cloggers perform at 6 p.m. and Suite 33 will rock your socks off at 6:30 p.m. The Desert Wind Belly Dancers perform at 7:30 while county musician Cody Hall and punk band 13 to Go get ready to rock from 8 p.m. until close.
The dragon boat festival winds up on Sunday, beginning with the E Free band at 11 a.m. and folk/ roots singer songwriter Karen Romanchuk performing at noon. The Chinook High School rock and pop band return at 12:30 followed by country pop band Alyssa McQuaid and Coyote Junction at 1:30 p.m.
After a Kung Fu demonstration by Lethbridge Hung Sing Koon Kung Fu Academy, Medicine Hat duo Mahoney bring the show to a close at 3 p.m.
But there is a lot more than just dragon boats happening this week. PrideFest activities continue throughout the week.
The Smokehouse features a big hip hop and rap show June 21 with Locksmith and My Name Is Junk from SDK who headline a big night of rap beginning at 8 p.m. There will be local support from Trey Mark, Pyke, J lately, Project TRYBE, J-Reds Hip Hop, JPB, ONTK, $ammy and the Fiend and a freestyle battle at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $20
There is a big alternative rock show courtesy of Norwegian Blue Records with local duo Cope and London/Guelph’s Whoop-Szo who blend folk, metal, pop and even classical music. The bands begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance $15 at the door.
In Cahoots host this week’s open mic at the Slice, on Thursday, June 21 as well.
While Average Joe’s relived the ’80s this past week, this week is about reliving the ’90s and ’00s as Blind Melon and Eve 6 play a double bill, Friday, June 22. The show begins at 8:30 p.m. sharp. Tickets are $45 in advance $50 on the day of the show.
Flipfest features another big show this week at the old Firehall with Birch Barks, Marigold and Teenage Wedding, Admission is $10 for the show, which begins at 9 p.m. The Slice has indie folk on June 22 featuring Son of a Baker aka Mickey Hayward of Cope and several other bands.
He will be joined by Vancouver’s Zulu Panda a.k.a. songwriter Wesley David Scott and a new Lethbridge soul/grunge band GreenBones. Admission is $10.
Edmonton jazz/pop singer/keyboardist Ann Vriend, who often plays with Rooster Davis, brings her band back to the Owl Acoustic Lounge for a special ticketed event, June 22. Tickets are $15 for the show.
As expected, Saturday is also busy with several shows. Vocal teacher Andrea Roberts’ AC Vocals has a concert at the McNally Community Centre featuring her band Black Tie Affair as well as Uncovered and her students. The afternoon show is at 2 p.m. admission is five dollars.
Local favourite Shaela Miller has the official CD release party for her latest CD “Bad Ideas” at the Slice, June 23 with special guests Taylor Ackerman’s Global Acid Reset beginning at 9 p.m.
The Owl acoustic lounge features local pop band Stars From Streetlights and Calgary-based YYCMA nominated singer songwriter Lisette Xavier.
Even Sunday is busy this week with three shows including the last of the dragon boat festival, plus local country band The Crooked Creek Warblers playing the matinee at the Smokehouse at 4 p.m and J Blissette’s tour ending show at the old Firehall with Toronto’s Goosebumps. Admission is five dollars for the show, which begins at 9 p.m.
Edmonton-based R and B/jazz and pop singer/songwriter Ann Vriend returns to Lethbridge to play a special ticketed event at the Owl Acoustic lounge with her band.
Vriend, who usually plays with jazz pianist Rooster Davis, will be able to showcase their own music.
“I don’t play a lot with Rooster anymore. I’ve been so busy playing as a duo or trio shows,” she said, adding she is spending a lot of time touring in Japan as a dup
“Pop is a pretty broad term. I sing more R and B and soul music,” said Vriend, boarding a plane to Scotland.
“I’m playing six shows for the Ottawa Tourism Board. I’m part of the entertainment,” she enthused, adding she got that gig through knowing the organizer who also used to co-ordinate similar tourism events in Edmonton.
“I’ve never been to Scotland before,” she said.
She will return to Edmonton for a show and bring her band, including another keyboardist Brennan Cameron, drummer Dave Oostra and bassist Reed Riehl.
“It will be a pretty lively show. We’ll play the music from the last album, the previous album which is in a similar vein and some music we haven’t recorded yet,” she said.
Tickets for the special event cost $15. Jon Martin from the New Weather Machine will also be performing. the show begins at 9 p.m., June 22.
There is a lot more to Los Angeles ’90s rock band Blind Melon than their biggest hit “No Rain,” which can be frustrating for the band, who come to Average Joe’s, June 22 with Eve 6.
“You’ve summarized it perfectly,” observed Pennsylvania-born guitarist Chris Thorn, who formed the band in 1990 with guitarist Rogers Stevens, bassist Brad Smith and drummer Glen Graham, who grew up in the same area of Mississippi plus Indiana-born lead singer Shannon Hoon, who sadly passed away in 1995 of a drug overdose while on tour.
“It is a little frustrating. But I’d rather have a hit than not have one. That was the weirdest song on the album,” he said.
“Brad (Smith, bassist) was playing that song before Blind Melon was even a band. He was playing it while busking on Venice Beach. He didn’t know it was going to be a hit when he brought it to the band. Even the record company missed it. But the fans liked it, so it became a hit,” he recalled. Equally identifiable with Blind Melon is the video for “No Rain” featuring a girl dressed in a bee costume.
“When we were young and didn’t have any money, we used to hang out in each other’s basements. We spent a lot of time in the south. So one time we were jamming in Glenn’s basement and there was an old picture of his sister in the bee costume for Halloween. it reminded us of all the times our parents dressed us in stupid costumes. But we thought that’s a great album cover image,” he said.
“Of course that isn’t the same girl in the video, because the picture was taken in the ’70s. But we held auditions and found a girl (Heather DeLoach) who looked exactly like her. She’s an incredible actress. She almost became bigger than us, but we didn’t mind because she was helping us sell records,” he said.
“I remember we were scheduled to play Jay Leno, and he interviewed her and we didn’t even get to play,” he chuckled.
The band members went on to other projects after Blind Melon split after Hoon’s death.
Chris Thorn and Brad Smith started producing records for other artists, which is how they met future new lead singer Travis Warren.
“We hadn’t planned on reforming. It happened really organically when we produced this kid Travis Warren’s record. Brad said ‘he can sing Blind Melon songs in his sleep.’ He said he was the biggest fan of ours. He knew more about the band than we did,” Thorn said, adding when they asked him to play with him and he fit right in. They recorded a new album with him in 2007, called “For My Friends,” which was released in 2008, which they likely won’t be playing anything off of.
“We have a whole album of songs that we’ve never played before, called ‘Nico’ because it was released when Shannon died,” he said, adding they will probably play that plus the bands’s hits like “No Rain” and “Galaxie.”
He noted it is difficult to choose one favourite memory of Shannon Hoon.
“That’s a great question. there are so many of them. I just remember writing the songs for ‘Soup’ with him. He was such a wonderful free spirited guy. It is something I’ll never forget,” he said, adding Travis Williams has been a good fit for the band.
“He‘s such a fan of the band and he’s so respectful and tells the audiences that,” he said, adding they were nervous about playing with Warren for the first time.
“We were nervous about what the fans would think. But he‘s so respectful, he had them within the first song,” he said.
“So I think people accept Travis,” he said.
Eve 6 front man/bassist Max Collins is looking forward to taking a break from his new band Fitness to play Lethbridge with Blind Melon at Average Joe’s, June 22.
The Los Angeles-based pop/punk trio Eve 6, recently parted ways with drummer Tony Fagenson, but fortunately They picked up Fitness drummer beautiful Ben (Big Steve) Hillzinger to play with Eve 6.
“I’m not 100 per cent sure why Tony left. He had other projects he wanted to focus on. But he‘s happy, so we’re happy,” Collins said, adding Hillzinger was the first choice to replace him.
“He’s already playing with me (and AWOL Nations’ Kenny Carkeet who is also in Fitness), so it worked out perfectly. because I’m doing a lot of work with Fitness and there are a lot of one off dates with Eve 6 and he’s already here. Plus he’s a great drummer. We’ve played about 12 shows with him. We had one rehearsal before them and he nailed them,” Collins continued.
He can’t recall having played Lethbridge before.
”Remind me where that is. It doesn’t ring any bells, but we did a lot of dead-of-winter touring in Canada where the only thing you’re thinking about is not freezing,” he said.
“We do love touring Canada. When we’re there, we always ask ourselves why we don’t live there. We have that kind of love affair with Canada,” he said, adding expect to hear a fun show.
“We‘re playing all of our favourites from all of the albums. So it‘s a little selfish. But fortunately, most of them are also the fans’ favourites,” he said, noting “Amphetamines” from the second album “Horrorscope,” “Open Road” from their first CD, “Think Twice” from their third album “All in Your Head” and “Curtain” from their most recent, 2012 album “Speak in Code” are among his favourites to play.
“‘Curtain’ is the lone song from that album that we’ll be playing,” he said.
If you haven’t seen Eve 6 before, he promised a fun show.
“We’re a three-piece rock and roll band so it will be a high-energy, low-IQ rock-and roll show,” he said.
“Some of our earlier stuff was literate, but adolescent literate,” he said.
He is looking forward to playing a handful of shows with ’90s stars Blind Melon.
“We’re playing four or five shows with them. We played in Japan with them. They’re great guys. We didn’t play any shows with them in our early days because there was no thought of them continuing without Shannon Hoon, their frontman who died of drug overdose in 1995 while the band was on tour),” he said.
“Hopefully we‘ll see some fine people at this show,” he said.
Tickets for the June 22 show are $45 in advance $50 on the day of the show. The show begins at 8:30 p.m.
Killer Dwarfs/ Kick Axe at Average Joe’s
A respectable crowd got “On the Road to Rock” by reliving the ’80s in Canada with an outstanding show at Average Joe’s, Thursday, June 14 from The Killer Dwarfs and Kick Axe, who both charted a number of heavy metal hits throughout the ’80s.
Average Joe’s shows start on time, so I arrived about four songs into the Killer Dwarfs set, of relentlessly upbeat ’80s metal.
The crowd knew most of the words and was singing along.
Frontman Russ “Dwarf” Graham belted out the Dwarfs songs like the ’80s never left and bounced around the stage, and off it during guitar solos, reappearing in the middle of the audience to stand on tables to continue singing the songs without missing a beat.
He was all the more impressive, playing acoustic guitar for one slightly slower number.
The Killer Dwarfs are a long-lost Canadian treasure so I feel I should have recognized more of their songs. Typical to ’80s metal, there were plenty of big guitar riffs, scorching solos and plenty of good, vibes.
I missed “Stand Tall,” which was early in the set, but was glad they saved their best-known hit, “Keep the Spirit Alive,” for the end of their set around 9:10 p.m., but they were called back for an encore.
After what seemed like an eternally long set break, Kick Axe took the stage at just after 10 p.m.
Having been pretty much ostracized as a young teen in a small town in the ’80s for admitting I liked the cheesy ’80s video for Kick Axe’s “On the Road To Rock” video, I was pleasantly surprised by Kick Axe. They saved that for near the end of an energetic set drawing heavily from the new wave of British heavy metal, nodding and thrashing their hirsute heads to Iron Maiden and Judas Priest.
An early highlight was “Hunger,” their contribution to the Transformers movie.
Their music was built for arenas with huge shout along choruses , gang vocals and big guitars. Guitarists Larry Gillstrom, wielding a purple Gibson SG traded big riffs with Ray Harvey and even played some cool, subtle twin guitar leads.
Having forgot my earplugs for a show where I really needed them, I sadly identified with their catchy song “If It’s Too Loud, You’re Too Old,” especially when, ears ringing, I found them buried in a side pocket after the show.
Tiny, kilted singer Daniel Nargang wore a tattered white Motorhead T-shirt and screamed his head off like the bastard child of Robert Plant and Bruce Dickensen, adopted by Rob Halford.
Kick Axe played an assortment of high octane hits like “Welcome To The Club,” “Hellraiser” and “Vices.” Bassist Victor Langen switched to his recognizable battle axe shaped bass for the last few songs of their set beginning with “Rockin’ Daze.”
They wound down the show with “On The Road To Rock” and “Heavy Metal Shuffle” before ending with a couple of metalized Fleetwood Mac covers, “The Chain” and Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac’s “The Green Manalishi,” which Nargang noted they discovered while touring with Judas Priest, who also covered it.
Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra at the Slice
Usually Windy City Opry shows end early, and I’m lucky to catch even one song form the performed, always coming from my radio show on CKXU that ends at 10 p.m. This time, I was especially pleased The Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra were in a jamming sort of mood and extended their show at the Slice, June 13.
I haven’t seen them for years, but know they are always a good time as good sized, enthusiastically dancing crowd attested to. They sounded like a more eastern European influenced old Crow Medicine Show with a touch if the Gipsy Kings, featuring plenty of cabaret accordion and a whole lot of finger-bleeding fiddle playing.
Guitarist/ vocalist Kurt Loewen was lost in the shadows of the stage, emerging to sing a couple songs, but left most pf the vocalists to accordion player Ian Griffiths and fiddle player Mack Shields.
Immediately recognizable were “Maria” and apt se-ending, foot-stomper “Ciao Baby Ciao.”
They were called back for an encore of “End Of Days,” though I wasn’t sure if they would return for an encore after using up all of the notes on “Ciao Bella.”
The next Windy City Opry features Sean Burns at the Slice on July 11.
Galacticas at the Slice
I keep missing punk shows, so made a point of catching Calgary pop punk trio The Galacticas, Saturday, June 9. I missed local punk band Sessions, who apparently played a loud set for a good sized crowd, most of whom departed by the time the Galacticas took the stage.
The Calgary trio were a whole lot of pop culture nerd inspired fun. They are obviously children of the ’80s so drew a lot of inspiration from the likes of Green Day and Blink 182
They began with a spirited punk cover of Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” and played several songs from their new CD “Diagnostics” including the title track and a song inspired by Star Wars, Spider-Man and Carrie Fisher — “The Alderaan Song.”
They grinned as they played a pretty spot on version of Wheatus’s 2000 chestnut “Teenage Dirtbag.”
To wind up the set, their frontman snickered as he said nobody will like this last cover “unless you’re a girl,” before crashing into an impressive cover of Avril Lavigne’s “Sk8er Boi.”
Uncovered at Mojos
I’m really enjoying the new lineup of local acoustic cover band Uncovered with the addition of Allison Hawkins. I only caught a couple of their songs due to a long set break at Mojos pub on the West side on Saturday, June 9.
They opened their second set with a solid version of Jimmy Buffet’s “Margaritaville,” which I thought was going to be “La Bamba” for a moment. They also added an electric bassist for this show.
Lethbridge Jazz and Blues intro
I didn’t get to many Lethbridge Jazz and Blues Festival shows this week, but stopped by the official kick off at Galt Gardens. Saturday afternoon, June 9. I arrived in the middle of a solid set from local Paul Kype and Texas Flood.
Kype and the band, drummer Brady Valgardson, bassist Tyson Maiko and keyboardist Mike Ayotte, played several songs from their upcoming album, crowd favourites like “Heed The Call,” and heartfelt covers of “Into the Mystic” and Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home.”
They ended their set and brought down a thunderstorm with a cover of the Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post.”
After some delay after the rain stopped and speakers and equipment were uncovered, local R and B/disco/R and B collective Hippodrome promised to bring back the sun. And they did with a strong set of ’70s R and B and soul music.
Shawna Romolliwa, Erica Hunt and Juran Greene alternated on lead vocals. The horn section got the toes tapping and brought a good time for all. Hunt sang a beautiful version of “Valerie” and Greene belted out “Flip Flop and Fly.”
Echo Nebraska at the Owl
Vancouver-based indie rock quintet Echo Nebraska played the Owl Acoustic Lounge Friday, June 8 for a small but mighty crowd. They played an appealing and spirited set of Indie rock and and jangling pop rock music along the lines of R.E.M. and The Jayhawks, but also featured some excellent fiddle and haunting vocal harmonies from Carly Frey.
They wound up their set with an Arcade Fire cover of “Ready To Start.”
It’s still weird to see Megan Brown play without having a fiddle in her hand, but here band Makiisma allows her to show off the many sides of her musical personality as she did at the Slice, Friday, June 8.
I arrived as she was winding up a few songs of Alanis Morissette-style ’90s angst, but she switched gears into a more sultry jazz, Joni Mitchell tinged folk vibe. her band of drummer Keenan Pezderic, bassist Steve Martin and keyboardist T.J Waltho easily switched styles with her.
Owl Acoustic Lounge — Pridefest Rocky Horror Picture Show
Beaches — open mic
Smokehouse — Locksmith with Junk (SDK) 8 p.m. $15 advance $20
Slice — open mic with in Cahoots
No 1 Firehall Restaurant Bar — Cope with Whoop-Szo $12 advance, $15 door
Henderson Lake Park— Dragon Boat Festival
5:00 pm Dusty Litchfield
6:00 pm Opening Ceremonies
6:30 pm Chinook High School Rock & Pop program
7:15 pm The Chevelles
9:00 pm Desert Wind Belly Dancers
9:30 – 10:30 pm Chevelles
Average Joes — Blind Melon and Eve 6 8:30 p.m. $45 advance $50 day of
Mocha Cabana — Alice Tindori
Old Firehall — Flipfest presents Marigold, Birch barks Teenage Wedding $10 9 p.m.
Slice — Zulu Panda,Greenbones, Son of a Baker
Owl Acoustic lounge — Ann Vriend $15 ticketed event
Honker’s Pub — open mic
Waterton United Church (108 Clematis Ave) Waterton Lake — Sheena Lawson and Dale Ketcheson
Slice — Shaela Miller Bad Ideas CD Release show with Taylor Ackerman and Global Acid Reset
Owl Acoustic Lounge — Lisette Xavier with Stars From Streetlights
Honker‘s Pub — afternoon open mic
Henderson lake — Dragon Boat Festival
11 a.m. Dory & The Weathermen
noon Rose Ceremony
12:30 p.m. Eric Braun
1:30 p.m . HIBIKIYA
2 p.m. Sketch Williams
3 p.m. Nicole Donaghy Hughes
3:30 p.m . Uncovered
4:30 p.m. Exisdance
5 p.m. Adequate
6:00 pm Canadian Rocky Mountain Cloggers
6:30 p.m. Suite 33
7:30 p.m. Desert Wind Belly Dancers
8 – 10:30 p.m. Cody Hall and 13 to go
Old Firehall— J blissette with Goosebump 9 p.m. $5
Smokehouse— matinee with Crooked Creek Warblers
Henderson Lake— Dragon Boat Festival
Sunday June 24
11:00 am E-Free band
12:00 pm Karen Romanchuk
12:30 pm Chinook High School Rock & Pop program
1:30 pm Alyssa McQuaid & Coyote Junction
2:30 pm Lethbridge Hung Sing Koon Kung Fu Academy
3:00 pm Mahoney
4:00 pm Closing ceremonies
The Owl Acoustic Lounge —open mic
Onion — open mic
Smokehouse — open mic
Owl Acoustic Lounge —Standup Comedy open mic
Beaches — open mic with Devin Gergel
Slice — open mic
Owl Acoustic Lounge — books for babies fundraiser
Mocha Cabana — Dale Ketcheson
Owl Acoustic Lounge — Boots and the Hoots
Casino Lethbridge — Hurtin’
Slice — St. Groove and Coniferous.
Honker’s Pub — open mic