Southern Alberta is deep in the middle of music festival season. South Country Fair was last weekend in Fort Macleod, and there are a couple of other big ones coming up in the next couple of weeks.
Mike Spencer and the Geomatic Attic are geared up for the second annual Wide Skies Music Festival at the Southminster United Church, July 30-Aug. 1. Spencer has booked an all star line up including Shovels and Rope who open the festival at a ticketed event with Little Miss Higgins, July 30. There is a big free outdoor festival the next day outside the church opening with the Weber brothers, Vancouver blues musicians Shakura S’Aida and Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer, plus an excellent second stage w featuring Danny Dyck and the Chicken Catchers and Calgary songwriters Tom Phillips and Shaye Zadrevec.
The festival continues at Southminster United Church with another paid ticketed gig featuring Frazey Ford and the Quiet Revolution and Seattle’s the Cave Singers.
There are also afterparties at the Owl Acoustic Lounge with the Weber Brothers and at the Slice with Tom Phillips, July 31. The Weber Brothers also play Twin Butte store, on Sunday, July 29.
Festival passes are $105 which include admission to Shovel and Ropes and Little Miss Higgins on July 30 (tickets are $60 plus a $5 service charge for that concert otherwise) and Frazey Ford and the Cave Singers on Aug. 1 ($50 plus $5 service charge otherwise) as well as the July 31 afterparties at the Owl Acoustic Lounge featuring the Weber Brothers and at the Slice with Tom Phillips. Otherwise admission is $10 for each of those. Passes also include priority seating in the church if it rains during the free outdoor festival and a swag bag.
The following week features Bigwood 10 just off Research Centre Road, Aug. 3 featuring an all-local all-star lineup of Leeroy Stagger and the Rebeltone Sound, John Wort Hannam, Shaela Miller, Dave McCann and the Firehearts, local hard rock band the Dirti Speshuls, Taylor Ackerman’s Global Acid Reset and local rock band Hoverkraft. Tickets are $25 at the gate, $25 in advance with the music beginning at 6 p.m.
Before that there is a lot of fun happening. If you missed them at South Country Fair, Fin De Fiesta Flamenco perform their new show Salvaje at Casa, July 25 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $22
Terrific Kids present an alternative pop show at the old Firehall the same night with Toronto bands Hooded Fang and Nikki Fierce and local band Body Lens. The show begins at 8 p.m. Admission is $15 in advance, $15 at the door. And the Owl Acoustic Lounge features their monthly standup comedy open mic, July 25 as well. Also on July 25, the Slice features punk/pop/glam rock siblings The Castagnes.
The Owl Acoustic Lounge continues a busy week, featuring a poetry open mic on Thursday, July 26.
Flipfest has a fundraiser at the Owl Acoustic Lounge, Saturday, July 28 featuring local bands object_option, Birch Barks and Calgary’s Polly Dactic. Admission is by donation.
St. Paul-based indie roots songwriter Shane Larmand has two shows July 27, including a performance at Sunrise Records in the Park Place mall at 3 p.m. and at the Slice that evening with Corduroy Brown. He is supporting his new CD “You Are my Home.”
Open mics resume at Honker’s Pub this weekend with Jolene Draper hosting on Friday, July 27 and Frankie G on Saturday afternoon.
Dueling Pianos with Cal Toth returns to Average Joe’s as well on Friday.
Whitehorse duo Soda Pony visit the Owl Acoustic Lounge, July 27 with local alternative rock band MTBC.
For something slightly different, St. Albert-based southern rock/punk/pop band For Tonight play the Slice, July 28.
The Weber Brothers Band are excited to return to Lethbridge to play two shows as a duo for the Wide Skies Music Festival as well as at the afterparty at the Owl Acoustic Lounge, July 31.
Ryan and Sam Weber are never afraid to try something different. Since their last Lethbridge appearance they released a new CD called “Patches,” as well as an epic-length single “Last Days of the Broken-Hearted Jester” and an accompanying comic book to go with it to illustrate the story created by artist Sheldon Sveinson.
“People really seem to like it,” said guitarist/vocalist Ryan Weber, who, along with brother, upright bassist Sam, form the core of the Weber Brothers band. He noted the nine-minute-long song didn’t really fit with anything else the band were doing at the time, so they wanted to do something special with it.
“Sheldon was really interested in doing a comic book for the song, so he really went with it,” Ryan continued.
“It was definitely an opportunity for us,” added Sam.
In addition to writing their own music they are also producing other artists including singer/songwriter Douglas Mackenzie.
“It’s really beautiful,” Ryan said.
Little Miss Higgins a.k.a. Jolene Higgins returns to Lethbridge to kick off the Wide Skies Music Festival at the Southminster United Church with Shovels and Rope, July 30.
“It’s an honour to open for Shovels and Rope,” said Higgins, on her way back from a quick tour out west for the Vancouver Folk Festival.
“It was great. It’s music by the beach and a lot of great artists. We’ve never played there before,” Higgins enthused.
In addition to playing music, she has been busily raising a toddler with her partner Eric Lemoine.
“That takes up 98 per cent of my time. But I also garden. Hopefully that’s fine while we’ve been gone and that the deer haven’t eaten it. But we put up sprinklers. I’ve also taken up beadwork on leather,” she said, adding she is excited to return to Lethbridge for Wide Skies.
Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer vocalist/harmonica player Sean Hall is excited to be back in Lethbridge for the Wide Skies Music Festival, July 31, to headline the free outdoor show featuring Fellow B.C. musician Shakura S’ Aida and the Weber Brothers.
They continued to experiment on their latest CD, “Apocalipstick, which was released late last year.
“We definitely paid for it. We didn’t get a Juno nomination. It is definitely not a blues album. People in the industry like it better if you stay in the same little box,” said Hall, who will be joined in Lethbridge by guitarist Matthew Rogers and vocalist Dawn Pemberton, who Hall described as “the Queen of B.C. Soul.”
They also sometimes perform with singer Andrina Turenne.
“She’s really the salt of the earth. She’s from Winnipeg and musicians there chomp at the bit harder than anyone else,” Hall enthused.
“She sings country soul, but country soul like Otis Redding used to sing and she brings tambourine and percussion. She’s very special to be able to step into a duo,” Hall continued.
They have a couple of plans in the works including releasing a video for “Running” in the fall.
“And we’re going to completely remix “Apocalipstick.” We’ll completely strip it down and keep the vocals and most of the guitars, but we‘re not going to bring in European EDM artists,” he said.
“We’re gong to call it ‘Post-Apocalipstick,” he said, adding he is more excited about the prospect of recording the band’s first live album.
“We’ve never done one before, which is unusual because the live show is definitely not the same as the recordings. I guess we’ve never been narcissistic like that. So we‘re going to book two or three days in December at the King Eddy in Calgary and record it with the Rolling Stones mobile recording unit. So it will be a throwback to what live albums sounded like back then,” Hall enthused.
“We’ll play the new songs and go back to some of the songs from ‘Checkered Past,’” he enthused.
The band has spent a lot of time playing overseas everywhere from Copenhagen for the Copenhagen Jazz Festival and Bristol to Mexico City.
“It is hard work playing in Canada and getting to this point. Musicians spend a lot of time pounding the pavement,” he said, crediting CKUA for supporting the band.
“Nobody’s supported us more than CKUA. Even CBC,” he said.
“But the blues has been relevant for 50 to 70 years now. We sing about love, pain, lust, heartbreak and a lot of people relate to that,” he said.
Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer play the Wide Skies Music Festival, Tuesday, July 31. There is no cost to attend.
Vancouver musician Frazey Ford returns to Lethbridge with her band the Quiet Revolution for the Wide Skies Music Festival, Aug, 1 at Southminster United Church with the Cave Singers. She will be joined by her band the Quiet Revolution including bassist Darren Parris, drummer Leon Power, guitarist Craig McCaul and singer Caroline Ballhorn.
It will be a rare chance to see Ford this summer, as she is working on new music.
“We’re not doing a ton of gigs this summer,” said Ford, a founding member of folk trio the Be Good Tanyas, who she formed with Trish Klein and Samantha Parton back in 2000 and played together for a solid decade.
“They were a good representation of the music I grew up listening to,” said Ford.
“Trish was in my band for years,” she observed, adding she is always expanding her musical horizons. She went to Memphis to record with some of the classic soul musicians for her last album, and is writing new music for her debut album for the record label Arts and Crafts.
“I was with Nettwerk for years but decided to change,” she said, “I’ve released two singles with Arts and Crafts. but I don’t know when they will release the album. It’s two-thirds written and I’m simultaneously recording,” she said
“The new music is hard to describe. I’m terrible at describing music. It’s going to be a surprise. There is definitely more groove,” she said.
She hasn’t been to Lethbridge for several years.
“But for whatever reason I’m playing Alberta more than ever. I played the Block Heater Festival in Calgary and have played the Calgary Folk Festival. I’m also playing a lot in Edmonton,” she said.
Frazey Ford and the cave Singers play Wide Skies Music Festival, Aug. 1 in Southminster United church. Tickets are $55 for the concert which begins at 8 p.m.
In between checking out cool cars at the Street Wheeler’s show and shine in Galt Gardens, I caught a few bands from Union Salon Barbershop’s annual Back Alley Bash for the Lethbridge Girls Rock Camp, playing nestled in their downtown parking lot, Sunday, July 15.
The Warriorettes, fronted by Fox Mandy of Fox Eyes, who were playing more melodic, piano-based pop and rock music allowing Mandy to show off her voice.
I hung out for a few songs from local alternative rock band MTBC who are starting to play more lately. They played ’90s-era alternative rock with a heavy Pixies influence
Local jam rock the Decadent Phase have been going through their grandparents’ record collections They played an entertaining and laidback set of late ’60s and early ’70s rock and roll at the Owl Acoustic Lounge, July 14.
I caught them on a set break, so most of their audience was smoking with them. After they finished their smokes, the band, who looked like they stepped right out of the ’70s except their drummer who sported a toga and laurel wreath, opened their second set with a creditable version of led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll.” They also played a cool version of Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love,” and showed some tasteful guitar chops on Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe.”
I was impressed with their version of the Who’s “Squeeze Box,” as frontman James Swinney joked about the sexual innuendos of the song.
They also played some hot Beatles covers — “Get Back” and “Helter Skelter.”
Johnson Crook at the Slice
An excellent candidate for best show nobody saw this year would definitely be Toronto country rock band Johnson Crook’s July 13 show at the Slice. I haven’t been this impressed with a new band for a long time.
I arrived early in the middle of a rollicking set of up-tempo, hook-filled country rock music. They displayed super tight musicianship with superb multi-part vocal harmonies, which sounded like a mix of the Eagles and High Vally with a touch of Washboard Union and just a little Blue Rodeo.
An early highlight was “Mr. Nobody,” from their new CD “The Album” and which Tom Cochrane lends his voice to for the recording.
They played pretty much all of “The Album,” including the catchy new single “Mining for Freedom.” They saved a slice of home “Minnedosa” (the home of guitarist Nathan Crook and drummer Trevor Crook) for near the end of the set.
They slowed things down for a moment for a “sappy love song” but picked up the tempo right quickly for “Old School Rock and Roll,” which included a verse of Bob Seger’s classic “Old Time Rock and Roll” in the middle of the song.
They kept the energy up with the blues rock of “Canada To Heartbreak.”
Tara Warburton at the Owl
Tara Warburton gave both a review of her Lethbridge Girls Rock performance as well as a preview of her South Country Fair appearance, July 13 at the Owl Acoustic Lounge.
She sang a short, sweet set of plaintive, heartfelt original folk music opening for Megan Brown’s band Makiisma.
Warburton told stories and cracked a few tender jokes in between singing highly personal songs including “Want to Keep You Wild” and “Never Going to Find Me.” She played tender folk and soul music while singing in a sultry jazz-tinged voice.
She ended with “Raise Up Your Spirits,” her song which won this year’s South Country Fair Songwriting Competition and which she performed at the fair on Saturday night, July 22.
Citizen Rage at the Smokehouse
A Citizen Rage show is always an event, not to mention a contrast as the Calgary hardcore punk/metal band’s music is straight-ahead, ear-bleeding aggression along the lines of Black Flag, coupled with exhortations from frenetic frontman Mark Russell to build a community and hug. So I was glad to catch their night ending set of local metal and punk bands at the Smokehouse, July 13, organized by Dead Rats Promotions. They were tight, tight, tight and loud, loud, loud. Most of the 50 people in attendance were moshing in front of the stage. Russell leaped among them and got them to shout along with some of their better known songs like “Struggle” and even a couple of new ones from their “Pink” EP including the exceptional “Silent Army,” with which they ended their set though they were called back for an encore.
Street Wheelers Old School
As usual Street Wheelers Weekend meant the streets were packed with custom cars racing up and down and all around down town for the annual Street Wheelers cruise night, Friday, July 13.
And for classic cars, you need to have a classic rock soundtrack. This year’s Concert for a Cause for Big brothers and Sisters was pleased to provide it so they moved their beer garden next to the road in Galt Gardens so a parked park of patrons could enjoy a cool beverage while watching the cruise. While I missed Alyssa McQuaid and Coyote Junction’s set, I was in time for a new band of old favourites called Old School who played pretty much what you hear on 94.1. So there was a lot of ’70s and ’80s Cancon pop music.
They featured keyboardist Rob Hebetler, Doug Sokoloski on lead guitar, vocalist/drummer Jamie Kaufmann, and bassist Scott Mezei. Anna McBryan filled in for extra vocals.
They opened with Prism’s “Spaceship Superstar” after a false start and continued with Loverboy’s “Working for the Weekend,” which Jamie Kaufman sang. McBryan sang a credible version of the Black Crowes’ “Hard to Handle.”
They also played a little INXS and Habetler killed it on keyboards for Burton Cummings’ “My Own Way to Rock” while McBryan did her best Burton Cummings-style vocals.
Beaches — open mic
Firehall — Body Lens, Hooded Fang, Nikki Fierce $10 advance, $15 at door 8 p.m.
Owl Acoustic Lounge — standup comedy open mic
Casa — Fin de Fiesta Flamenco
Slice — Castenges
Owl Acoustic Lounge — poetry open mic
Slice — open mic
Mocha Cabana — Herb Hicks jazz Quartet
Average Joes — Dueling pianos with Cal Toth
Slice — Shane Larmand with Cordouroy Brown
Sunrise Records — Shane Larmand 3 p.m.
Casino Lethbridge — The Rockin’ 58s
Honker’s Pub — open mic with Jolene Draper
Owl Acoustic Lounge — Soda Pony with MTBC
Casino Lethbridge — The Rockin’ 58s
Honker’s Pub — afternoon open mic
Slice — For Tonight
Owl Acoustic Lounge — FLIPFest presents object option, Birch barks, Polly Dactic
Slice — Petunia And the Vipers
Smokehouse — matinee
Twin Butte Store — Weber Brothers Band
The Owl Acoustic Lounge — open mic
Onion — open mic
Southminster United Church — Geomatic Attic Wide Skies Music and Arts Festival Shovels and Rope with Little miss Higgins $60 + $5 service Charge $55-$105
Great Canadian Barn Dance – Dory and the Weathermen 12-4 for GCBD Music scholarship program for August band camp.
Southminster United Church — Wide Skies Music festival Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer. Shakura S’Aida, The Weber brothers band
Slice — Tennyson King (Wide Skies after party) and Tom Phillips
Smokehouse — open mic
Owl Acoustic Lounge — Wide Skies afterparty with the Weber Brothers band
Southminster United Church — Geomatic Attic Wide Skies Music and Arts Festival $55-$105 Frazey Ford, The Cave Singers $50 plus $5 service charge
Beaches — open mic
Slice — open mic
Slice — King of Foxes and the Silkstones
Average Joe’s — Yuk Yuks Comedy with Sean Lacomber and Friends.
Bigwood 10 — 98.1 The Bridge and Bigwood present an exciting showcase of local performers playing on a stage made from an 90-year-old sheepherder’s shack.