It’s a big week in Lethbridge with two festivals happening, including the three-day Wide Skies Music Festival which ends Aug. 1 with Frazey Ford and the Quiet Revolution and Seattle’s the Cave Singers at Southminster United Church. Tickets for that show, beginning at 8 p.m., are $55.
Things cook on Friday night with Bigwood 10, happening on Research Centre Road featuring an all-local lineup including Hoverkraft, Taylor Ackerman’s Global Acid Reset, Dave McCann, John Wort Hannam, Leeroy Stagger, the Dirti Speshuls and Adequate.
If you just want to laugh, Yuk Yuks comedy returns to Average Joe’s on Friday, Aug. 3 featuring comedians Sean Lacomber and James Moore. The laughter begins at 8:30 p.m. Admission is $15 in advance, $20 on the day of the show.
Edmonton alternative rock band King of Foxes return to Lethbridge Aug. 3 to play the Slice with local indie rock band the Silkstones. There is a $10 cover for that show.
The Slice has a heavier show Aug. 4 featuring Broken Yolks and Spit of the Sin. Admission is $10.
The Owl Acoustic Lounge has outstanding night of roots music planned for Aug. 3 featuring Matt Patershuk, Australian singer-songwriter Glenn Skuthorpe and Tim Buckley. The music begins at 9 p.m. and admission is by donation.
The Owl also has an eclectic night of local music planned for Aug. 4 with indie pop artist VandenDool, local folk songwriter Max Hopkins and more progressive rock from Jon Martin. Admission is by donation.
The big event of the week is Friday’s Bigwood 10, a celebration of local music. While the organizers took a break last year, they are back in force this year with an all-star lineup of local musicians who have accomplished a lot this year.
“We took a year off to reorganize. This year we’re excited to have an all-local lineup,” said one of the organizers’ Todd Carter, who sings in the host band the Dirti Speshuls who, along with landowner Tom Glover, put on the event every year.
Usually the event takes place during Whoop-Up Days, this year, it has been moved so Leeroy Stagger can perform at it.
“The landowner Tom Glover has been a longtime friend of Leeroy Stagger. Leeroy brought in Dave McCann and John Wort Hannam because they tour as the Highway 3 Revue every year,” Carter continued, adding they will all be bringing their bands for this show.
They will be joined by Taylor Ackerman’s Global Acid Reset, Shaela Miller and a newer band Hoverkraft. Adequate will end the night on a funky note.
Leeroy Stagger‘s latest CD “Love Versus” has been nominated for two Western Canadian Music Awards for Recording of the Year and Roots Solo Artist of the Year.
“John has a new album coming out in August and Shaela is doing well in the WILD competition and was number one on the Earshot roots music charts,” Carter observed.
Bigwood began as an all-local festival so members of the music community could get together and socialize when they’d usually be playing gigs and unable to see each other.
“But we’ve had out-of-town bands in the past, like Royal Tusk,” Carter said.
Taylor Ackerman has returned from Halifax where he was supporting his wife’s studies, so Carter is pleased to welcome back his new band, Taylor Ackerman’s Global Acid Reset.
Local ’90s-style power pop band the Dirti Speshuls are also working on a new record.
“We’ve always been the host band for Bigwood,” he said.
The only band people may not be familiar with is Hoverkraft.
“I put out a call for artists and they applied. They haven’t played a lot of gigs, but I went to one of their rehearsals and it was really close to the recording. They’ll be opening,” Carter enthused, adding he is also excited to have funk rock trio Adequate close the night.
Blackfoot Grill will be selling food for the event as their usual food truck, The Fiery Greek, had another commitment.
The event starts at 6 p.m. and will end around 2 a.m.
Tickets for Bigwood are $25 through eventbrite.ca or $35 in cash at the door.
Montreal brother-and-sister duo the Castagne’s played their hearts out for a handful of people at the Slice, Wednesday, July 25.
You’ve got to appreciate the duo not being subdued by a lack of numbers. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I arrived as they opened their second set, with Marjo Castagne singing laidback indie pop and wandering in front of the Slice stage while her brother Phil played laidback tender melodies on electric guitar.
The show took an abrupt turn for the louder and more energetic as Marjo took her seat behind the drum kit for most of the tight, noisy set full of blues-tinged punk rock and alternative rock. Her arms were a blur as she pounded the skins, grabbing and stopping the cymbals and seamlessly keeping up with her brother’s abrupt tempo changes. He sang in a high-pitched, melodica voice.
Together they sounded like a blend of the White Stripe and the Pixies thanks to Marjo’s haunting vocal harmonies sung from behind her kit. Her bother’s voice reminded me of Soul Asylum’s Dave Pirner in their early more punkier days.
They slowed down abruptly mid-set as Marjo took centre stage for another more mellow, introspective number, allowing Phil to show off his more melodic, bluesy side, before picking up the pace again behind the kit.
Coutts Arts Festival
I was performing at the Coutts Arts Festival, Sunday, July 22, so wasn’t able to catch a lot of the other entertainment on the sunny Sunday afternoon at the Coutts Centre just outside of Nanton.
The Groove Apostles played some sweet, groovy instrumental jazz music. Ben Price entertained after that with a lot of humour as he got an audience member to help him with his uncuttable cutting rope trick.
South Country Fair
You can accomplish a lot in a day if you put your mind to it. I could only make it to Saturday of the South Country Fair, in Fort Macleod, July 21, and made the most of it, catching most of the acts, until losing power physically and camera battery-wise around 11:30 when Hank and Lily were supposed to take the stage. A lot of my favourites were also performing Sunday and returned from Friday night.
Saturday featured a lot of familiar faces, including local performers and people who have played Lethbridge a lot in the past year. But there were some pleasant surprises. And even though there were more little kids running around than ever before, that didn’t stop the performers from unleashing hilarious, bawdy drinking songs and stories on a laidback crowd.
Shaela Miller, who was on the South Stage on Friday, played a workshop called the Pros and Cons of Collaboration with Carolyn Mark and Ndidi Onukwulu. There wasn’t a lot of collaboration in the workshop other than on “This Little Light of Mine,” which Miller led the other performers through. But most of them played their own songs with their own bandmates other than Onukwulu’s lead guitarist who added tasteful guitar solos for much of the workshop.
Carolyn Mark sang a few of my favourites including “Everybody’s a Whore,” and “Get it Up (Song For the Calgary Stampede),” as her upright bassist Terri Upton laid down a toe-tapping groove. Shaela Miller sang a couple of my older favourites including “Country Love Song.”
But Ndidi Onukwulu was a powerhouse and a highlight, belting out powerful blues and soul with just a touch of gospel. I’d never heard of her, but she has released six CDs and often collaborates with Madagascar Slim. She performs today at 4:45 p.m.
The other highlight, one of many, was Rev. Sekou. He and his hot band, Sweden’s Dimpker Brothers ripped on an afternoon set of blues, soul and gospel music with just a touch of reggae. Though this isn’t your grandma’s gospel. Well, maybe it is, if you were to go to a Southern Baptist church in the deep southern U.S. The tiny reverend, dressed all in white with long dreadlocks flying everywhere, belted out his music , fairly dripping with so much soul that it would touch even the Devil’s heart, which was reminiscent of Gary Clark Jr. and Robert Cray. In between impassioned pleas for peace and brotherhood, he told stories about being in Charlottesville during the neo-Nazi march in 2017 and sang a song inspired by that experience. He ended with a beautiful version of “Stormy Monday Blues.”
There was a lot of great music. As most of the camp was still recovering from the Friday night party, Saturday started slowly as a few people wandered up and relaxed in front of the stages. So most of the acts started with their more laidback material, including Calgary’s Amy Nelson on the East Stage, who played a set of twangy, bluesy-tinged country and blues music. She switched between a couple of acoustic guitars and a resonator. Her lead guitarist played deadly slide guitar.
Red Deer’s Red Hot Hayseeds, who have played Lethbridge quite a few times, slowly picked up the pace with toe-tapping western swing, ending with their set on the East Stage with Bob Wills’ “Roly Poly.”
If that didn’t wake everybody up, a song swap between Hank Pine and Kris Demeanor on the East Stage sure did. I was running between that and the collaboration set on the South Stage, but definitely heard the absolutely brilliant “Never Doing That Again — Hilarious” which was a blend of slam poetry and loud rock and roll involving Demeanor telling a long and involved story about a crazy night out on the town with the boisterous chorus “I’m Never Doing That Again.”
Things were a little bit mellower on the South Stage with John Wort Hannam, who played his usual earnestly heartfelt set of folk music. He introduced some newer songs and old favourites like “Church Of the Long Grass,” and “Chasing the Song,” which he wrote for his wife the first time he forgot their wedding anniversary.
He told a story about being asked to play the Fred Eaglesmith picnic and completely missing the gig because he hadn’t realized how long it takes to drive across Ontario, and played “Great Lakes,” which was inspired by the trip.
He also joked about how he used to look forward to getting dumped because it would inspire a song and maybe two.
After that, there was another highlight on the East Stage with Yardbird Sweethearts, a clarinet-powered western swing band from Vancouver who were awesome with their jazz-tinged, bright music.
Also on the East Stage, Whitehorse duo Soda Pony added the alternative indie rock portion of the fair. They played a loud, raucous set of edgier Beatles-tinged pop and rock music, making enough noise for twice as many people. But it was a good noise. The drummer also thumped out throbbing bass lines on a keyboard, which was impressive on its own.
They sang upbeat numbers about living in a small town and the highlight “Army Pete” about a mid-20 something who likes to hang out with teenagers.
The sun was pretty hot by 6 p.m., so I listened to a great workshop with Geoff Berner, Carolyn Mark and Kris Demeanor from afar. Berner cracked jokes and sang his politically charged accordion-powered songs, Mark played quirky folk and Demeanor added the rock edge, also supplying hot guitar solos.
Vancouver-based alternative folk singer Oh Susanna returned to the fair this year. She last played the fair for their 25th anniversary back in 2011.
She dedicated her first song to the punk rockers in the crowd as surprisingly there were plenty of people sporting shirts with Slayer, SNFU and Dreadnoughts logos. She told a story about growing up in the ’80s and packing more people then allowed into a beat up old car to go to a Dead Kennedys show and getting pulled over by the police and deciding it wasn’t worth it to get the car out of impound.
She played an entertaining set of alt country and folk music.
Quirky, Kitchener ragtime/old school country trio the Vaudevillian aka Jitterbug James on vocals, kazoo and vocals, his new bride, sassy washboard player/vocalist Norah Spades and upright bass ace Piedmont Johnson made an auspicious and long Alberta debut at the fair and took up most of the evening at 9:30.
But they played an entertaining set of oldtime country music with plenty of drinking songs, innuendo, sassy humour and lot of washboard. They cracked jokes and Spades asked the crowd of they wanted to hear another love song, sad song, drinking song or religious song, but for the most part played the drinking and loving songs. Spades played a mean set of spoons on an old Riley Puckett song “Blue Ridge Mountain Blues.”
They looked like they were ready to play all night, but made way around 11 for the Circus act Insomniacs who did some impressive fire-spinning and fire-eating demonstrations.
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
Honker’s Pub — no jam due to long weekend
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 Lethbridge performers playing on a stage made from a 90-year-old sheepherder’s shack. South end of Research Center Road
Gate: 5 p.m.; show starts at 6 p.m. Tickets: $25 advance at eventbrite.ca, $35 at the gate (cash only)
Lineup this year includes:
Leeroy Stagger and the Rebeltone Sound
John Wort Hannam
Dave McCann and the Firehearts
Taylor Ackerman’s Global Acid Reset
Slice — Broken Yolks Them Suits, Spit of the Sin
Honker’s Pub — no jam due to long weekend
Owl Acoustic Lounge — VandenDool, Max Hopkins, Jon Martin
The Owl Acoustic Lounge — open mic
Onion — open mic
Smokehouse — open mic
Owl Acoustic Lounge — Chief Mountain and Paint and Sip 7-9 p.m. $44
Beaches — open mic With Devin Gergel
Slice — open mic
Average Joe’s — Dueling pianos with Cal Toth
Nicolas Sheran Park – Family Fun Festival 3-8 p.m.
Honker’s Pub — open mic
Galt Gardens — Applefest
Honker’s Pub — open mic
Casa — August ukulele jam 2-3 p.m.