Out with the old, in with the new.
It’s been a busy year in Lethbridge, but things are looking to be even busier in the new year with concerts already announced by country star Paul Brandt plus High Valley and guests at the Enmax Centre, Jan. 28; the Trews coming up Feb. 5 at Average Joe’s; Dan Mangan at the Geomatic Attic Feb. 10; and John Wort Hannam starting the new year for the Lethbridge Folk Club at the Lethbridge College Cave, Jan. 12.
There are a couple of bigger concerts already scheduled for later this year. Classic metal band Judas Priest roar into the Enmax Centre with Uriah Heap June 10. And also on June 10, classic rock trio the Stampeders play the Yates Centre.
This week is a little slower though with Chief Mountain playing the Slice, Friday, Jan. 4 with jam band Rainbow Patrol and Face Cut. Admission is $10.
Hippodrome return to the Slice Jan. 5 to celebrate Pardip Athwal’s birthday. There is a $10 cover charge. There will also be new art by Jason Trotter on display.
And start off the new year with loads of laughs.
Yuk Yuks comedy returns to Average Joe’s Friday, Jan. 4 with Sean Lacomber, opening act Bobby Warrener and host Randy Webb. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 day of the show.
Good Times (317 3 St. S.) has their official grand opening with a great slate of touring comedians including Cory Mack, MIke “Pickle” Dambra, Charles Andrew, Adam Ruby Payne, Renee Manners, Alex Biron and Shawn Gramiak. They will be performing four showcases at 5, 7, 9 and 11 p.m. The 7 p.m. showcase is already sold out. Good Times will feature live comedy every Saturday night. Tickets for each show are $10.
Year in Review
It seems like Lethbridge spent a lot of the year covered in either snow, which didn’t leave until April, or smoke, which dominated the summer, or surrounded by howling wind, but it was still an exceptional year for live music in the city. On a sad note, CKXU’s Love and Records festival took a break from Galt Gardens this year due to volunteer burnout and the staff being focused on getting the new 2,900-watt transmitter operational, which happened at the beginning of December. University of Lethbridge-based radio station CKXU 88.3 F.M.’s new transmitter was a major highlight for those people looking for music you can’t hear anywhere else.
This year, lots of excellent live music came to the Slice, Owl Acoustic Lounge, Average Joe’s and the Smokehouse, to name a few. There were lots of afternoon shows this year including the LGRC family jam at the Owl who also hosted The Folk Road Show for a matinee during the summer and other assorted afternoon shows. The Smokehouse also started a matinee series featuring folk and roots music.
Blueprint Records also closed after 12 years of supporting the local scene. Before handing the torch over to new owners Street Legal Records, they held a big farewell bash at the Slice June 1 featuring lots of local acts, including Biloxi Parish, Sparkle Blood, Open Channels and Mombod. The next night Street Legal held a grand opening bash featuring rap and hip hop.
The Geomatic Attic had an excellent season full of blues with shows from Steve Dawson, Dawson playing with Kat Danser as well as Birds of Chicago and Joey Landreth, Nov. 25, who was also a hit opening for the Sheepdogs at Whoop-Up Days. MonkeyJunk returned to the Geomatic Attic to play on May 24. They had an excellent run of shows in May, featuring a beautiful show of folk with Fionn and Royal Wood, May. 22. Earlier in the year, they had the White Buffalo, March 6. He is best known for writing several songs for the TV show “Sons of Anarchy,” and Tri-Continental brought their cross-cultural music right before that.
Honker’s Pub celebrated 21 years with a lot of live music on March 17.
The Enmax Centre had a lot of big shows this year including Shinedown, Johnny Reid and a lot more but I only made it to George Thorogood and the Destroyers, who rocked the joint May 5.
There were also several alternative rock shows this year downstairs in the old Firehall hosted by the Terrific Kids Collective, who held shows for Halloween and other shows throughout the year.
As always there are new bands forming and playing, it seems every day. Some of the highlights this year were up and comers Hoverkraft, Gabe Thaine in his many incarnations like the Crooked Creek Warblers or solo, Silkstones and Biloxi Parish.
New albums came from a variety of local bands and musicians including J Blissette, Body Lens, Gabe Thaine’s “Alone in This World,” In Cahoots, Cope, MTBC, and Shaela Miller, who had a great year participating in the project Wild. She released her new CD “Bad Ideas.” Paul Kype also released a new CD with Chilliwack drummer Jerry Adolphe called “Blues For Rosie.” Other new local CDs came from The Utilities, Mind Merge with Craig Baceda and Chris Snelgrove, and John Wort Hannam’s “Acres of Elbow Room.” Jesse and the Dandelions, who is based out of Edmonton, but spent his formative playing years here also released a new CD “Give Up the Gold.” Roots rock band Biloxi Parish are becoming one of Lethbridge’s more popular bands. Their shows are invariably packed as was their CD release party at the Owl Sept. 22.
A couple new bands debuted at a packed Kerala Flood Fundraiser at the Slice, Nov. 23 including ’50s doo-wop band Frankie and the Bridge Mix and a new latin band called Latin Rev, which featured many of the same musicians as Frankie and the Bridge Mix. Greg Gomola was one of several old friends who returned home to play. He closed off the Kerala fundraiser with his band Zojo Black.
Several other old friends returned to Lethbridge this year. Taylor Ackerman returned from Halifax and started playing a lot of local shows with his band Global Acid Reset. Darryl Düus returned to play several shows throughout the year. The Necessities also reunited again at the Owl. But we said goodbye to a couple local favourites like Megan Brown, who plays with several local bands and played a farewell show before touring the world again.
Lethbridge has a special place in the heart for a lot of touring musicians, so lots of them returned, enthused to play again. One Bad Son played twice — with Shinedown at the Enmax Centre and brought their holiday show to Average Joe’s in December, and Hamilton folk-rock trio Elliott Brood, love to say how Lethbridge was the first city they played out of their hometown, so they returned to the Slice with much aplomb for a soldout crowd Sept 25.
Fernie stoke-folk band Shred Kelly returned to Lethbridge to play a packed Tuesday at the Owl Acoustic Lounge, Feb. 20.
Vancouver progressive rock band Bend Sinister love playing Lethbridge, so they play here at least once a year including, Sept. 19 at the Owl. And Vancouver duo the Pack A.D. hadn’t played here for four years but included Lethbridge on their farewell tour Sept 4.
Boots and the Hoots brought their special brand of country and roots music to Lethbridge for several shows including hosting the Windy City Opry, Jan. 10 and Sept.12. On the other hand, Toronto’s Weaves made a big impression at Love and Records last year, but didn’t find a crowd upon their return to the Geomatic Attic May 8.
Petunia and the Vipers played Lethbridge several times in various incarnations, including a Sunday show at the Slice, July 29, as well as on St. Patrick’s Day. Lots of great roots and rockabilly including Peter and the Wolves and Cousin Harley playing the Geomatic Attic season.
Calgary songwriter Tara Warburton found an audience in Lethbridge after winning the South Country Fair songwriting competition. She ended up playing here a couple of times. So did Winnipeg country musician Sean Burns, who combined weekend gigs at Casino Lethbridge with off-day gigs at the Slice or Owl.
There was room for big-name country artists in smaller venues as well. Gord Bamford played Lethbridge twice, Feb. 23 at Bully’s and returned to Average Joe’s on Nov. 6 with Jo Jo Mason at both shows and with Jade Eagleson in November.
George Canyon also celebrated Canada by bringing his Made in Canada tour to Average Joe’s Nov. 16. Up-and-comers the James Barker Band braved a blizzard to play a soldout Average Joe’s Feb. 3.
Brett Kissel, who usually plays Average Joe’s, made it to the Enmax Centre stage Nov. 19.
There were several unusual and hilarious shows this year with Shirley Gnome making her Lethbridge debut with beautifully dirty folk songs about sex at The Owl Acoustic lounge, Aug. 21 with Carolyn Mark and Kris Demeanor.
And the always hilarious B.A. Johnston, returned to the Owl Acoustic Lounge, June 19. Geoff Berner always puts on entertaining shows. He returned to the Owl Acoustic Lounge, March 29 in support of his new CD.
He has a song called “Never Play Cards for Money with Corby Lund,” so it was a pleasant surprise when Lund himself showed up to sing with Berner. Berner had his work cut out for him as opening act Richard Inman won over legions of fans. Inman played Lethbridge a lot, beginning Jan. 6 at the Owl Acoustic Lounge, winning over new fans with his big baritone voice and heartfelt songs and stories.
The Slice had the strangest show of the year with Tai Taitum’s WTF variety show last week, Dec. 20, featuring a variety of antics including Harley Page, who used a staple gun on her chest and abdomen and “the world’s fattest contortionist” with Fatt Matt.
There was plenty of outdoor festival action this year. Casa celebrated five years with a big outdoor picnic May 12 featuring lots of live music including Taylor Ackerman, Dave McCann, Bryan Bradfield and Floyd Sillito.
Lethbridge Jazz and Blues Festival featuring a lot of great acts including Holly Cole and Mallory Chipman, but I only caught Saskatoon-based bluesman B.C. Read June 15 at the Slice and some of the opening concert at Galt Gardens, which ended up being rained on during a hot set from Paul Kype and Texas Flood, June 9. The deluge departed in time for a solid set from Hippodrome.
I only caught a day of South Country Fair this past year, but it was a really good day with Shaela Miller, Rev. Sekou, Ndidi Onkukwulu and the always entertaining Carolyn Mark.
The Rotary Dragon Boat Festival had a mostly local lineup , but I missed most of that except Alyssa McQuaid and Karen Romanchuk.
As usual, Whoop-Up Days featured a whole lot of classic rock and country music. I missed the Road Hammers, but caught Prism and was impressed by the Sheepdogs performing with Joey Landreth, Aug. 21. Harlequin played Whoop-Up days as well. As a bonus, they stopped by Average Joe’s after their set to jam with local favourites the Chevelles, who held court at Average Joe’s every month, usually for a fundraiser. The Road Hammers, Helix and Lee Aaron also played Whoop-Up Days, but I missed them.
The second annual Wide Skies Music Festival was rained out in July 31, but not before the Weber Brothers, Tom Phillips and blues singer Shakura S’Aida impressed a good-sized crowd. Unfortunately Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer got rained out, but they should be back next year. Phillips also had his set cut short by rain, but he was also scheduled to play an afterparty at the Slice while the Weber Brothers played an afterparty at the Owl. Shovels and Rope were a highlight in Southminster United Church for Wide Skies July 30 , even more so as they shared the stage with little Miss Higgins, performing as a duo. I missed the return of Frazey Ford at Southminster, who closed off Wide Skies.
Some of the best Lethbridge musicians played Bigwood 10, Aug. 3. I caught great sets by Leeroy Stagger featuring Elvis Costello and the Attractions drummer Pete Thomas, plus Dave McCann and the Firehearts, Sheala Miller, the Dirti Speshuls and Hoverkraft.
The Lethbridge Electronic Music Festival took over Galt Gardens, Aug. 18 with a plethora of DJS and ear bleeding electronic music.
The U of L’s annual Freshfest had a more rock and pop angle this year featuring host The Deaner, Hollerado, Wintersleep, Static Shift plus local bands the Silkstones, Biloxi Parish and more. Flipfest, Oct. 24, featured female, femme positive and queer acts including Mombod, who played a lot this year and formed for the very first Flipfest, which is taking a break next year. Another highlight was the return of Vancouver‘s Bocephus King, who recruited local belly dancers for the best and weirdest folk show at the Slice, Nov. 28.
The ’90s returned to Average Joe’s this year. Dallas Smith shed his country star skin to reunite with his ’90s grunge rock band Default at Average Joes, Oct. 28. And, speaking of the ’90s and ’00s, Eve 6 and Blind Melon returned to the stage to play Average Joe’s June 26.
The ’80s also returned to Average Joe’s with Kick Axe and the Killer Dwarves performing June 14.
Lots of excellent country music Matt Patershuk and Belle Plaine and lots of mainstream country like George Canyon at Average Joes, Nov. 16. And Gord Bamford with Jo Jo Mason, Nov. 6. Brett Kissel, who used to play Average Joe’s a lot, hit the Enmax stage, Nov. 29.
Trevor Panczak was nominated for several ACMA awards
New West tried something different with an excellent production of “The Million Dollar Quartet,” a musical based on the music of Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins.
The Glorious Sons, who were a hit at Whoop-Up Days last year, made it to the Enmax Centre stage with Beaches Nov. 13.
The best poorly attended blues show was Kansas City blues belter Amanda Fish at the Slice, Aug. 9. Doc Maclean returned to Lethbridge to play the Lethbridge Folk Club with South African guitarist Albert Frost Nov. 10.
The Slice also had the best country show nobody saw with Johnson Crook July 13.
There were lots of great harmonies at the Owl with shows by Big Little Lions and F&M playing the Owl Acoustic Lounge twice, Feb. 10 and in Nov. 3 Major Love, who played the Slice on Feb. 16 and the Owl Acoustic lounge later in the year, Oct. 19
Calgary rockabilly trio Peter and the Wolves played a lot of excellent shows beginning at the Lethbridge Folk Club Cave at Lethbridge College, Jan. 13 as well as at at the Casino Lethbridge, the Owl Acoustic Lounge and the Slice for the second annual Windy City Opry celebration with Eve Hell. Peter and the Wolves also played the Windy City Opry on March 14 and at their second anniversary celebration, Dec. 12.
October was all about blues music with visits from Colorado’s Johnny O band on Oct. 20 and Charlie Jacobson at the Slice,Oct. 23. And Winnipeg’s Perpetrators packed the Slice Oct. 13. Gordie Tentrees and The D Rangers’ Jaxon Haldane blended blues and folk at the Slice Oct. 10. Calgary blues and country musician Erin Ross returned to the Slice Aug. 24.
Canadian legend Murray McLauchlan played an intimate show at the Yates Oct. 25.
Australia’s Daniel Champagne played percussive guitar heroics at the Slice on Oct. 6. Mayhemingways played several excellent roots and folk shows at the Owl, July 10 and at the Slice. There was a lot of excellent folk and folk rock. Rotary Park played several times including at the Lethbridge Folk Club Oct. 13.
There was also lots of jazz with the Lethbridge Jazz Festival and other outstanding jazz shows from The Dirty Catfish Brass Band. Keyboardist TJ Waltho tackled the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack live Dec. 14 at the Owl Acoustic Lounge with help from Brad Brouwer and Paul Holden.
Lots of Edmonton musicians playing here throughout the year including one of my favourites Kimberley MacGregor who played here several times. Ann Vriend also returned to sing sultry jazz tinged pop and R and B at the Owl, June 22.
The Smokehouse became the place to go for punk shows. New band the Hockey Moms opened for a couple of them.
Psychobilly giants the Gutter Demons played there twice, Nov. 18 and earlier in the year. Edmonton’s Devil’s Sons were also on that bill. The Smokehouse hosted female powered punk with the Daisy Stranglers and The S—t Talkers, Aug. 29. Citizen Rage rocked the Smokehouse as well July 13.
There were other excellent punk shows, too. Calgary’s River Jacks and Ottawa’s Jon Creeden and the Flying Hellfish (Aka most of the River Jacks) played a Thanksgiving show at the Owl Oct. 5. Calgary geek-punk band the Galacticas played a fun show full of songs about Star Wars and technology at the Slice June 9.
The Real McKenzies made their annual Lethbridge visit March 15, this time to Bully’s in the middle of a blizzard. I was looking forward to seeing opening act the Raygun Cowboys, but missed them.
As usual, there were a lot of multi-band fundraisers from Maggie Hall including one for the Humboldt Broncos bus crash victims May, 12 at the Smokehouse’s new location on the north side as well as her popular Alzheimer Society fundraiser April 28 at Legends and another for her sister, whose family lost their home in a fire in Toronto later in the year.
A few other highlights were Ken Whiteley at Lethbridge Folk Club, April 14 at the Cave. And for something different, loud blues rock with Johnny 2 Fingers and the Deformities April 20 with Supervoid was another highlight..
November featured best alternative/punk show with Seas at the Owl Acoustic Lounge.
So that was 2018. Here’s to a great 2019. May the best thing that happened to you last year, be the worst thing that happens to you in the next.
New West Theatre always provides lots of laughs and good times with their December greatest hits show and their latest Hit Parade is no exception.
As expected, there is lots of “singing and talking” and quite a bit of dancing to some audience favourites from the past years.
New West veteran Grahame Renyk returned to direct “Hit Parade,” and his wit was apparent in some of the beloved comedy bits and characters the troupe brought back. Erica Hunt and Scott Carpenter’s Scottish film critics made fun of that as they reviewed some of this year’s movies about music like “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “A Star is Born.” Another bit I enjoyed was the cast’s take on the RCMP Musical Ride, with the cast dressed in red Mountie serge, re-enacting some of the moves the musical ride performs on horses.
“Seven Little Girls” was a ’50s pop highlight with all the cast members dressed as girls in love with Rylan Kunkel’s “brother, Fred” played by Greg Paskuski.
Kunkel was a highlight, performing saxophone with the band for several numbers, and dressing as a full flamboyant Elton John at his finest to perform “Crocodile Rock” on the piano.
Another musical highlight was “Dust In The Wind” which allowed Paskuski and co-musical director Scott Mezei to trade acoustic licks on the guitar while Kyle Gruninger sang. Kathy Zaborsky, the other musical director, showed she is just as talented as she is a beautiful singer, as she showed on the grand piano.
It was great to see Jessica Ens return to the New West Stage after four years. She shone in a beautiful version of “Shallow” from “A Star is Born.” Rylan Kunkel sang the Bradley Cooper parts. It is also a lot of fun to see Ashley Thomson back for another show
Erica Hunt’s voice was overpowering in a lot of her numbers. As usual, she was hilarious in her many comedy bits and combined both in a few numbers like an exceptional and sexy version of “You Can Leave Your Hat On,” with Scott Carpenter.
The excitement of live theatre is that anything can happen and usually does and seeing how the cast copes with it when it does. So when Kyle Gruninger split his pants in a comedy sketch about “Google Pants,” both he and Hunt barely managed to to keep it together, but managed to finish the sketch. The crowd applauded in appreciation anyway.
The second set was solid, beginning with the cast performing “Radar Love” and ending with “Gimmie Good Loving,”
“Hit Parade” continues at the Yates Centre until Jan. 5.
Hoverkraft at the Owl
Local band HoverKraft are starting to make some waves this year. They played the Owl Acoustic Lounge Friday, Dec. 21, which was the first time I actually got to hear them,
Other than dealing with a few technical issues, they played an excellent show which included the Silkstones opening up, so they already had a pretty decent-sized crowd.
HoverKraft played upbeat female-fronted pop rock music along the lines of Avril Lavigne.
They played a tight set and had a solid groove.
Wednesday, January 2
Beaches — open mic
Slice — open mic
The Zoo — Thursday open mic
Slice — Chief Mountain, Face Cut Rainbow Patrol $10 9 p.m.
Average Joe’s — Yuk Yuk’s Comedy with Sean Lacomber
Honker’s Pub — open mic
Slice — Hippodrome $10
Honker’s Pub — afternoon open mic
The Owl Acoustic Lounge — open mic
Onion — open mic
Beaches — open mic
Slice — open mic
The Zoo — Thursday open mic
Owl Acoustic Lounge — Fawns album release with New Weather Machine and Bailey Kate
Casa — Lethbridge Folk Club Open mic
Slice — Keith Catfish Woodrow
Lethbridge College Cave — Lethbridge Folk Club John Wort Hannam
Slice — Molly the Boy Cat with Biloxi parish and Frege’s Puzzle
Honker’s Pub — afternoon open mic
The Owl Acoustic Lounge — open mic
Onion — open mic