The Wide Skies Music Festival was set to dominate the first part of the week with a variety of talent performing Tuesday, July 30 and Wednesday, July 31. If you’re reading a hot-off-the-press copy of the Sun Times/Shopper, the Wednesday portion of the festival includes a ticketed outdoor event at Casa beginning at 7 p.m. with Sofia Viola and MonkeyJunk’s Steve Marriner and Harry Manx playing as their new duo Mainline. Tickets are $37.50.
CKXU Summer sessions returns to Theoretically Brewing with pop band Phouka, Morii and Willy Big Bull playing at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 2.
The Owl Acoustic Lounge a has a big rock show with John Lost and the Cause, I Am The Mountain and Max Hopkins, also Aug. 2.
The Owl Acoustic Lounge features local bands The Cayley plus 21st Avenue and Jacob Hutchison Aug. 3.
Across from that enjoy nice weather with the Caribbean festival in Galt Gardens, all day long, with exotic food, live music and dance and more throughout the day beginning at 11 a.m.
James Oldenburg has a busy weekend. He is playing with Paul Holden at Streatside Eatery at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 3. He is also playing solo shows at the Watertower Grill at 8 p.m., Aug. 2 and 3.
There is live comedy as well. As it’s the end of the month the Owl Acoustic lounge has their monthly comedy open mic, Wednesday, July 31. There is always comedy at Good Times. This week Solly KP will be performing musical comedy and Connor Christmas at Good Times, Saturday, Aug. 3.
As always Good Times has an amateur comedy night, Thursday.
Shakespeare in the Park as a busy week as well, performing “Macbeth” in Galt gardens, Wednesday, July 31, plus Thursday, Aug. 1 and Friday, Aug. 2. The show begins at 7 p.m. each night, Admission is by donation.
Danny Michel’s life is full of adventures. Whether recording on an ice breaker in the Arctic Ocean with astronaut Chris Hadfield or singing at chimpanzee expert Jane Goodall’s birthday party, or simply being in the news speaking about musicians’ rights
“I’m looking at a white board wondering what to do next,” said Michel from his Waterloo home, taking a quick breather from a cornucopia of summer music festivals.
He recorded his most recent EP “White and Gold” in his brand new home studio. Before that, he recorded “Khlebnikov” on the ice breaker with Hadfield.
“ I’ve noticed a pattern. I tend to alternate between having a great adventure and recording at home. I recorded the last CD at home, so maybe the next one will be an adventure, but I haven‘t decided what to do, ” he said.
“I played all the instruments on this CD, so it’s like going back to how I started,” he said.
He was scheduled to return to Lethbridge for the Wide Skies Music Festival on Tuesday, July 30, in the middle of appearances at some of Canada’s biggest folk festivals including the Calgary Folk Festival and Winnipeg Folk festival. Though he still plays smaller shows in bars and clubs.
“It feels great to get out of a club and out into the sun at a festival,” he said.
“And I always meet old friends at festivals. Festivals are like summer camp for musicians,” he chuckled.
He has been touring a lot, since releasing his latest EP.
“But I’m also taking some time off this summer,” he said.
Playing for Jane Goodall’s birthday party was a highlight of a career full of them. One of his most popular songs, “Feather, Fur and Fin,” might have seemed like an ideal song to play for her, but she had a specific request.
“She heard me play somewhere and asked me to play her birthday party. She wanted to hear a newer song ‘Nobody Rules You,’ from the new EP and then I sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to her, so it wasn’t really a gig,” he observed, adding he was very impressed by her.
“She’s got a fierce energy. She’s 85 and does 300 speaking engagements a year and to think I complain about touring,” Michel mused.
Michel has also been in the news for a rant he wrote on Facebook, about how much it costs a musician to make a living and the challenges faced due to declining CD sales and increased streaming.
He wrote the post last November and it is still gathering steam.
“It’s still an important issue. The Toronto Star has a big piece on it this week,” he said.
“It’s something all artists face. Our backs are up against the wall. But it had to be said,” he said, adding there hasn’t been a lot of fallout from it, though he has received a lot of support.
Montreal band Born Broken are born broken.
They make their first visit to Lethbridge when they play the Smokehouse Aug. 8 with Calgary’s Stab. Twist. Pull.
After dealing with a lot of personnel turnover, they will be playing as a trio, including longtime bassist Pepe, lead guitarist Mike Decker and new drummer Carlos Ojeda.
“We’re usually a five-piece. I grew up listening to bands like RATT and Dokken where that was the formula — you had a singer, a drummer, a bassist and one guitarist. So I’m used to playing as one guitarist,” said founding member Mike Decker, who has been playing in metal bands since 1991.
“I grew up listening to bands like Judas Priest, Krokus and Budgie,” he said, adding he has always been interested in playing heavy music, though the definition of heavy music has changed.
“When I was five, I discovered Supertramp and I thought they were heavy, though they really aren’t but they are when you’re five,” he recalled.
They are making their first foray out west in support of their latest CD “The Years of Harsh Truths and Lies.”
They formed in 2008.
He said it has been frustrating going through multiple band members.
“A lot of people don’t understand there is work involved,” he said.
They play a fair amount, just not around their home base.
“We don’t like to play 15 to 20 times around Montreal because we don’t want to oversaturate,” Decker said, adding the new CD has been a long time coming as the band released their debut eight years ago.
He noted band turmoil influenced the darkness of the lyrics and intensity of the music.
Born Broken are influenced by living in Montreal.
“But I also keep an eye on to world around and see everything that’s happening around me. Even driving in Montreal is crazy. The roads are in horrible condition and the drivers don’t ay attention to pedestrians,” he observed.
“Even the weather goes from -40 in the winter to +40 in the summer. And there is always something happening in politics. Though this isn’t a political-based CD,” he said.
“We’re hard to put your finger on to describe us,” he added, noting shows are an intense.
“Response to the the CD has been great. Live, we don’t talk very much during the set, we don’t ask how everyone is doing. Though we like meeting everybody after the set,” he said.
He said they haven”t played Lethbridge before.
“Though one of our singers, Michael Hewlett, is from Lethbridge originally. He had moved to Montreal,” he said, adding that didn’t end up working.
“Forming a band is like doing a puzzle, you have to make all the right pieces fit,” he said.
“There’s a lot of work. You have to think about merch, CDs, press. There’s a lot of things that need doing and some people can’t do the work. It’s fun, but it is also a business.”
Driving to the shows and rehearsing has to be done.
“The tour is two weeks long. We’ve been rehearsing for three months for this tour and it feels like three years. So we’re already pretty primed for it,” he said.
Life on the Whoop-Up Trail
If you are looking for something unique to do on a Wednesday night, Fort Whoop-Up has a unique program running until the end of August.
Wednesday nights are radio nights and therefore pretty much sacred, so I had to cut short my visit to Fort Whoop-Up’s “Life on the Whoop-Up Trail.”
Local actor/writer Andrew Legg has designed a unique dinner theatre exploring the stories of some of the wild characters thriving in Fort Whoop-Up circa 1871 at an interesting cusp in southern Alberta history, where good money could be made trading whiskey and supplies for buffalo robes with local Blackfoot tribes, but just as the North West Mounted Police have arrived to try to stop the whiskey trade.
The program, which runs 6-9 p.m., lets you step back in time and meet some of these characters. It begins with a tour of all of the rooms of the newly renovated Fort Whoop-Up, a meal of stew and chili and one free drink.
They have buffalo robes on hand so you can pretend to sell them to the “trader” working in the fort and listen to his stories about what is it like to live in an isolated fort, in the dead of winter when all of the trading happened, three weeks from anywhere, with nothing to do except wait for wagons full of supplies to arrive to load and unload.
I was only able to stay for the tour and the meal, and missed performances from New West Theatre actors DJ Gellatly, Ali Price and Nick Bohl.
Tickets are $80.
There have been quite a few metal shows happening in Lethbridge and I’ve missed most of them. But I did stop by the Slice Wednesday, July 24 for Vancouver death metal band Para-Nesia.
I was ruing not bringing my ear plugs, but happily, the loud, detuned five-piece kept the volume down to bearable levels so I was able not not only appreciate lots of big, detuned guitar riffs and the bassist bouncing all over the stage, his air flying all over as his shook his head.
I also appreciated hearing some solid twin guitar leads and riffs reminiscent of those that Judas Priest and Iron Maiden do so well.
The vocals were pure death metal, cookie monster growls, punctuated by the odd Panteraesque yell. So of course, I had no idea what the lyrics were.
The band played a very tight set, emphasized by those excellent twin guitar leads. And they had oodles of energy, while still keeping things musical.
I missed a loud set by Rising Sun and didn’t stick around for Omniarch.
Biloxi Parish at the Owl
Biloxi Parish are one of Lethbridge’s most intense and enjoyable live bands. They can pack a room, even on a Wednesday night, as they did, July 24 at the Owl Acoustic Lounge.
They play quite a bit, but not always with the full band. I only caught the end of a full band set, which had the crowd howling and cheering in front of the stage.
As usual, they had heaps of energy with the band completely locked in together while thrashing around on stage.
Coutts Arts Centre
The Lethbridge Shakespeare Performance Society took their summer production of “Macbeth” on the road to the Coutts Arts Centre outside of Nanton, Sunday, July 21.
In addition to Shakespeare, it also allowed a few of the members of the troupe to show off their lovely singing voices.
Stage manager Stephanie Savage belted out a few powerful soul, R and B and pop numbers, taking turns singing with Chris (Lady Macbeth) Peterson, who had a smiling crowd singing along with a few Disney classics like the apt “I Just Can‘t Wait to Be King,” from “The Lion King.” A few of the other cast members added dance and backup vocals.
While the the cast got into costume and character, Dale Ketcheson played beautiful classical guitar instrumentals including some Bach, a little bit of Leyenda and an excellent version of “Classical Gas.”
It always seems that South Country Fair is plagued by unpleasant weather on the first day. It is also a given that the attendees don’t seem to mind at all.
I was able to get to Fort Macleod Fish and Games Park Friday, July 19 in good time due to “Macbeth” being cancelled due to weather.
While parking, I heard Ali Stuart belting out “Like It That Way,” her second-place entry in the South Country Fair songwriting contest.
I was just in time for a gripping set from Leeroy Stagger and his hot band including Ryland Moranz, keyboardist Michael Ayotte, long time bassist Tyson Maiko and drummer Kyle Harmon.
The started off slow, with some newer songs but including favourites like “I Want It All.”
They explored their pop side more on a couple new songs like “Strange Attractor,” the single from their next CD. They also showed their love for punk music on “Joe Strummer and Joey Ramone.”
Tweeners performed in between acts. One of them was Mayor Kris Demeanor and Shaela Miller performing a hilarious duet on Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn’s ‘You’re the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly.”
I was really looking forward to Blue Moon Marquee as it has been a while since I had seen them.
Guitarist/vocalist AW Cardinal and bassist/drummer/singer Jasmine Collette had added a keyboardist since I last saw them, which allowed them to further explore the worlds of jazz/shuffle and gritty traditional blues.
They played a lot of new music from their brand new record “ Bare Knuckles and Brawn.”
A highlight was a song about rats, which isn’t on the new CD.
They played sweltering blues warming up a chilly and rainy night. As always, Cardinal growled out a gripping version of blues classic “St. James Infirmary.” While they were playing, aerial artists performed a variety of tricks hanging from a hoop, placed next to the stage.
Peter and the Wolves are always a lot of fun. Now they have expanded their lineup to include three backup singers, one of whom plays saxophone and another playing frontman Peter Cormier’s guitar, they are able to further explore vintage rock and roll sounds and for Cormier to focus on piano.
Cormier also played some rapid fire guitar solos, and playing it behind his head.
They were also in the mood to try out new material, including highlight “Smoking in the Kitchen,” though favourites like “Hey Hey Veronica” and “Jailbird Josephine” were still highlights.
The rain started to fall as the last act of the night, Brooklyn, New York-based Revel in Dimes closed off the night. They looked like they stepped right out of the ’70s with their bassist/harp player sporting a massive afro. The lead singer shimmied and shook as she belted out soul and R and B music, which reminded me of Grace Potter.
They played a tight and funk-fuelled set of high-energy music that was off the hook.
I cut Saturday at South Country Fair in the Fort Macleod Fish and Games Park short July 20 because of weather. Because, as much as i love live music, I’m not willing to wade through mud and dodge rain to hear it, let alone take pictures in it.
Being on duty in the CKXU booth stationed in front of the south stage, I missed all of the awesome music happening on the east stage including Tara Warburton and Rancho Deluxe plus Edmonton’s Bad Buddy.
Luckily, Bad Buddy was part of “There’s a Party Going on,” which was the workshop of the weekend, sharing the stage with Jack Garton and Demon Squadron, who also had an evening set on the South stage, and Revel in Dimes, who wound up Friday night.
While most workshops have each participant taking turns playing a song each, for this one, each band played three songs in a row with everyone playing along, which lead to a really special experience as the rain started pelting down.
They played a selection of originals and jammed on a couple of blues classics. It was going so well that Revel in Dimes lead singer Kia Warren quipped, “This is now our band. We’re taking them all on the road with us.”
Jack Garton was especially impressive and came flying out of the gate with the upbeat “Too Much Jesus, Not Enough Whiskey,” during which he simultaneously played accordion and trumpet as well as singing.
They carried on with a massive jam on blues classic “Shake, Rattle and Roll,” and “Hip Shake.”
Bad Buddy, which featured solo artist Alex Vissia on bass, played a quick set of loud, profanity-laced fun, including a cover of the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter,” which they joked they wrote.
Vissia switched from bass to guitar to sing a more ’50s doo woo wop-style number.
Revel in Dimes played a more soulful bluesy set with a couple of really catchy numbers including “You’ve Got to Go,” and “K-I-S-S-I-N-G I Want to be With You,” before leading everyone in a jam on blues classic “Rolling and Tumbling.”
Before that, though, there was a really interesting and informative performance of traditional Blackfoot dance and stories plus hoop dancing.
After that Toronto songwriter Abigail Lapell, took the stage, noting this was the last Canadian stop on her tour before she goes to the United States. She played a sedate set of solo guitar and heartfelt songs which referenced a little bit of blues, jazz and a lot of folk.
The rain really started to come down during Ryland Moranz’s set of upbeat, yet dark folk music.
Coincidently, or perhaps deliberately rain was a prominent theme of his lyrics. He joked “even in my happiest songs, at least one person dies.”
He’s always a pleasure to watch and hear as he is always so happy to be here as anywhere. He borrowed band mate Leeroy Stagger’s band to back his own music, and you can’t go wrong with that.
Southminster United Church Wide Skies Music Festival with Harry Manx, Steve Marriner, Sofia Viola
Owl Acoustic Lounge — Standup Comedy open mic
Beaches — Open mic
Slice — open mic
Good Times — amateur comedy
Theoretically Brewing — CKXU Summer sessions with Phouka morrii Willy Big Bull $10 8 p.m.
Owl Acoustic Lounge — Max Hopkins, I Am The Mountain, John Lost and the Cause
Honker’s Pub — open mic
Watertower — James Oldenburg 8 p.m.
Galt Gardens Caribbean carnival
Owl Acoustic Lounge — The Cayley
Honker’s Pub — open mic
Good Times — Solly KP musical comedy with Conner Christmas
Streetside Eatery — Paul Holden james Oldenburg 5:30 p.m.
Watertower — James Oldenburg 8 p.m.
Owl Acoustic Lounge — open mic
Smokehouse — Randy and Bubbas unfiltered comedy open mic
Beaches — open mic
The Slice — Chersea, Royal Oaks, Fawns
Smokehouse — Born Broken, Stab Twist Pull
Slice — open mic
Good Times — Amateur night
Owl Acoustic Lounge — Good night Sunrise
Slice Jesse Stewart with Mike Desj, Spit of the Sin
Honker‘s Pub — open mic
Honker’s Pub — outdoor festival noon-midnight with the Southern Comforts, Driving While Blind, Shallow Lilac, Adequate, Bridget and the management, Travelling Will Dories
Theoretically Brewing — Morii, Bad Bodies Doreen $10
Owl Acoustic Lounge — Face Cut Outpatient Second Narrows
Twin Butte store — Miss Quincy
Slice — A Slice of Blues jam with Keith Woodrow
Smokehouse — Bubba and Randy’s unfiltered open mic