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Popular South Country Fair performers hit city stage

Posted on November 12, 2014 by Lethbridge Sun Times

Several highlights of this year’s South Country Fair return to Lethbridge to play their own gigs this week.

The Slice, as usual, has some excellent shows planned, most of them familiar faces from the South Country Fair.

Blackberry Wood, who were a highlight on the east stage on Saturday afternoon of the 2014 South Country Fair, return to the Slice Nov. 14 to play their own unique take on circus-influenced jazz and folk. There is a $10 cover for the show.

If you love blues and folk music, Winnipeg-based folk/roots/blues trio the Crooked Brothers also return to Lethbridge to play the Slice, Nov. 15. They were also a highlight of this year’s Fair. There is a $10 cover for that show as well.

And, last, but not least, also out of Winnipeg, Little Miss Higgins and the Winnipeg Five, who basically stole the show on the South Country Fair south stage on Friday night, return to Lethbridge to play the Slice on Tuesday, Nov. 18. Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 at the door.

The Owl Acoustic Lounge has a lot of variety this week ranging from folk to reggae music.

Folk duo Pete Watson and Joel Bryant return to the Owl Acoustic Lounge, Nov. 14 and Sherwood Park based alternative rock band Nature Of play the Owl Acoustic Lounge, Nov. 15.

The Owl Acoustic Lounge will be sharing peace and love with Grande Prairie reggae band Tasman Jude on Nov. 12.

For something a little more mainstream, Duelling Pianos with Cal Toth returns to Average Joe’s on Nov. 14

And the Lethbridge Folk Club has their second show of their season with Calgary blues/folk musician Erin Ross and her trio performing at the Cave at Lethbridge College, Nov. 15 at 8 p.m.

There are some excellent early-week shows as well, particularly the return of Vancouver punks the Rebel Spell who come back to the Moose Hall with the Motherf—s and local punks the Scallywags. Doors open at 8 p.m. There is a $10 cover for the show.

For the complete opposite to that show, the Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra presents its second show of the season celebrating music of the silver screen. It is on Nov. 17 and begins at 8 p.m.

There is also a big metal show at the Moose Hall, Nov. 13 featuring Westfield, MA metal band Within the Ruins and Lancaster, PA metalcore band Texas in July plus Our Last Crusade and Lethbridge metalcore band Letters to the Ocean and Lethbridge punk band the Youngbloods. Tickets cost $15 in advance and $20 at the door. The all-ages gig begins at 6:30 p.m.

While the cold, northern Alberta city of Grande Prairie might be one of the last places you would expec       t to find a reggae band, Tasman Jude are happy to call it home.

“When we first started, people were like ‘what? a reggae band?’ But when they saw we were all about spreading joy and peace through music, people started getting on board,” said Tasman Jude frontman Caleb Hart.

Tasman Jude are all about bringing peace and love so they are excited to bring truckloads of that to the Owl Acoustic Lounge, Nov. 12 — one stop in the middle of a cross-Canada tour.

“It’s been fantastic,” said Hart from a taco place in Tofino, B.C.

“It’s taken us from Montreal to Tofino,” he said.

The band is touring in support of “Green,” the first of three colour-themed concept albums exploring different facets of reggae music.

“‘Green’ goes back to the roots. Peace and love — that’s what it’s all about,” he said.

“‘Gold’ is the island. It is more of that style of music and ‘Red’ will be explore the more aggressive side of reggae and ska music,” he said, adding only “Green” has been recorded and released.

“‘Red’ will explore what reggae is like in 2015,” he said.

“We want to expand people’s minds with it,” he continued.

There is no cover for the show, which begins at 9 p.m., Nov. 12.

Blackberry Wood tours a lot and often with different lineups as they will have when they return to the Slice, Nov. 14.

They were a hit at the South Country Fair this summer and will be bringing back the core of that lineup back to Lethbridge the monickered Shannon on stand up bass, Carlos on saxophone and new banjo player and accordion player Noosa who will be backing frontman/ guitarist Kris Wood for their concert of circus inspired madness.

“I’m touring and working in new members, the same as usual,” quipped Kris Wood.

“I tour a lot and some people aren’t able to tour,” he continued.

“So I consider them to be an investment,” he said.

“This time drums will be played by the contraption — a giant marching drum with electronics, a theramin and a bullhorn,” he said, adding they met the newest member of the band, Noosa, in Dawson City over the summer.

“We usually play a place called the Midnight Sun, but it was closed so the Pit Pub took the booking and Noosa was there.

“So after the show we went to a firepit party and we talking about how we wanted a banjo player. And Noosa said she played. She also plays accordion and both of them are really new instruments to her. She’s actually a really good piano player. So she started sending us YouTube videos of her playing our songs and even made the move down to Vancouver to play with us,” he said, adding she has been playing with them since the last half of summer.

Blackberry Wood have also been recording the followup to their most recent album “Strong Man vs Russian Bears.”

“This one has a couple songs influenced by old 1930s jazz,” he said, adding there are a lot of horns in the new music. He noted all of the songs have been thoroughly road tested and, due to their ever-changing lineup, have been arranged for the road so Carlos can play most of the horn lines on saxophone.

“The last one we wanted to capture the live show and I think we did a pretty good job of it. It was the sort of album you’d put on before you go out. On this one I want it to be the type of album that you put on when you’re driving or put on while you’re doing things around the house,” he said, adding he hopes to complete it by January or February.

There is a $10 cover for the Nov. 14 show at the Slice, which begins at 9 p.m.

While Vancouver-based punk band the Rebel Spell’s brand new album “Last Run” may have appear to have ominous undertones, it does anything but spell the end for the long-standing punk band who will continue to tour and record. They return to Lethbridge to play the Moose Hall on a Monday night, Nov. 17.

“When I wrote the the song ‘Last Run’ I was thinking of wolf culls in B.C. and Alberta, and had this beautiful image in my mind of wolves running from helicopters. Wolves have been scapegoated for the loss of caribou when it is actually due to deforestation and big projects like oilsands,” observed lead singer Todd Serious.

“And plus this is probably actually the last run for our bus. I’ve lived in that thing for five years.

“So it is definitely the last run for the bus but not for us,” Serious said, hiding out in Peterborough and getting ready to head to Oshawa — “Peterborough’s evil twin” — the next day.

They are enjoying what seems like an endless tour. Which brought them to Lethbridge in April for the first time in several years as well as all the way out to Halifax, and now on their way back.

“It’s really going well. We just had to play Halifax and we’re playing Montreal twice, which we don’t usually do, but Montreal has such a diverse little scene. And now we’re doing the good stuff like Toronto and Hamilton,” he summarized.

He is pleasantly surprised with how well “Last Run” is going over with fans.

It has The Rebel Spell’s usual blend of high-energy, cerebral, politically inspired punk drawing from the ’70s to the ’90s as well as some interesting departures, like his historical folk ballad “The Tsilhqot’in War” which features fiddle and piano in the introduction.

“I’ve always wanted to do a historical ballad. I grew up in Williams Lake where that took place and I always wanted to do a project with (Vancouver dark folk musician) Jeff Andrew, who is really interested in historical songs,” he said.

“So I’m glad I got to do that,” he said.

He noted “Ten Thousand Years” is about police brutality.

“As long as there has been history there has been police and people who have power over other people. So this is about trying to change that system,” he said.

He is pleased with audience response to the CD, which the band just released on Sept. 30. He said it took them a long time to record it.

“It was getting a little frustrating listening to it. But it was a surprise. Response has been fantastic, so I guess we got it right,” he said.

“We came through to play to fund this album. And Alex (Currie, concert organizer) called me and asked us to play again so we decided to come again on the way back,” he said.

“Before that we hadn’t played there for years because all of the people we knew there had moved away,” he said.

“But for people who haven’t seen us, we are influenced by a lot of ’70s, ’80s and ’90s punk. So expect to see cerebral, high-energy music,” he said. “And we hope to meet a lot of people we haven’t met before.”

The show also features the Motherf—s and Lethbridge punks the Scallywags. Doors open at 8 p.m. at the Moose hall. There is a $10 cover for the show.

Reviews

Ottawa folk/country musician Brock Zeman waited the whole night for a crowd that never came to the Slice, Nov. 5 which was part of the Slice’s ninth anniversary celebrations.

When he finally took the stage just before midnight, he and lead guitarist Blair Michael Hogan played an excellent show full of roots and blues music that was equal parts Tom Waits and Steve Earle.

Zeman sat in front of a set of bass pedals and a keyboard set on the floor next to him.

An immediate highlight was “Walking in the Dark,” and as there was barely anybody in the room to hear it, he took the opportunity to show his Steve Earle style alternative country side with a new song called “Subterranean Subconscious Blues.”

Another highlight was the upbeat and catchy “Sweat” which allowed Zeman to show off some substantial acoustic guitar playing chops. His lead guitarist played tasteful leads and showed substantial chops of his own.

After that there was an outstanding ode to bad hotel rooms about a hotel he stayed at in Moose Jaw.

He is looking forward to coming back to Lethbridge for the second time in eight months.

Toronto-based pop/country duo Autumn Hill and Ottawa pop/country singer Kira Isabella know how to play to their audience of excitable young women who want to go out to party and showed it in spades at Average Joe’s Nov. 4.

A good-sized audience crowded in front of the stage to listen to and scream and sing along with Calgary born siren Tareya Green and Torontonian Mike Robins. Green glittered and grinned in tight leather pants and a shining silver shirt as the audience screamed and Robins asked if everyone was having a good time, over and over again. She hit the crowd’s resonant frequency as she told them she was originally from Calgary and happy to be back in Alberta.

In between shouts of “is everyone having a good time?” there was plenty of high-energy, country-tinged pop music and some pretty vocal melodies.

Robins played some catchy guitar though was often drowned out by the other two guitarists on stage.

A new song, “Good Night For Doing Nothing,” was a highlight. Most of their music was about having a good time and going out and sounded as much. One of the guitarists played a six-string banjo for a couple songs, though you couldn’t really hear it.

They shared the stage with Isabella’s backing band who provided the backdrop for a strong, exuberant and more than perky Up With People vibe.

I had the pleasure of having a coffee with Isabella several years ago when she played her first gig at Lammles Western Wear in the Lethbridge Mall for a handful of people. She has come a long way since then.

Now she has her second hit album on her hands and her song “Quarterback” is charting well.

It was great to see the lilliputian Ottawaite with the huge voice backed by a band. They were tight, providing the perfect, peppy, upbeat backdrop for her to strut around the stage, beaming and smiling like a young Shania Twain. She showed off her beautiful, emotional, peppy voice throughout.

Most of her songs were of the “having a good time, girl power” variety from her new album, which most of the audience seemed to know word for word.

Near the end of the show, they turned down an electrified energetic set a notch as they went acoustic and wandered into the middle of the enthusiastic audience for a few tender moments and returned to the stage to turn things up again.

They wound down the set with “Quarterback” which showed how well Isabella can do more serious, weighty material.

Vancouver-based country musician Petunia was an interesting contrast from the pop country show at Average Joe’s with Kira Isabella and Autumn Hill.

While he sometimes has a band, at the Slice, Nov. 4, he played as a laid-back acoustic duo with guitarist Nathan M Godfrey who was as stellar as promised in the publicity material. So the show was very stripped-down, allowing Petunia to showcase his many varied musical influences. He is an unsung Canadian treasure so it was a shame to see so few people in the audience, though a few more trickled in by the end of his second set. He yodelled and moaned like Bill Bourne and played a kazoo solo as he sang old murder ballads, original music, circus inspired music and jazz music and whatever else came into his head including new songs and songs from throughout his career. Nathan M Godfrey showed off his fleet-fingered picking and played a couple of delta blues numbers on his own.

Ontario songstress Jill Barber kicked off a very busy week in Lethbridge by playing enough sweet, sultry love songs to give Cupid cavities. She was aware of the number of love songs in the set as she noted a friend of hers dared to her to write something other than a love song, so she wrote a breakup song, which sounded just as sweet.

She and her amazing band played sultry jazz and smoky French cabaret music with just a touch of country at the Southminster United Church, Nov. 3 for the Geomatic Attic.

She enraptured several hundred people into a supreme state of stultification and relaxation with her charming stories and gorgeous, hypnotic voice.

She told a few stories and cracked a couple jokes as she played much of her new CD “Fool’s Gold” and delved into her back catalogue. She stepped off the stage mid-song to change her dress and let her band show off their substantial abilities.

Violinist Drew Jurecka was especially impressive playing beautiful lines but also playing saxophone on a couple of songs and mandolin on one of the few country songs in the set.

Keyboardist Robbie Grunwald was no less impressive as he mostly played piano, though switched to organ on a couple songs and accordion for the sultry French cabaret portion of the evening.

By the end of the show she had the enthusiastic yet enraptured audience singing along with “Oh My My” and got ready to send several hundred people home satisfied and properly mellowed out.

Motel Raphael came to Lethbridge all the way from Montreal, Nov. 3 to play for an intimate audience at the Slice, kicking off their ninth anniversary week.

The three front women showed off some excellent vocal harmonies and strummed guitars while a backing band including a bassist, drummer and a xylophone player played addictive indie pop music, though weren’t well served by high volume which made their voices more piercing than they needed to be.

They didn’t have a lot of people in the audience, but the ones there, mostly seated a a big table in front of the stage were already fans as they cheered each note the band played and each song they introduced.

They took the opportunity to play a couple of new songs from an upcoming album for a very receptive audience, all of whom applauded.

Halloween I hit about half of the dozen gigs happening in Halloween all over Lethbridge, Oct. 31, planning my evening around punk legends D.O.A. at Scores. But as they weren’t on until 11:30 p.m., I caught as many of the other shows as I could and unfortunately missed Jenny and the Scallywags’ opening set.

So I started things at the Owl Acoustic Lounge, which was packed, as were most places with an array of monsters, pirates, superheroes and other creatures of darkness.

Carisa Jayne opened the night with some sexy burlesque dancing for a song, for which she brought an audience member on stage with her and danced around her. Pat Maloney was up next with some spooky, haunting acoustic folk music as more people trickled into the already packed house for headliner’s Cosmic Charley.

After that I wandered over to Average Joe’s for the Chevelles monthly gig there.

They were still getting ready before they all come on stage, dressed as nuns and played all of the crowd’s favourite classic rock hits beginning with Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back in Town” and nailed the harmonizing guitar solos.

I’m not a big Metallica fan, but wasn’t going to miss Damage Inc. — the Lethbridge-based Metallica tribute who always but on a great show. They had a full stage show and dark blue and red lights silhouetting the band and giving them a menacing air.

The band, sporting zombie makeup, played steel solid set of vintage Metallica for an audience which wasn’t as big as I expected them to be. After that it was time for something a little more laid back. I’ve only seen local country band, featuring many familiar faces from Long and McQuade, the Old Man River band once, so had to check them out at the Onion as they played a laid-back, informal and low-key set of country music. Evan Herbst and Kevin Gnandt traded lead vocals as Austrian Graf added background vocals traded vocals and sounded pretty good. Herbst played guitar dressed up as Willie Nelson. Graf and bassist Ray Banman were done up as zombies as was drummer Mike Gnandt.

And then came the main event as I had to forgo the other gigs other than the end of another set of country from the Mark Hall band at the Smokehouse.

It was just another night of punk rock for D.O.A. at Scores. They didn’t bother to dress up, instead sticking to what they do best — playing ferocious, loud, rocking vintage punk and hardcore music.

Frontman Joe Keithley was backed by his rock-solid new lineup of drummer Paddy Duddy and bassist Mike Hodsall who never missed a note as Hodsall was leaping and kicking around the stage as much as Keithley as he started the set with vintage D.O.A. cuts “ I Hate You” followed by “D.O.A.,” “Liar for Hire,” one of my favourites “2+2” and just took off from there.

There was plenty of moshable rhythms and hot guitar playing as Keithley proved as promised in his interview last week that he hasn’t forgotten how to play guitar and kick ass on stage.

“Marijuana” was a highlight punctuated by a rant about legalizing it as was a ferociously high-octane version of “Police Brutality.”

Two of the most perfect punk songs ever written by anyone, “F—k You” and “Disco Sucks,” were highlights mid set. They played the more obscure “America The Beautiful” and covered most of what I wanted to hear including a cover of “War — What is it Good For,” though surprisingly didn’t touch on much of their last studio album “We Come in Peace.” And before anyone realized it, they were done just over an hour later, though they returned for an encore of “Race Riot” and a Ramones tribute.

Nov. 12

Owl Acoustic Lounge — L.A. Beat open jam with Tasman Jude CD release

Slice — Until Red

Bo Diddlys — open mic

Nov. 13

Plum — HBO3

Moose Hall — Within these Ruins, Texas in July, Our Last Crusade, Letters to the ocean, Youngbloods $15 advance, $20 at the door

Owl Acoustic Lounge — Lethbridge Public Library Pub Trivial

Nov. 14

Slice — Blackberry Wood $10

Mocha Cabana — Dana Honey

Owl Acoustic Lounge — Joel Bryant and Pete Watson

Jimmy’s Pub — open mic

Honkers — blues jam with Steve Keenan

Lethbridge Folk Club — open mic

Average Joe’s — Duelling pianos

Nov. 15

Lethbridge College Cave — Lethbridge Folk Club presents Erin Ross Trio with Ryland Moranz $20 members, $25 non members 8 p.m.

Slice — The Crooked Brothers $10

Mocha Cabana — Dana Honey

Owl Acoustic Lounge — Nature of

Nov. 17

Onion — open mic

Owl Acoustic Lounge — open mic

Moose Hall — The Rebel Spell, Motherfuckers, Abuse of Substance, Mangy Mutts, Scallywags 8 p.m. $15

Southminster United Church — Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra Symphony 2 Silver Screen Classics Doors: 7:30 p.m. Performance: 8 p.m.

Nov. 18

Slice — open mic

Nov. 19

Owl Acoustic Lounge — L.A Beat open mic

Bo Diddly’s — Open mic

Slice — Jazz jam with HBO3

Nov. 20

Slice — Tony Kaye musician

Owl Acoustic Lounge — Queereoke

Nov. 21

Owl Acoustic Lounge — Sean Burns Duo Tour in support of our upcoming EP

Slice — White Cowbell Oklahoma with Big John Bates $20

Mocha Cabana — Carla Olive and Toni Vere

Average Joe’s — The Chevelles

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