I never thought I’d be writing a eulogy for my favourite hangout — the Slice, which officially closed its doors, Aug. 22 after 11 amazing years. There was also one final, final bash on Saturday, Aug. 27 which was a blast which brought back a lot of my favourite familiar faces including a tweener from Megan Rourke, Shaela Miller and a rejigged Tin and The Toad with special guest Dave McCann and Rancho Deluxe and several others which I missed due to trying to catch parts of all the other shows happening on Saturday.
There were hugs, handshakes and high fives aplenty and more than a few tears at the four wakes for the Slice last week (including the Saturday, Aug. 27 show) including Petunia and the Vipers, a spontaneous last minute Saturday, Aug. 20 open stage and the Moon Runner/ Moon Tan/ Rainbow Patrol show on Aug. 22.
Is it wrong to shed tears for a bar like so many did during the Petunia and the Vipers’ Aug. 19 show? I don’t think so. The Slice was more than a just a bar, it has been a godsend and a second home for the Lethbridge music community, especially since the Tongue N’ Groove closed it’s doors about the same time the Slice started taking off and Henotic was just beginning in the old firehall.
When I arrived, everybody I talked to raved about their adventures and misadventures at the Tongue N’ Groove, but I only arrived in time to catch the last couple of shows there so I never really understood the magic people seemed to find there until I learned the Slice was closing.
In 2007, I had just moved back to Lethbridge from Kenora, Ontario where I spent a lot of time in Winnipeg, hanging out at the Times Changed. When I found the Slice, which reminded me a lot of Times Changed, I thought I found my home away from home. And as soon as I had their pizza, I knew I had.
They brought in some of my favourite Winnipeg performers like the Perpetrators and Romi Mayes, Manitoba Hal, the D Rangers and Scott Nolan (who also frequently played Kenora) which made the transition of a big move to a new community (though I went to school here back in the day) a lot easier.
Like a lot of people, I always figured The Slice would always be there. They’ve outlasted a lot of local watering holes which featured music or bars that have moved away from live music because people don’t come out for it.
It’s easy to take an institution like the Slice for granted. If you were too tired, too poor or feeling too lazy to go out and see a show there, you always assumed you’d be able to catch the next one. All good things come to an end. I guess.
But to actually see it go is a devastating blow to everybody in Lethbridge’s burgeoning counter-culture community who was looking for a place to listen to live music you wouldn’t hear anywhere else; people who didn’t want to go a bar and watch a dozen TVs showing sports ( the one tiny TV in the Slice set unobtrusively in a quiet corner above the bar and kitchen usually featured a cooking show and sometimes a Flames game); people looking for a place to belong and perhaps meet other people a little bit off the mainstream. The troublemakers, sloppy drunks, scrappers and pick up artists who always seem to flock to bars, seldom found their way to the Slice. Not to say it didn’t happen, but it was the exception rather than the rule.
Was it a dirty, dingy, dive bar? Some people might say so, but so was CBGBs. More importantly the people at the Slice were always friendly and welcoming and the pizza was always delicious and the music was always excellent and often mind expanding.
The Slice has been a cornerstone of the Lethbridge independent music community since I arrived back here and was indeed one of the first bars I discovered while wandering the desolate, downtown streets simply looking for a quick supper during a few moments off at the Lethbridge Herald. I found a lot more, I found a place I felt I fit in. Because of the Slice I got to interview and write about and photograph bands I may not have otherwise given a second glance to.
Everybody has their favourite memories of the Slice. Do you remember the time the Sheepdogs stopped by the Slice’s beloved Tuesday open mic and were convinced to jam after their Whoop Up Days show, last year? That was just one of many magical moments there. I’ve seen some of my favourite performers there like Shred Kelly, more unusual shows like Delhi 2 Dublin, which I might not otherwise have given a chance.
Countless local bands formed there, broke up there, formed new bands there, had their first and last gigs there, formed bands just for special events for CKXU and fundraisers for the Girls Rock Camp and other worthwhile causes, and had plenty of adventures and misadventures there in between a lot of great music and occasionally way too many beers. People met their mates there and some have since married and had kids.
Over the past 11 years, The Slice has basically been the CKUA of bars, showcasing music you just wouldn’t hear anywhere else. You never knew what you’d get, but you knew it would be good, even if it wasn’t a style of music you’d usually listen to and you knew you would have a great time. You’d always find good people, good pizza and a lot of good vibes.
I remember a lot of late nights and consequently long mornings due to late starting shows there. I’ve seen roots shows, country shows, rock shows and punk and metal shows and plenty of ambient indie-rock shows and other weirder shows which are more difficult to describe. Even a couple of rap shows. They have all been entertaining and have given me something new to appreciate.
In addition to their own shows, they opened their doors to popular local music festivals including the South Country Fair, Electric Eye, Lethbridge Jazz Festival and CKXU Love and Records afterparties. There have been wakes there for beloved regulars like Frank Dooley and Murray Nelson who have passed on and fundraisers for other regulars fallen on hard times.
The Slice was more than a bar, it was a community. A damned fine community of people who care about each other and care about supporting live music.
I got to see and support some of my very favourite Lethbridge musicians there. I couldn’t possibly list all of them. Somebody would be missed. I met some of my favourite people in this city at the Slice.