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Kindred spirits and six toed cats on Outlaw Country Cruise 5

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I have been MIA for the past week on a much needed vacation cruising with kindred spirits from all over the world, but mostly from the U.S.. The Outlaw Country Cruise, sponsored by Sirius XM’s  Outlaw country, is an excellent opportunity to visit places I’ve never been and see some of my favouriThe Waco Brothers on the Outlaw Country Cruise. Photo by Richard Ameryte bands who never play here. As Texan born/ New York based songwriter Outlaw Country host Steve  “Copperhead Road,” “Someday” Earle noted, “ When you’re from New York, it does not suck to be on a cruise ship in January. The same goes for being from Lethbridge.

While I missed auditions for Shakespeare in the Park’s summer production of the Merry Wives of Windsor, One Bad Son and Eamon McGrath’s ’s return to Lethbridge, I did not miss the latest bout of snow, cold and wind, though I returned in time for the next bout of all of them. I also did not miss people complaining about the latest health scare, Trump, Trudeau and traffic. The Outlaw Country Cruise is literally a departure from all that.


 This year, we departed from Miami en route to the Florida Keys to Jamaica and back from Jan. 29-  Feb. 3 and it was fabulous. In addition to non-stop music on board, there were day trips to war correspondent and renown author Ernest Hemingway’s house in the Florida Keys, a former naval based that has been repurposed into expensive condominiums. I saw Hemingway’s study where he wrote “A Farewell To Arms” and “Old Man And the Sea. Six toed cats, the descendants of Hemingway’s original pets wove their way through the legs of hordes of tourists crammed into Hemingway’s rooms, listening to a bellicose guide relate a well rehearsed diatribe about Hemingway’s life and wives. A six toed cat at Ernest Hemingway’s house. Photo by Richard Amery

The cats even crawled onto Hemingway’s bed to get their bellies scratched by adoring tourists.
 I also got to visit Jamaica, particularly reggae legend Bob Marley’s home. His home town of Nine Mile has become a tourist trap with residents eager to sell trinkets, T-Shirts, pot brownies and some of the most massive bombers I’ve ever seen to tourists eager to take in a slice of reggae and music history in the land of homegrown fun. You can photograph everything except the inside of the mausoleums of Marley who died at 37 of melanoma cancer and his younger brother who was killed by police in Miami in 1990 and a separate mausoleum for his mother, who are all buried on site next to a tiny chapel.


I had to do it. It’s so important to take some time to disengage, set the brain to neutral and just enjoy the ride instead of being overwhelmed by the trials and tribulations .
I listen to bands even hipsters have never heard of, so it is just cool to share a knowing grin with somebody else wearing a Govt. Mule T-shirt.


As usual, I return home with a bag full of new music discovered on the boat including new bands, familiar faces with new bands and people I haven’t heard of —yet. I found a great band call the Yayhoos featuring Dan Baird of the Georgia Satellites. Baird also played bass with Jason and the Scorchers’ Warner Hodges this trip and fronts Dan Baird and Homemade Sin which also features Hodges and who were on the boat last year as well as with his band.

Elizabeth Cook on the Outlaw Country Cruise. Photo by Richard Amery
  I found another great band called the Waco Brothers, who add more of a Celtic feel to country rock music and still remind me of Edmonton punks the Raygun Cowboys. As a bonus , they feature the coolest, most groovingest bassist I’ve ever seen. And Jesse Malin, who was in a band called D Generation in the Late ’90s opening for Green Day. Now he’s gone country—ish.

I had to pick up an old Bottle Rockets live CD and a new Supersuckers CD and Jason Ringenberg’s new solo Cd. You can hear them all on  my radio shows on CKXU  Disco Sucks Punkin Old School, Wednesdays from 10 a.m.- midnight and Saturday night’s Hotrock blues Beat 8-10 p.m.


I love seeing these new bands as much as I love hearing the Mavericks, Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Bottle Rockets, Robbie Fulks and other cats I  signed up to see.

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Good times and pleasant memories in 2019

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 The thing about a year, is you never know where you will end up by the end of it. No matter how carefully you plan your life, life itself has its own plans. There is always something, be it family issues, changes in employment status and financial status, or just discovering a new inspiration that clears a new path. But it is always up to you whether to take the new path or stay on the same road.
2019 has been really busy and fulfilling year fraught with freak snowstorms and rain.

Most of my life over the past 10 years has been intertwined with L.A. Beat — that and helping my dad in the city.


 I started L.A. BeThe Arkells were a highlight of whoop Up Days in 2019. Photo by Rchard Ameryat with a lot of help from my webmaster cousin Rod, two days after the Lethbridge Herald laid me off right before Easter in April 2009. Ten years operating your own business is a monumental  and exhausting achievement, and an almost thankless task  financially, but fulfilling in all other ways.


 I didn’t think Lethbridge’s arts community was getting the recognition it deserves and still don’t. I’ve done my best to fill that niche. In  the midst, of everything, the Allied Arts Council gave me the Mayor‘s award for individual excellence at the Mayor’s Luncheon in September. Thank you to everybody for reading my ramblings and , more importantly, supporting the arts in Lethbridge, because I can’t do what I do without you doing what you do.


 So I wanted to mark 10 years of covering arts in Lethbridge on  L.A. Beat by becoming a bigger part of the arts community.
I got to act with three of the major community theatre troupes in Lethbridge, beginning with breaking in the newly renovated Sterndale Bennett Theatre. I played a bit part in Playgoers of Lethbridge’s production of Where’s Oscar in February. Right after that, I played the therapist Ernie in Hatrix Theatre’s production of Neil Simon’s “Rumors,” at another new venue, the McNally School.
 And hot on the heels of that joined the Lethbridge Shakespeare Performance Society’s production of Macbeth, which was a blast, though plagued by inclement weather.
 I even got up on stage to sing and perform a couple of times. I always enjoy being part of The Lethbridge Girls Rock Camp Band Swap fundraiser so took the stage at the Owl Acoustic Lounge, June 8, joining Mandy Fox and Amberlea Parker aka two thirds of Mombod and Chris Hibbard on vocals. I got to play bass, guitar and cigar box guitar for that show.
I wanted to show off some of my favourite photos  from the past 10 years of L.A. Beat.
 Darcy Logan let me have an exhibition of some of my 3- D photos at Casa in May, which was very cool. I had a lot of fun splashing paint on some of my favourite photos and turning them 3-D by pasting cardboard behind parts of them.
 And because I spend a lot of time at the Slice listening to music, Slice owner Derek Hoyle let me put up a couple dozen of my favourite shots at the Slice over the past 10 years.
 On top of everything else, I went back to school in September for a second degree in masochism … er management and new media.
 The New Media 1000 class installed a show at the Dr. Penny Foster Building in November, so I put up another pic, which I didn’t get printed in time for the Slice show at the Dr. Penny Foster Building instead.


 I started off the year by starting singing lessons with my wonderfully talented and supportive friend, inspiration and muse Andi Roberts. A single mom teaching singing full time while going back to school, she inspired me to tackle university as a mature student.
 Going back to school was a path I hadn’t really considered seriously. I already booked this January’s vacation, not thinking it might conflict with classes in the Spring. But freelance income dried up to pretty much nothing, about the same time I decided to apply to the U of L.
 But I did it, and pulled some decent marks considering I’m trying to run a business at the same time and help my dad every week in Calgary.
 Along the way, I acted in three plays, had three art shows and saw a lot of great bands.

As always, I was impressed with young new bands like Biloxi Parish, The Cayley, Fawns, Dead Army, The Decadent Phase and numerous other which seemed to form every month. A new ’50s pop band called Frankie and The Bridge Mix were a highlight.

I got to see some of my favourite bands play Lethbridge usually at the Slice like the Wild!, D.O.A. the Dayglo Abortions, Peter and the Wolves, Tin and the Toad and discovered lots of new touring folk and roots acts like Richard Inman and Ellen Froese. Winnipeg country musician Sean Burns became a familiar face in Lethbridge playing all over the city pretty much every other month.


 D.O.A. headlined the most eclectic bill of the year for a packed Slice, May 21. I missed local folk/ country musician Tyson Ray Borsboom. Everyone was there for Indie-pop singer Mike Edel and most had trickled away by the time Vancouver hardcore legends D.O.A. took the stage. They were still done by midnight though.Jolene Draper stands on Steve Martin’s bass. Photo by Richard Amery


 Five Alarm Funk made a long awaited return to the Slice, June 25.
 Eve Hell and the Razors also made a long awaited return to play more rockabilly.


 B.A. Johnson brought the funny for a couple of packed shows at the Owl Acoustic Lounge. The Owl was pretty much consistently packed for most of their shows. The return of folk trio Fates were one of my favourites. Jody Peck and Sarah Burton finally returned to the Owl Acoustic Lounge to play a great show for a handful of people, which was a shame.


 Due to family issues, I missed a final show from Hollerado and a few concerts I really wanted to see at the Geomatic Attic like Del Barber. I did catch one of my favourite touring road shows — Barney Bentall’s Grand Cariboo Express featuring Bentall, Leeroy Stagger, Matt Masters, Dustin Bentall, RIdley Bent and a lot more. Jimmy Rankin played two sold out shows at the Geomatic Attic
 The Folk Club found a new leader in Tom Moffat, so I caught a few outstanding shows there from folks like Tri-Continental, Old Man Luedecke. Earlier in the year, Ken Hamm return to blow some people away with fretboard wizardry, April 27.


 Shaela Miller’s Windy City Opry celebrated three years at the Slice with great acts like Zachary Lucky and Peter and the Wolves.
Mike Spencer’s Wide Skies Music Festival also turned three this summer.  He brought in some exceptional talent including Danny Michel, Harry Manx and Steve Marriner and Cousin Harley, who were outstanding as usual.
The Owl featured a variety of different music from folk and country like  to alternative rock and punk like Vancouver’s the Jins and a great stoner rock show featuring Chron Goblin and Black Mastiff.

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Old dogs learn new tricks : Going back to school as a senior student

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School’s back, so that means there are a variety of happenings this week. More on that later.


I’m one of the many students heading back to school this week. I’m taking a second degree in Management and New Media at the University of Lethbridge because a little education never hurt anyone, and I need to upgrade a few skills. Time management is not one of them, as I’m already an expert at that. That’s how I get to so many gigs every night. Time management and picking and choosing a little more carefully, plus an old fashioned paper and pen day timer will still allow me to cover shows and write this column for the Sun Times and stories for L.A. Beat. Though the number of them will change a little now I’m a student again.

I know most people use their phones for that. But I’m old school. I like the tactile feel of pen on paper. Besides,  you never lose your schedule because your day timer runs out of battery power or because you drop your phone in the toilet.  Only if you lose your day timer. Do people even take notes on paper anymore or is it all on computer? I don’t know anymore, but I’m excited to learn. Are there even text books any more or is everything online? One of the profs sent me his course outline and first assignment through something called Moodle and Mindtap plus whole bunch of Internet links. So I already foresee a steep learning curve.


 It‘s a little scary being an older student. I’m alternately anxious and excited to be going back. There are so many resources available that weren’t when I was going to school. I made the mistake of checking out some of my new professors on the ratemyteachers.com website. Some reviews were glowing, others not so much, but I don’t want other people’s opinions to cloud my bias. I’d rather meet them in person and make up my own mind like I’d rather do about everything.
 I did learn,  to some dismay, that I am a few years older than at least a couple of my profs, which is somewhat disconcerting. Maybe they can teach an old dog new tricks. We’ll see.
A lot of my friends my age or a few years younger starting going back to school last year so I figured if they can do it with kids and abusive exes and jobs and worldly troubles, then why can’t I? They’ve inspired me. I lead a charmed life.


We’ll see and that’s the point. You should never stop learning.

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The joy of music and Govt. Mule

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You don’t appreciate the role music plays in your life until you don’t have any.
 I was on vacation technically, but still made it to a few Whoop Up Days shows this week.


 But the main reason I took the week off was to entertain houseguests and mainly for my annual Mulegrimmage. So in the grand tradition of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” I set off across country for no real reason other than to get some kicks try to get the “Beat” experience and see what’s out there, and hear some great music along the way.
 I go see my favourite band Govt. Mule, some place in the United States as they seldom make it up to Canada let alone Alberta. It inevitably falls during Whoop Up Days, so I leave Lethbridge and cowboys and midway rides and crowds and noise behind to hit the road.

 
 I enjoy the drive as much as I enjoy the show itself, because I can blast the radio and sing along with whatever comes on. Except this time the stereo decided to up and die before embarking on a 1,400 km round trip to Billings and back in 24 hours. That is a long time to live in my head, with nothing to think about except trying to remember song lyrics and wonder how much damage hitting cracked and bumpy highways at 80 miles an hour was doing to my beaten down Escape. It is easy to take music for granted. It is everywhere, on TV, background music in restaurants, stores — pretty much everywhere. It is a solace to the soul. You don’t really realize how much you miss it until you are without it for 14 hours.


  People usually don’t know what I’m talking about when I rave about Govt. Mule, except this time, surprisingly at a coffee shop in Harlowton in the middle of nowhere Montana, about 91 miles on the way back from Billings, where I went to see them play this year and where a girl working at the coffee shop there admired my new Mule shirt and said Warren Haynes was her favourite guitarist.


But most people I know don’t know who the Mule are. They are the best band in the world. If you like the Allman Brothers, you’ll like Govt. Mule because some 25 years ago, the rhythm section of the Allman Brothers, including Warren Haynes, bassist Allen Woody and drummer Matt Abts decided to start make their own southern rock/ jam rock music and hit the road when the Allman Brothers took time off. Haynes also joined the surviving member of the Grateful Dead for a time.
Along the way, they picked up keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Danny Louis and after Woody passed away, Jorgen Carlsson joined them on bass.
 Seeing Govt. Mule live is like a religious experience, so I call my annual journeys to see them my Mulegrimmage.

Watching Warren Haynes play guitar is like listening to God speak to us through music, or watching the spirit  of Duane Allman appear before your eyes. Plus his voice drips with soul like Gregg Allman’s voice did back in the day.
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Downtown Farmers’ markets begin July 3

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Get your fix of farm to table food at the Downtown Farmers’ Market, which returns to Festival Square (between third  avenue and Sixth avenue South) every Wednesday, July 3-Sept. 4 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.


“ We have a lot of returning vendors, but we have room for more,” said Exhibition Park Chief Operating Officer, Mike Warkentin, adding they have room for a total of 36 vendors. There will be  everything from baked goods to vegetables, fresh produce  and commercial goods.

Mike Warkentin announces the downtown Farmers market beginning July 3. Photo by Richard Amery
Downtown  Lethbridge Executive Director Ted Stilson noted there is room to expand the downtown farmer’s Market, but is pleased to  be a partner with Exhibition park to bring the event downtown every week.


“ We’d need to have 20 to 30 new vendors to expand the market,” he said.


“ There are 3,000 employees of local businesses who can come down and spend their lunch hours down here,” he continued.


 The market averages 700 people every week.


 In addition to vendors offering  baked goods, fresh vegetables and other unique  products which foster community wellness and health, there is also a community table every week available to local organizations who want to spread the word. Farmers markets take place in Exhibition Park every Saturday from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.
Exhibitor applications are available at exhibitionpark.ca/farmers-market.

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
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