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Eleven years of great memories with the Slice

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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.Shaela Miller playing the Last Slice. Photo by Richard Amety


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.

Petunia and the Vipers at the Slice, Aug. 19. Photo by Richard Amery
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 saFireworks at the Slice. Photo by Richard Ameryy 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.Jesse Freed manning the bar. Photo by Richard Amery


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.

 

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Lots of memories in 2015

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It has been another amazing year in Lethbridge with good news, bad news and a plethora of very cool shows, and 2016 is  already looking pretty amazing. We’ll look ahead next week, but now things have slowed down for a week or so on the entertainment front, now is a good a time as any to look back.Murray nelson passed away this year. Photo by Richard Amery


Lethbridge said goodbye to Murray Nelson, who passed away from cancer this year. Nelson was one of the scene’s more prominent performers on stage performing solo and with a variety of bands as well as busking on the streets all over Lethbridge. He was also a talented videographer and a respected music teacher who taught many prominent Lethbridge musicians. He had also been a prominent performer at fundraisers for other musicians. His memory will live on in the students he taught and the souls he touched on stage or just chatting at various local watering holes.


On another sad note, in the new year, the Lethbridge Folk Club will be looking for a new location for their open mics on the second and fourth Fridays of the month as MJS Cycle is apparently closing by the end of the year. It doubled as the location for open stages and smaller Lethbridge Folk Club shows.
On a somewhat lighter, but still unpleasant note, Lethbridge got a black eye, so to speak, and made international news in April after shock rocker Marilyn Manson was punched at Denny’s on Mayor Magrath after his April 4 show at the Enmax.


That’s the bad news, but there has also been a lot of good news in 2015.
Lethbridge hosted a pretty big event in the arts — The Lt. Governor’s Awards and SOAR Emerging Artists Festival in June, which not only showcased some of Alberta‘s most talented artists, but also featured the ever growing pool of talent Lethbridge has to offer.
It has been a great year for Victoria born, Lethbridge based songwriter Leeroy Stagger, who released a great new CD “Dream it All Away” and capped off a successful year supporting it by winning the Peak Performance Competition in November.

Stagger’s new CD was one of several excellent Cds released this year by southern Alberta talent including John Wort Hannam, Karen Romanchuk, Cosmic Charley, the Supervoid, Accalia and Papa King Cole and Zojo Black to name just a few off the top of my head.


 Another highlight this year was the formation of Attainable Records who are starting to do shows spanning a variety of genres. ThSNFU’s Chi Pig playing inferno in July. Photo by Richard Ameryey had a weekend of showcases featuring a variety of Lethbridge, southern Alberta and Calgary talent in November.
Casino Lethbridge has expanded their musical horizons a little this year form the usual crop of classic rock and cover bands to also include comedy, mentalism and Calgary rockabilly band the Hi Strung Downers.

Lethbridge’s punk scene really took off this year, mostly thanks to promoter Alex Currie. Currie and company put on a day long punk and metal show, The Burning Bridges Festival, July 25 at the Moose Hall, another good venue for punk.

 The  Burning Bridges Festival featured a lot of the Calgary Beer Core scene including Citizen Rage,  the Motherfuckers, Kroovy Rookers, Press Gang plus a couple of highlights from Edmonton including Grizzly Train and Rebuild/Repair.

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Street Machine Weekend to dominate downtown

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Over the past 37 years, The Street Machine Weekend , July 10-12, has slowly evolved into a Lethbridge institution for car buffs, aficionados and gear-heads of all types. PJ Nadeau is looking forward to the Street Machine weekend. Photo by Richard Amery


Lethbridge gets influx of between 15-20,000 people from all over Canada and the United States for the event which brings in millions of dollars to the city every year.
“It’s a great to see people having a good time doing something they love,” said new Street Wheelers Club president PJ Nadeau.
“People spend countless time and money on their cars so this is where they get to show off all of their hard work,” he continued.


“And it’s a great place to meet old friends,” he continued.
Street Machines takes over the downtown core and Exhibition Park, July 10-13 beginning with Cruise Control, Friday night , July 10 at 8 p.m., during which 832 cars will be cruising around the city core on 3rd Ave. South and Mayor Magrath Drive, 7-10 p.m.


“There’s something for everybody — people who like muscle cars, Mustangs, Japanese cars, Volkswagens…,” said new Street Wheelers’  president PJ Nadeau.
“We hand select the cars so there is something for everybody— Corvettes, muscle cars, European cars, Japanese cars. They have to be show ready,” he said, adding the entries must have something unique about them.
“Unfortunately we have to turn a lot of people away and it fills up in an hour,” continued Nadeau.
“Watching the Cruise is an amazing experience, but it doesn’t even compare to the feeling of actually being part of it,” he said.
There is a $10 entry fee to enter. They only have room for 832 cars in the cruise.

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Great combination of big acts and valiant newcomers in 2014

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There were a lot of highlights happening this year from big names you young and hungry up and comers and a couple really exceptional music festivals.
Old punks had favourites D.O.A and The Real McKenzies on March 14 who are always great to see. I wanted to hear the  Boids opening for them, but had to choose between them and criminally under-appreciated gypsy folk  group Blackberry Wood, who I always like to see.The Wet Secrets were one of the highlights this year. Photo by Richard Amery


 And while I don’t usually travel to see shows as it means I miss everything in Lethbridge, I made a point of hitting Sidelines in Coaldale, April 19 to hear hockey punks the Hanson Brothers who played a lot of hockey themed hits and even premiered their own beer. As an aside, The Hanson Brothers’  Tom Holliston later returned to Lethbridge on his own to share his quirky folkie side at the Owl Acoustic Lounge , Aug. 28.


  I  also checked out several all ages punk shows at the Moose Hall this year and was  blown away by the raw power, energy and yes, even musicality of some great Albertan punk bands. I was commuting to and from South Country Fair this summer. I had to this time as my long time camera died after six years and I had to get a new one,  but it meant  I caught an amazing show at the Moose Hall from Edmonton bands MSA and Abuse of Substance.


 MSA were off the hook. They stripped down to their shorts and even brought out an didgeridoo for an brilliant punk cover of Midnight Oil’s “Beds Are Burning.” Fellow Edmontonians Abuse of Substance came back a couple of times this year.


 The Moose featured some excellent punk shows including a couple from The Rebel Spell and some great new discoveries for me including Copsickle and Knuckledown.


Lethbridge’s resident street punks the Scallywags were involved with most of these shows  as were another new discovery, the Mangy Mutts, the only acoustic/ country act to play a lot of these.
 The Mangy Mutts were a highlight of one of several excellent festivals happening this year as they opened up the Slice stage during the day long Electric Eye music festival on May 10, which featured garage rock, electronica, punk, country and hip hop at five different venues.


 This  also featured another great new discovery — The Outlaws of Ravenhurst— a medieval, classic metal metal trio who dressed up as knights  for their set.
 They returned for another great day long music festival — the fifth annual CKXU Love and Records in Galt Gardens, Sept. 13 as well as at several venues
 They were among many highlights of the day and even  got the University of Lethbridge Mediaeval club to duel during their afternoon set at Galt Gardens.


 Yet another great new new discovery returned to Lethbridge for Love and Records — Edmonton’s Wet Secrets, a side project of headliner Shout Out Out Out Out.
 The West Secrets (who later won the PEAK  Project competition for Alberta) stole the show, sporting vintage band uniforms band playing upbeat pop music with a horn section, bass and  keyboards. They played earlier in the year at the Slice with another favourite — the Gay ’90s who played Lethbridge several times this year.


 While Love and Records had after-parties at several different venues, I only made it to the one at Plum featuring Edmonton’s Marshall Lawrence and Paul Kype and Texas Flood, mainly because I organized it.
 I thought it was amazing.
 Blues rocker Marshall Lawrence  never gets the turnout he deserves in Lethbridge, though he had a full house rocking until midnight, when everybody mostly cleared out to either go home or to go to the metal after-party at the Slice.
 Blues music itself never seems to get the turnout it deserves in Lethbridge, though we had some excellent local blues shows including excellent shows from Paul Kype and Texas Flood and a couple different versions of Papa King and his band.

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What do you do with those old doo dads? E-cycle them with the Lethbridge Community Network

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Technology changes in what seems like seconds. So, after you’ve stocked up on new gadgets over Christmas and Boxing Day, what do you do with the old gadgets?Allan Schneider suggested people  wanting to donate old technology  to the 2015 E-Cycle drive either drop it off in bins across the city or just call the Lethbridge Community Network  (403-317-7799). Photo by Richard Amery
“You can either take it to the dump or leave it in your basement,” said Lethbridge Community Network e-cycle co-ordinator Allan Schneider, who provided a third option —  recycle and refurbish them for people who need them by donating them to the annual Lethbridge Community Network Annual E-cycle Drive, Jan. 10-17.


“We did this last Easter and the e-cycle drive raised 25,000 pounds of old technology,”  Schneider said, surrounded by a stack of everything from old monitors, laptops and a bucket of old hard drives.


They don’t offer data removal services like wiping the old hard drives, so he encouraged people to remove them on their own. If they don’t know how, he will remove the drives and destroy them.
“I’ll put a nail through each one of them when I have time,” he said.


 There are fewer locations for the bins this year, but bigger bins which will be emptied regularly. A Calgary company,  Global Electric Electonic Processing (GEEP) pays them a few cents per pound, which resulted in approximately $2,900 coming in for the Lethbridge Community Network.


 Bins will be located at Peavy Mart (33 Southgate Blvd. South), Save on Foods West ( 401 Highlands Blvd. West) , Save on Foods north (1112 2nd Ave North), Sobeys Uplands (327 Bluefox Blvd. North), the Lethbridge Public Library downtown and Crossings Public Library on the west side. They can also be dropped off at their office upstairs in the same building as the Round Street Cafe ( #200 427 5th street south)
“ There are fewer locations and more bins this year,” he observed adding he had to empty many of the bins on his own last year.
“ We need volunteers because those bins fill up fast,” he said.


 The technology, which can range from rotary phones to televisions and a lot of computers, monitors, cameras, DVD and Blueray players, scanners, printers and cell phones will either be refurbished and sold to people who need them at a reasonable price. He said computers are upgraded to Windows 7 before being sold to other not for profit organizations and individuals who can’t afford new technology.
“We don’t have the funds to give away the computers” he said, noting more obsolete items are sold to GEEP which will dismantle, recycle or refurbish the parts of each of them.
“It all gets used. Every single part,” he said.

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