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L.A. Beat

From the Editor's Desk

Crushing that monster “Lack of Interest”

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There is a monster loose on the Lethbridge music scene and his name is Lack of Interest and don’t forget about his sullen little sidekick Apathy. There is also another one cropping up called Infighting or Ego, but he’s a whole different issue.

Unleash the Archers’ Brittney Hayes. Photo by Richard Amery
You know them well, they are the little demons whispering in your ear telling you there is nothing to do in Lethbridge, they take great glee in getting people to call this city Deathbridge. They revel in it. But they should not be heeded because they only speak lies. If you think there is nothing to do in Lethbridge, you aren’t looking hard enough. These demons should be ignored and crushed.

 And while it is easy to blame students leaving for the summer for  slower summer months, the scene doesn’t stop because of it. There are 88,000 some people here now and a lot of different venues offering something to do all over the city. 

There are local artists releasing new CDs every day and at least something going on downtown every night. Great shows. Shows that would cost you twice as much if you were to go to Calgary to see them. Shows that you could stay here to see and not get robbed by gas prices or beer prices like you would if you went to the city to see them.

 Especially on off days, when we get touring musicians en route to big cities, who need to fill an otherwise empty travel day. They stop here, but nobody is here to hear them — because of Lack of Interest.

We had a couple alumni from Fred Eaglesmith’s band playing here, Dan Walsh last week and Roger Marin a few times before that. They have come into their own as awesome songwriters, but few heard them. Marin was here with an awesome Austin cat named Mark Jungers, but few heard him. Lack of Interest roared in approval and drowned him out.

 Last night (May 30), the fantastic Tom Savage Trio played the Slice to like eight people. They were excellent, they played the blues and upbeat, tight alt-country. Like Canada’s own version of the Drive By Truckers.

Also May 30, well known Vancouver metal band Unleash the Archers came to the Stone. They had at least had about 20 or 30 people banging their heads to some really intense female powered metal. Great show and it included local metal band Enceladus and Caste of Shadows.


What gives you the right to be a music critic?

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Douche bags are the dissonant notes in the symphony of life which make you appreciate the beautiful melodies that are everybody else. That’s not a swipe at anybody in particular, it just seemed like a good line to begin an editorial.

So what gives me the “ right”  to be a music critic? It’s a fair question when posed in a casual conversation, but is pretty rude, insulting and disrespectful when shouted by a complete stranger full of bad attitude and bluster across a crowded, noisy bar.

I’m usually a pretty easygoing and open minded guy when it comes to music, but I’ll admit I’m getting a little cranky in my old age, so if you throw your pretty little bad attitude in my face, I’m probably going to throw it back at you, especially on an ugly, chilly and snowy February night. What gives anybody the “right” to do anything?

I’m blessed to have been on both sides of the stage, as both a performer and a writer/ photographer. Most musicians thrive on stage, but I can’t stand it. I prefer the creative aspect of songwriting — crafting a lyric , creating a story or writing a catchy guitar riff —  rather than the performing aspect.

Plus I have horrible stage fright and a tendency to forget my own lyrics, so I have the utmost respect for anyone with the guts to get out there and let an audience experience their original music — and I’ll say and write as much. I’ve done so many times. As a result I’m probably even too much of a cheerleader for the local scene. Well, I cheer because I think they deserve it.

 I’ve been playing organ/ piano since I was six, guitar since I was 10 and writing my own songs since I was 12 because I never had the patience to learn covers. I think the first song I ever wrote was a happy little pop ditty called “That’s Why I Hate Christmas.” It was horrible and I can’t even remember how it went now.  

Many years later,  my best friend, a very pretty girl named Kimmy B, with a hell of a voice got me into modern country music, so I bought a bass and a lesson book and taught myself how to play it so she could complete her Top 40 country band and discovered I had stage fright. At our first gig, she had to give me a big hug on stage to stop me from either fainting or vomiting.

Being in that band convinced me to take my own songwriting a lot more seriously, which lead to me joining the Songwriters Guild of America and going to events to pitch my songs in Nashville and Memphis — a humbling experience which only showed me how far I have to go as a songwriter. Shortly after that,  I got into blues, bluegrass, folk music and alternative country,  then I saw Willie P Bennett and the D-Rangers play  and was so impressed that I bought a mandolin and learned how to play it. The banjo is next.

Along the way, I have met  and picked the brains of a lot of great, talented cats — surprisingly humble cats who have written some huge radio hits, like Jason Blume, who writes pop music for people like Britney Spears and  the Backstreet Boys as well as a lot more cooler stuff and Bob Feldman, who wrote “My Boyfriend’s Back.” 

At Songwriter’s Guild events and at SouthbySouthwest in Austin, I sat in on a lot of seminars about songwriting and the music business held by people who have “made it” in the business, read extensively on the subject and met more great cats like Jeffrey Steele who have written for a lot of big names. So I’d like to think I know something about music and the music business.

I am more than just a music player, I am a music lover and I also know a little something about the business. Because music is my passion, and my whole life. Because when I’m not writing about it or photographing it, I’m playing it or listening  to it.

 But the basic, simple answer (that can be answered and heard in a noisy bar) to the innate question of what gives me the “right” to criticize music, is “everything.” So now, after a couple nights of sleep and a few less beers in the system, let’s expand on that.



Numerous great shows in 2010

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There isn’t a lot going on this week other than a plethora of excellent open mics, Sonis McAllister and the Barracuda Orchestre at  the Tongue N’ Groove, Jan. 7, Bridgette Yarwood at the Mocha Cabana on Jan. 7 and Billie Vegas the Boogie Patrol opening for Delhi 2 Dublin at the Slice. Photo by Richard Ameryplaying the casino this weekend, so now is a good time as any to look back and remember the good times we had in 2010.
 Not only did a lot of new venues open or relocate this year, but new bands sprouted out of the woodwork all over the city. It also seemed like every band and his dog released CDs this year, with a lot more on the way.  Not to mention local bands playing excellent shows throughout the year.

Treeline, Toques and Beards, Leeroy Stagger, John Wort Hannam, Jesse and the Dandelions, the Necessities, Trevor Panczak, Sleeping With Tuesday, Smokestack Jacks, Phantom Creeps, Lustre Creame, Leah Sadler, Shaela Miller, Fist City and the Myelin Sheaths were only a few of the local musicians playing regularly and releasing excellent new music this year.

I saw a lot of shows over the past year, so many that they blend together in my mind, so it is a tough task to choose favourites as I’ve enjoyed all of them in their own unique  way. In fact there are as many  different types of  shows as there are performers. Here are just a few in no particular order. Musical tastes are subjective, so I don’t want to hear  any complaints about my choices or the ones I missed. Because even I miss a show every now and then.

Boogie Patrol with Delhi to Dublin
— The Slice, Sept. 14: It is always a pleasant surprise when the opening act comes close to blowing the headliners off the stage. There were a couple of shows like this. Energetic Edmonton blues/ R and B band the Boogie Patrol played to a packed Slice, Sept. 14. It was packed because most of the people were duly impressed by Delhi 2 Dublin’s amazingly incendiary set of rock tinged R and B/ reggae/ blues and world music at this year’s South Country Fair and were looking for a second helping. However, the Boogie Patrol, a late addition to the bill, were more  than up to the challenge of opening. These skinny little guys from chilly Edmonton sounded like they should have been big black guys from  the south side of windy Chicago. They blew a lot of minds and won a lot of new fans with their inimitable stage presence, crazy harp playing, frenetic organ and top notch musicianship.
 And a lot of people must have remembered them from that show, because their headlining show, Nov. 27 at the Slice was just as hot and featured a crowded room.

Magnificent 7 and Shred KellyDec. 3 Owl Acoustic Lounge :  After Henotic closed, several new venues opened up, particularly  the Owl Acoustic Lounge, which concentrates on acoustic music and is run by Steven Foord and Mel Rodriguez from Henotic who have ably kept Henotic’s spirit alive. Fernie’s Shred Kelly were one of the Owl’s many highlights this year, opening for Winnpeg’s Magnificent 7s. And in fact they almost blew them away with their intense, high energy set of roots/ folk and bluegrass music. As a special bonus, I actually remembered covering Shred Kelly keyboardist / vocalist Sage McBride in a few different performances back in Kenora in another life. But the Magnificent 7s were up to the challenge of following a hot opening act by playing an incendiary set of original bluegrass music.

Several bands featuring unusual instrumentation also were a highlight of the year.
Not only did several shows from the three drum and multi-instrumental Sunparlour Players at the Slice provide a lot of energy for the plenitude of dancers at their almost capacity shows but several other bands brought crazy instruments and costumes.

 Shane Philip —  April 2 Henotic: One man band Shane Philip played three mind bending shows at Henotic, including one of the last ones at the beloved room, (which closed in May). He simultaneously played several types of drums, numerous guitars and three didgeridoos, while singing spellbinding melodies.

Maria In The Shower —  July 28 the Slice:  Maria in The Shower, dressed like grifters from the 30s, sported bowler hats, played a trumpet  and lots of other things as well as a stand up bass among other things for their very cool show, but unfortunately not many people were there to experience this  unusual event.
Blackberry Wood —  Aug 26 The Slice : Blackberry Wood, featuring one of the members of Maria in the Shower, played the Slice a couple of times, bringing an array of percussion, brass and Vegas kitsch costumes through a hot set of jazz and old tyme country music with a modern twist.

Shane Chisholm at Average Joes. Photo by Richard AmeryShane Chisholm Sept. 3, Dec. 4 with Julian Austin Average Joes: One of the new venues opening this year was a revamped and relocated Average Joes. With a beautiful new stage and top shelf lights and sound, they brought in a variety of classic rock (Prism, Helix and Nazareth) plus tribute acts and country acts throughout the year.  But one of my favourites was Claresholm based rockabilly/ country performer Shane Chisholm. He’s a big guy who has a presence all of his own, but when he brought out the home made stand up bass he made out of a van’s gas tank, I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Especially when he made it sound so good, big and resonant. And when he did a dual drum solo on it with his drummer, followed by setting off a shower of sparks on it with a grinder, that was just plain awesome.

White Cowbell Oklahoma Slice Feb. 18: Mayhem and chaos is assured when White Cowbell Oklahoma come to town. This was the case twice this year, Feb.18 and Sept. 23.
The Feb. 18 show was better because they pulled out all the stops with chainsawing toilet paper and  a blazing cowbell courtesy of Charlie Chainsaw, who couldn’t make it to the September show because he was either arrested or sick depending on if you believe frontman Clem T Clemson. Luckily the band is more than bells,  whistles, fireworks  and loud noises. They have the musical chops, catchy songs and an affably goofy and manic stage presence to back it up.

Joel Plaskett Geomatic Attic April 10: Geomatic Attic The Geomatic Attic had some great shows this year. It’s tough to choose a favourite from everyone from the  Good Lovelies, Ron Hynes, Steve Dawson, Slaid Cleaves, The Weber Brothers, the Sojourners to a special Jill Barber show at Southminster United Church for Womanspace, but two sold out dates from Joel Plaskett were one of the best. He was comfortable with the crowd, played some of their requests,  a lot of old favourites and joked all night long.

Forbidden Dimension Henotic April 16 with the Von Zippers : Henotic had too many great shows to list this year before they closed in May.
But  in the upstairs lounge in  a surprisingly cold April 16, Forbidden Dimension heated things up with some classic rock, garage rock, metal and blues. Now I know what Calgarians have been raving about all these years.


A tale of two arts centres

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In case you’re wondering and /or worrying about  what happened  to the old IGA building downtown, it is making way for the future — the future of the arts in Lethbridge.

But like everything good, it takes time and a little bit of money, though not as much as you might think. Because soon, construction will begin on a new community arts centre designed to replace the Bowman Arts Centre and help complete an ‘arts corridor ’ in the downtown core which will cater to all members of  the increasAn artist’s depiction of the new Lethbridge Community Arts Centre. Photo submitteding population and corresponding number of people involved in the arts including visual artists, actors, dancers, quilters, potters and musicians.

The Community Arts Centre project is part two of of a three pronged investment in the arts in Lethbridge, which began with the recently  completed refurbishment and renovation of the Southern Alberta Art Gallery.

“The Arts facilities are inadequate in the terms of how many people use them and the capacity of the buildings, ” said Suzanne Lint, Allied Arts Council executive director adding facilities like the Yates Centre and the Bowman Arts Centre were developed back in the ’60s, when Lethbridge’s population hovered around 30,000, now, some 40 years later, outside acts can’t even get a booking at the Yates and the Bowman Arts Centre is bursting at the scenes.
So with this in mind, the Allied Arts Council and Lethbridge City Council got together about four or five years ago to formulate a plan  to address this issue.

The first step was completed in September with the completion of $3.9 million worth of renovations to the Southern Alberta Art Gallery which added additional space to the reception and display areas, a new loading dock as well as a new library space among other changes.


CKXU puts the fun in FUNdrive this week

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Local community radio station CKXU, 88.3 FM is in the middle of their annual Fundrive this week, which means they are looking for a helping hand to help keep providing you with 24-7 commercial free music which you can’t hear anywhere else.Artist Aaron Hagan adds to CKXU’s mural at Synesthesia, Oct. 29. Photo By Richard Amery

 So with that in mind CKXU is holding a variety of events around Lethbridge this week, in addition to taking pledges and attempting to reach their goal of $12,000.

“It is the one time of year we solicit our listeners in the community to donate anything they can to help us run efficiently as possible in the highest quality possible,” said CKXU executive director Jorden Ager, adding they aren’t just taking money, they are giving mass schwag in return.

The schwag includes the CKXU Friends card which also comes in keychain form this year and entitles listeners to discounts at a variety of businesses around the city as well as t-shirts, hoodies, water bottles and even CKXU hot sauce. The money helps to upgrade equipment like CD players and turntables among other things needed to keep the station running smoothly.

 What you get depends on the amount of the donation.
CKXU DJs play music you don’t hear on any other radio stations. Styles range from bluegrass to indie rock and everything in between including blues, modern rock, punk, garage rock, jazz and classical. 

There is even a show dedicated to video game music and another dedicated to old time radio programs. They even have a show dedicated to the local art scene.

The station has a special place in my heart because they were a big part of my university experience back in the day when they were CKUL and only heard on cable FM. Now they are on the air and can be heard in most parts of the city. I can even get them in my car almost as far away as Fort Macleod.

 Plus they let me do an old school punk show, Wednesdays, 8-9 p.m.  which uses a lot of their impressive vinyl collection, not to mention my Friday night blues show, the Hotrock Blues Beat, Fridays 6-8 p.m.

To take a twist on the old saw about Albertan weather, if you don’t like what’s being played,  just wait five minutes. And the DJs include university students and commmunity members of all ages, who choose much of their own programming so they aren’t beholden to record companies. This means local musicians can get a lot of airplay on the station which they probably wouldn’t anywhere else.
In honour of Fundrive CKXU has numerous events happening this week.

 Things kicked off with Synthesesia, Oct. 29 — a well attended event at the NAAG gallery , which featured local music including Lustre Creame and Pilgrimage of the lost plus artists adding their  inspiration to a huge CKXU mural in one of the studios.

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