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L.A. Beat

From the Editor's Desk

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 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.


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.

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

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor

Great tunes on Outlaw Country Cruise 4

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 I joined the cruise ship Norwegian Pearl for the Outlaw Country Cruise 4 last week as an excuse to escape the cold (yeah right) for a few days and in the process catch a whole lot  of really good bands who seWebb Wilder playing the Outlaw Country Cruise 4. Photo by Richard Ameryldom, if ever, get up to our neck of the woods.

 I usually listen to bands even hipsters have never heard of, so it was really cool to commune with people from the U.S. and Canada and as far away as Ireland even, who not only have heard of bands like Govt. Mule and the Bottle Rockets, but who are really into them. Unfortunately there were no Bottle Rockets this year, who were on last year’s cruise, and no Govt. Mule. But there was a lot of really amazing music and of course pleasant surprises as always.
  This yearMargo Price playing the Outlaw Country Cruise 4. Photo by Richard Amery, I finally caught a couple of Steve Earle shows, who I missed last year because his band was competing against bands I really wanted to see like Blackberry Smoke, but this time I caught the set of hits, which was supposed to open the cruise but had to be rescheduled like several shows due to a downpour in Tampa.

 The Outlaw Country Cruise is put on by  Sirius XM’s Outlaw Country Station every year, so they feature plenty of bands ranging from outlaw country, alt country, punk and traditional country playing on five stages all over a boat which is basically as big as a small town. It really is all about the music, and communing with people who love the same type of music as you do. A few people noticed my CKXU sweatshirt and immediately asked if  I knew Corb Lund, when I told them I was from Lethbridge, which was pretty cool.

 So I spent a solid five days running around a boat and around a couple stops in the Bahamas trying to catch as much as I could, the only difference being I wasn’t taking pictures or writing a review of them, which was a weird feeling on it’s own as I feel horribly out of place at a live show without a camera and a purpose. It was a challenge as a lot of bands and artist were competing with others I really wanted to see like country legend Bobby Bare, who I only caught during a workshop/ mutual admiration session with Steve Earle, pianist Terry Allen and Lucinda Williams, who was in awe to be on the same stage with legends. Earle noted he doesn’t usually play requests but was happy to play a couple obscurities for Bare and Allen.

Steve Earle playing to most of the Outlaw Country Cruise. photo by Richard Amery
 There were a lot of highlights. Willie Nelson’s presence was felt on the first night in his daughter Paula Nelson’s band. She did an admirable job of both crooning out jazz and singing twangy old school country. Another Nelson daughter, Amy Nelson was brilliant in twisted folk duo Folk Uke along with Woody Guthrie’s granddaughter Cathy.

 The main draw for me this time was the fantastic Texas alt country/rock band The Old ’97s who played all kinds of catchy songs that should be hits, but I only caught them once, though I caught  their frontman Rhett Miller, who was also playing a few guitar pulls and solos slots.

Elizabeth Cook hands out Squidbiillys swag. pHoto by Richard Amery
It was the same case for another big draw the Drive By Truckers, who used to include Jason Isbell. The two main frontmen, Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley also played heartfelt solo sets on other stages on other days. I caught bits and pieces of their shows, got to hear “Hell No I Ain’t Happy,” which finished a set on the main, pool deck stage.


Lots of good times to remember in 2018

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It seems like Lethbridge spent a lot of the year covered in either snow, which didn’t leave until April or smoke, which doCorb Lund stopped by to sing with Geoff Berner at one of his shows this year. Photo by Richard Ameryminated the summer, or surrounded by howling wind, but it was still an exceptional year for live music in the city. On a sad note, CKXU’s Love and Records festival took a break from Galt Gardens this year due to volunteer burnout and the staff being focused on getting the new 2,900 watt transmitter operational, which happened at the beginning of December.
University of Lethbridge based radio station CKXU 88.3 f.m.’s new transmitter was a major highlight for those people looking for music you can’t hear anywhere else.

This year, lots of excellent live music came to the Slice, Owl Acoustic Lounge and Average Joes and the Smokehouse, to name a few. There were lots of afternoon shows this year including the LGRC family jam at the Owl  who also hosted The Folk Road show for a matinee during the summer and other assorted afternoon shows.  The Smokehouse also started a matinee series featuring folk and roots music.

Blueprint Records also closed after 12 years supporting the local scene. Before handing the torch over to new owners Street Legal Records, they held a big farewell bash at the Slice, June 1 featuring lots of local acts Biloxi Parish, Sparkle Blood, Open Channels and Mombod. The next night Street Legal held a grand opening bash featuring rap and hip hop.
The Geomatic Attic had an excellent season full of blues with shows from Steve Dawson, Dawson playing with Kat Danser as well as Birds of Chicago and Joey Landreth, Nov. 25 who was also a hit opening for the Sheepdogs at Whoop Up Days. MonkeyJunk returned to the Geomatic Attic to slay on May 24. They had an excellent run of shows in May,  featuring a beautiful show of folk with Fionn and Royal Wood, May. 22. Earlier in the year, they had the White Buffalo, March 6. He is best known for writing several songs for the TV Show Sons of Anarchy, and Tri-Continental brought their cross-cultural music right before that.
Honker’s Pub celebrated 21 years with a lot of live music on March 17.

 The Enmax Centre had a lot of big shows  this year including Shinedown, Johnny Reid and a lot more but I only made it to George Thorogood and the Destroyers, who rocked the joint,  May 5.
 There were also several alternative rock shows this year downstairs in the old Firehall hosted by the Terrific Kids Collective, who held shows for Halloween and other shows throughout the year.
As always there are new bands forming and playing, it seems every day. Some of the highlights this year were up and comers Hoverkraft, Gabe Thaine in his many incarnations like the Crooked Creek Warblers or solo, Silkstones and Biloxi Parish.

New albums came from a variety of local bands and musicians including J Blissette, Body Lens, Gabe Thaine’s “Alone in This World.” In Cahoots, Cope, MTBC,Shaela Miller who had a great year participating in the project Wild. She released her new CD “Bad Ideas.”, Paul Kype also released a new CD with Chilliwack drummer Jerry Adolphe called “Blues For Rosie.” Other new local Cds included The Utilities, Mind Merge with Craig Baceda and Chris Snelgrove and John Wort Hannam’s “Acres of “Elbow Room.” Jesse and the Dandelions, who is based out of Edmonton, but spent his formative playing years here also released a new CD “Give Up the Gold.”

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