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Touching tribute for Mike Kuzminski raises money for son

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Soup Of Flies rocking a Kiss tribute. Photo by Richard AmeryWe should all be as lucky to have made as much of an impact on people’s lives as Mike Kuzminski.

You never know just how much of an impact someone has had until you see a whole room full of people rocking out and having a good time through kinship and music in their honour.

Mike Kuzminski was a popular local musician in the late ’80s and early ’90s Damon Mudrack, Brian Wilson and Cal Toth play with Heartbeat. Photo by Richard Amerywho played with countless local bands and inspired heaps of other musicians.

He most recently played with local bands Smokestack Jacks and Soup of Flies before succumbing to cancer in June, which is especially sad as he fought and beat the disease as a young man.

 Approximately 300 friends, family and former bandmates gathered to celebrate close to 30 years of Lethbridge music history at the Sound Garden on Sunday, Aug. 27 and in the process raised a lot of money, $15,110, for Kuzminski’s son Jacek’s education.

Everybody including the band members paid $25 to get in the doors and plenty more was raised through a silent and a live auction, plus drinks.

 But Sunday was not a night of sadness and mourning, it was a proper wake — a celebration of a life well lived and well “rocked”  which showed how Kuzminski was an integral part of  the Lethbridge scene as a bassist and singer with numerous local bands in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

A reunited Mantis. Photo by Richard Amery
So, as expected, the night ended up basically being an ’80s night as former band mates came back home from as far away as Calgary and Vancouver to reunite with old bands and old friends and to play the hits they played with Kuzminski.

 I missed Mike Kuzminski’s heyday in Lethbridge as he had moved to Vancouver soon after I moved here, but got the essence of his contribution to the local music community during this show.

 While I missed White Knight, I made it in time to relive the ’80s with Heartbeat, one of the bands Kuzminski was in with host and event organizer Cal Toth.

They played a solid set of popular ’80s hits, including a lot of Canadian ’80s rock including Glass Tiger’s “Don’t Forget Me When I’m Gone,” the Cars’ “Magic” and the “quintessential ’80s song” according to Toth, Simple Minds’ “ Don’t You Forget About Me” from  iconic ”80s movie The Breakfast Club.

Those songs summed up thHeartbeat played a variety of ’80s hits. photo by Richard Amerye flavour of the night. Kuzminski’s sister Helena Vederes-Kuzminski and friend Fayla Vederes got up on stage to sing Journey’s “Loving, Touching, Squeezing” with Heartbeat.

 I was surprised by how tight these bands played, especially since most of them had very little An early version of the Peace Dogs featuring Paul Denton on bass reunited. Photo by Richard Amerytime to practice together other than online on things like Skype.

 Meanwhile the crowd perused a variety of objects donated for auction including a beautiful Paul Stanley style Iceman guitar, a beautiful gold pendant depicting Kuzminski’s Fender Jazz bass, golf packages and an autographed Wendel Clark Toronto Maple Leafs jersey which reflected Kuzminski’s love of Kiss and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

There were a variety of smaller items like an autographed Nickelback CD and backstage pass, autographed pics of Keith Urban, Big And Rich and other country stars, framed photographs and lot of other things. People wrote down their memories and thoughts in a book of tributes to Mike to be given to his son.

 The line up was interesting because it basically sonically illustrated, almost chronologically,  the development and evolution of numerous local bands still going strong today.A later version of the Peace Dogs featuring Dave Mills and Shane Olsen reuniting. Photo By Richard Amery

 I caught the end of a set by Mantis which including future members of the Peace Dogs and later the Chevelles, Scott Kanashiro and Tim Carter plus the powerful pipes of  Maggie Keenan, who belted out Guns N Roses’ “Sweet Child O Mine” and  Bon Jovi’s “Living on A Prayer.”

 Carter and Kanashiro stayed on stage, added a couple of different drummers and a couple bassists through several different incarnations of the Peace Dogs including Don Plettell, Peace Dogs founder and one of the event’s organizers.
 That was my favourite part of the show as I have fond memories of enjoying the Peace Dogs in university. They played a deadly set of upbeat classic rock including Cream’s “White Room,” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze,”  picked up the tempo with Nazareth’s “Turn On Your Receiver,” and a scorching version of  Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades.” They ended with a final line-up change as Carter wanted to show how the band started with Mike as well as how it ended. They ended with a grungy ’90s style Peace Dogs original.

Soup Of Flies Joe Brewster, Tom Jarvie, Gabe Sinclair, Elliot Mereski doing their Kiss Tribute. Photo By Richard Amery
Mike’s wife Kristen got up on stage, talked about how Cal Toth introduced her to Mike Kuzminski and asked the crowd to toast themselves for their support of the event.

 As a final tribute to Mike Kuzminski, one of his last bands, Soup Of Flies including event organizer Joe Brewster, did a tribute to his favourite band, Kiss, complete with Kiss costumes and make-up. They roared through a good selection of Kiss’s repertoire beginning with “Detroit Rock City,” blasting through and obscurity  “Do You Love Me,” as well as more familiar fare including “Deuce ” and “I Was Made For Loving You.”

The night was a beautiful and touching tribute to a very colourful character and integral part of Lethbridge’s music history.

— by Richard Amery, L.A Beat Editor
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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 31 August 2011 16:06 )  
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