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L.A. Beat

An amazing year for Lethbridge music in 2011

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It has been a pretty amazing year for Lethbridge music. A lot has happened — the opening and closure of the new Tongue N’ The Sheepdogs were a hit this year. Photo by Richard Amery Groove downtown, the re-opening of Whispers in the same spot and it’s closure, not to mention the New Year’s Eve closure of the Old York Tavern, formerly Bobby Johns.

On the other hand, new venues like the Owl Acoustic Lounge have thrived, the Slice always has wicked shows, longstanding venues like the Wolf’s Den have had excellent shows and several other venues like the Geomatic Attic and the Stone have also had a lot of highlights this year.

There have been new music festivals, like the Magnetic South Festival, Word on the Street and new venues like the NAAG Gallery which featured Shotgun Jimmie among others and lots and lots of live music.Cal Toth and friends reunited their old bands during the Mike Kuzminski benefit concert, Aug. 27. Photo by Richard Amery

 I definitely can’t choose between all of the great local bands playing throughout the year. Lethbridge’s thriving music scene continues to grow with a cornucopia of bands of all stripes and styles, most of whom played superb shows throughout the year.
A heap of new local CDs were released this year. 

And the artists played a plethora of shows including excellent performances from Karen Romanchuk, the Shaela Miller Threesome, Treeline with Sean Brewer, Phantom Creeps, Andrew Scott, Joshuah Reuben Fritz, Alyssa McQuaid, Herky Cutler, Toques and Beards, Zojo Black, Salem Abraha, the Coal Creek Boys, Leon Barr, the Moby Dicks, The Record Holder. And those are just the CDs I heard.

 Numeorus other Lethbridge bands didn’t release new CDs, but still performed frequently in the city including the Skilletlikkers and their offshoot, Rancho Deluxe. Plus Planet Telex played several times this year and Smokestack Jacks played at least once a month.

Lethbridge’s burgeoning punk, garage rock and metal scene continued to gather steam. There were excellent shows this year from Stressed Out, Enceladus, Lock N’ Load and young and upcoming talent like Shocked Standards who made an impression at several events in 2011.

There were also last shows from the Moby Dicks and “reunion shows” from the Record Holder.

 There is also a healthy jazz and blues scene in Lethbridge. Local bluesmen like Darryl Düus and Paul Kype tore the roofs off any place they played this year. And, as always there is a core of local jazz players, many involved with the Lethbidge Jazz Society. James Oldenburg, Brad Brouwer and Paul Holden always seemed to be part of any jazz gig happening in town.

 And yes, as always, there were numeorus band playing your faovurite covers playing every week at a plennitude of venues.

 As always, there have been lots of new bands playing like Dalliance Elixir and the Coal Creek Boys or reforming their lineups like Gravity Crash, just to name a few.
But there were a lot of highlights from touring musicians like Sam Roberts plus metal band Scythia and their “oboe of death” playing Finnegans, Aug. 24 to Matthew Good stopping his show at the Stone, Nov. 17, in the middle of a song to roundly chastise a pair of chowderheads for fighting.

There have been big name country acts this year like Gretchen Wilson and Big and Rich and reunited ’90s rock acts and, as always, a lot of new discoveries, and consequently new favourite bands.

I’d never seen Five Alarm Funk before, but found something new to appreciate about their unstoppable rhythm and crazy costumes each of the times I saw them at the Slice this year.

 Music journalists always like to find the next big thing — it shows we’re on the cutting edge. The music business today is so competitive you never know who will be the next Ramones, Led Zeppelin, Arcade Fire or Feist. Success is determined by a combination of hard work, talent, luck, trends, who you know and being in the right place at the right time. So it is always great to see a band just before they hit it big.
 Scythia’s Morgan Zentner. Photo by Richard AmeryCase in point — Saskatoon’s The Sheepdogs. I’ve been playing them on my show on CKXU, 88.3 FM for a couple years, but they played Lethbridge at a big outdoor show at the Geomatic Attic, June 27 with the Sadies and Treeline and captured the crowd’s attention and love. This was just weeks before they won the cover of the Rolling Stone contest.

 I finally got to see Big Sugar this year, playing with Wide Mouth Mason, who I’ve seen many times. That was definitely a highlight.
 So was a surprise visit to Lethbridge from KMFDM’s charismatic and scary frontman En Esch and guitarist Günter Schulz, playing with the haunting Mona Mur, who played muscular and menacing industrial music for a handful of people at the Slice, Sept. 22.

There have also been a lot of pleasant new discoveries like the Weber Brothers Band, who played Lethbridge several times this year including rocking in Hallowe’en at the Slice with a brand new light show and CD. And don’t forget a new crop of crazy talented roots performers like the F-Holes and Maria In The Shower then there were other wacky roots jazz acts like Blackberry Wood.
 There were also guilty pleasures and pleasant surprises like The Deaner of cult movie favourite FUBAR and FUBAR 2 and his band Nightseeker.

And even though I’d usually rather be dead then listen to dance music, Shout Out Out Out Out put on one of the year’s best shows  at the Stone.

 It is always great to meet some of these talented performers on their way up.Big Sugar’s Gordie Johnson. Photo by Richard Amery
 Young country/ pop singer Kira Isabella doesn’t have an album out yet, but already has her songs on the radio alongside heavy hitters like Gretchen Wilson and Lee Ann Rimes, so it was great to see her playing Lameles Western Wear store earlier this month.

 It is also a pleasure to be introduced to new blues bands and bands I haven’t heard before plus people I’ve wanted to hear for a long time. The Geomatic Attic was great for this with some of this season’s highlights including Texas singer/ songwriter Hayes Carll and his smoking hot band, plus Ottawa blues band Monkey Junk and Geomatic Attic mainstays Po’ Girl, who played here a couple of times with JT Nero as well as Allison Russell and Awna Teixeira on their own

 And it is always a pleasure to see old friends who I’ve seen many times and always impress me, like Roger Marin, the lovely and talented Romi Mayes playing with Jay Nowicki of the Perpetrators, plus the the Perpetrators themselves and The Mahones, all playing the Slice. It is also great to hear cats like Edmonton bluesman Marshall Lawrence live for the first and second time at the Owl Acoustic Lounge and Word On The Street. I’ve been following his career since he began playing the blues. He’ll be back in Lethbridge, Jan. 25 at the Slice with a blues showdown with John Rutherford.

 South Country Fair attracted most of Lethbridge’s music community to Fort Macleod this summer and consequently  new bands to Lethbridge — bands who hoped their reputations would precede them for their Lethbridge debut.  That was not the case for the hilarious Ball Gag N’ Chain Gang, who everyone raved about at the Fair, but didn’t show up for at the Slice, Nov. 16. They killed it anyway combining a lot of influences with a lot of humour.

There were also a couple excellent jazz shows this year beigninning with the Lethbridge Jazz Festival, June 17. A lot of big names paid Lethbridge a visit to entertain big crowds at several venues including the Tongue N’ Groove. Mike Kuzminski playing with the Smokestack Jacks earlier this year. Photo by Richard Amery

One name and ownership change and a few months later, Whispers had another very cool jazz gig with Gordon Leigh and the  Naked Ear combining jazz music with poetry, being read by Jay Gamble and Richard Stevenson, Oct. 22.

Last, but not least, it has also been a moving year. Numerous popular Lethbridge ’80s/ ’90s bands including the Peace Dogs, Mantis, Heartbeat and Soup of Flies reunited to raise money for beloved bassist Mike Kuzminski’s family. Kuzminski, who was most recently the bassist for Smokestack Jacks and Soup of Flies passed away earlier this year from cancer. But local musicians kept his spirit alive at the Soundgarden, Aug. 27. And in the process, showed Lethbridge has a long history of musical talent, not to mention a big caring heart.
 It’s been a good year and it’s only going to get better.

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
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