Last year was pretty amazing for live acts both touring and local.
Unfortunately poor attendance still remains a plague upon the scene. I’ve been at countless amazing shows this year which drew very few people. We have amazing talent playing Lethbridge and more often than not — nobody there to hear it. Part of the problem is due to shows starting late. Maybe it’s because I’m getting more cranky the older I get, but I find it constantly frustrating when a show is advertised to begin at 9:30 p.m., and it doesn’t begin until an hour later or more, or as I call it — Lethbridge time. It is all the more frustrating on a week night. I imagine it is more frustrating for those who don’t set their own schedules like I do. Especially if you have to get up early for school or work. Not to mention if you paid for a babysitter to look after your kids so you can have a rare night out.
One of the best poorly attended shows in 2013 was Bocephus King. Another great poorly attended show was Roger Marin, also at the Slice just to name a few. And not just at the Slice.
Poor attendance could be due to many other reasons. Lack of publicity is another. I do my part. I always let people know about shows on www.labeat.ca and through the Sun Times and on my radio shows on CKXU. There is a lot of legwork involved in it. I spend a lot of time reading musician’s facebook statuses, events listings and invites and looking for posters and signage and, of course, talking to people first hand to keep my listings up to date.
But you can tell people about shows as many times as you like but short of yelling from the rooftops or going to people’s houses and physically dragging them of their couches and into their community to support live music, there is not much else you can do to actually get them to show up.
But as I said, there was a lot of excellent music coming though Lethbridge this year. Casino Lethbridge brought in some great classic rock acts plus bluesman Jack Semple who brought the house down. They also featured another of my favourites Doucette plus Helix, Doug and the Slugs and even country music.
Average Joes was home to great Canadian ’90s rock including stellar shows from Matthew Good and Sloan, plus ’90s ‘supergroups’ like Crash Karma as well as excellent metal from the Cancer Bats.
They also featured some experimental pop music with bands like Rykka and Dragonette.
Bo Diddly’s have also hosted excellent shows with Vancouver ’90s punk band Gob, another excellent St. Patrick’s Day themed show from the Real McKenzies and my favourite new discovery of the year — Thee Attacks. I predicted big things from the Sheepdogs a couple years ago just before they won the cover of the Rolling Stone contest. This year I’m predicting big things for Thee Attacks.
This Danish band brought back the spirit of ’60 rock and roll with liberal dollops of the Who and brought more energy to the stage than I have seen in quite some time.
I’m also predicting big things for Saskatchewan born, Vancouver transplants One Bad Son who played a couple excellent shows in Lethbridge of neo-classic rock.
Another new favourite this year is the punk band the Last of the V8 Interceptors who played a couple times this year opening for some of the classic punk bands.
They are a punk band inspired by Mad Max and the Road Warrior, post apocalyptic movies starring a young Mel Gibson. And you how can you not love that? The Thrashers, a surf-punk and from Winnipeg played two excellent shows at the Owl and Studio 54 are starting to get a following here.
The biggest spectacle of the year took place at the Enmax Centre, with, who else? Kiss.
The ’70s glam rockers played an energetic set of hits from throughout their 40 some year career, they had plenty of testosterone and lots of fireworks, gadgets, gizmos and hydraulic lifts.
Other highlights of the year were the return of Delhi 2 Dublin who celebrated Halloween at a new club in the old firehall building called the Inferno. They played an exciting double bill with another of my favourites Shred Kelley who played a couple of their own excellent shows of stoke folk this year. They always make you shake your groove thing.
The Owl Acoustic Lounge also had a lot of excellent singer songwriters and even a little bit of punk music including Winnipeg surf punk trio the Thrashers and crazy experimental metal with Krang.
But the Owl was home to the most interesting indie rock, particularly the Jung People plus Devonian Gardens and local band the Clockwork Towns. The Owl has also hosted one of my favourite new Calgary rock bands – Go For the Eyes several times this year sharing big bluesy riffs and keyboards and couple of great lead singers.
PandaCorn, was another of my favourite new acts to come out of rural Saskatchewan ie Moose Jaw. Brodie Mohninger and Megan Nash combine their musical efforts to create catchy indie rock and pop music. Plus they dress up as a panda and a unicorn respectively, which is an interesting visual.
There was also a lot of indie rock in 2013. Hollerado stood out as a crowd favourite when they played with the Zolas, at the Slice, Nov. 7, Freshfest at the university of Lethbridge and at Bo Diddly’s on June 20.
It is tough to choose favourite local acts when there are so many whot are so good.
Shaela Miller, Treeline and many others are always something to look forward to but new bands continue to form every day.
Garage rock/ punk trio the Ruby Plumes tore up the town this year. A couple excellent new alternative rock bands have also just started playing. Advertisement is exceptional as are the Mormon Girls, who just released their debut cassette tape. The Dirti Speshuls, including several veterans of the Lethbridge scene are starting to play more, beginning a with the annual Bigwood music festival outside of town. They also played an excellent show at the Slice. They are just finishing their new CD.
Several local musicians released new CDs in a variety different genres this year including the Coal Creek Boys, Treeline and Shaela Miller, Brenna Lowrie, the Ruby Plumes, Shocked Standards, Penitentz, Leeroy Stagger, Jesse and the Dandelions, Amy Bronson, The Void, Tod Robinson and the Gleu and many more.
I don’t follow a lot of rap shows, but there were several excellent ones. While I missed Machine Gun Kelly in November at Inferno, Madchild played several times at Studio 54 as did Transit, who also performed several times this year.
There have been several shows that have just been playing strange. On Nov. 15 pop/ rap star Josh Martinez had few people at his show at the Slice, but performed most of his set while balancing water on his head while dancing.
B.A. Johnston shows are always strange, not to mention packed. He filled the Owl again with unusual stage antics, wandering through the crowd and rolling on the floor like a demented Weird Al Yankovic.
There were some excellent mainstream country shows this year, particularly Emerson Drive, who played Average Joes, Nov. 7.
There is nothing like a solid rock and roll show. The Weber Brothers were just the ticket for that at a couple of Lethbridge shows in 2013 at the Geomatic Attic and again at the Slice.
This is old school rock and roll at its finest, complete with a stand up bass and ensuing tricks.
Average Joes was home to some female powered modern pop- rock out of Vancouver with Dragonette on Aug. 6 and PEAK Project winner Rykka, Nov. 30.
Festivals are a great way to see a lot of great acts.
This year the third edition of Love and Records Sept. 14 in Galt Gardens featured Five Alarm Funk and a whole whack of other bands during the day as well as at the Owl and The Slice.
The South Country Fair is always a summer favourite, July 19-21. This year I got to see one of my favourite new blues band the Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer among others.
The Lethbridge Jazz Festival made full use of CASA with a big outdoor festival featuring most of the performers from during the week including ukulele powered jazz-folk band the Polyjesters, who I haven’t heard for years.
The Lethbridge Jazz festival also brought in Saskatchewan bluesman Jack Semple to play CASA, which was only the tip of the mountain of great blues shows this years. Some of those highlights including the Perpetrators at the Slice, harp master Paul Reddick and Ben Sures, Whiteboy Slim as well as Wild T and the Spirit to name just a couple.
It is always great to see one of Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar fame’s new projects. This time he went jazz and gospel with a touch of the blues for an awesome show with his new band, Sitdown Servant, at Scores, Oct. 29.
There was politics mixed with comedy this year as well. Some of my favourites were Geoff Berner and Kris Demeanor at the Slice, Oct 17 and the always hilarious Washboard Hank for his Rob Ford and Stephen Harper songs, which he played to an intimate audience, Dec. 4 at the Slice.
The Slice had some of the best world music shows this year with Danny Michel and the Garifuna Collective a popular Belize band which featured among other wild percussion instruments — a musician playing a brace of turtle shells. Other wonderful world music shows were Dr. Zoo at the Moose Hall for the Lethbridge Folk Club and Jungal, a cool Australian blues/ rock trio who played some excellent blues on pedal steel guitar.
I mentioned some great fundraisers last week. The most prominent for me was the The Huron Carole at the Southminster United Church, Dec. 6 featuring Tom Jackson, Beverly Mahood, George Canyon and One More Girl.
Leo Lives April 20 at Studio 54 was another excellent fundraiser featuring former Misfits lead singer Michale Graves and the Pindolls And of course there were plenty of excellent fundraiser for the floods in High River.
The most innovative fundraiser was Fred Eaglesmith’s pie auction for High River flood victims during his July 17 show at the Slice.
So that was 2013. May 2014 rock just as hard as 2013 if not more.
— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor