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The best of 2009 tough to choose

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What to choose, what to choose? This year has been a fantastic year for live music in Lethbridge. So what have  the most memorable  shows been? It’s a tough choice as there have been so many.
Because Oct. 10’s show at the Slice with Rich Hope, The Ramblin’ Ambassadors and the Manvils officially launched L.A. Beat, that one is definitely among my favourites. Rich Hope at the Slice, Oct. 10. Photo By Richard Amery
All three bands provided a lot of energy, a lot of diversity, some killer musicianship, a variety of styles of music from country fried instrumental rock to blues to rock and roll, some wild showmanship and I’ve been wanting to see Rich Hope live for years. Fantastic. You’ve got to love Rich Hope  jumping on a  table and howling the blues at the audience. Speaking of showmanship, any of the shows from Australia’s Mason Rack band were exceptional. At the end of the first set at both his shows this year at the Slice, including a packed one on Sept. 26, Mason Rack played some deadly slide guitar on “Who Do You Love’, then grabbed a pair of drumsticks and  did a drum solo on the drum kit, then crab crawled through the audience drumming on a beer keg, tables, chairs, the floor — anything  he could hit with a drum stick. He sounded amazing doing it. Quite a few people were there to see him playing with local blues trio Fat Baby Jake, though not a lot were there the previous couple times.
 A lot of great shows, namely a couple shows by Toronto rock band the Joys at the Slice ( April 8, Oct. 21) rank  near the top of the list, were really poorly attended. Ditto for 40 Sons at the Slice,  Nov. 25. I was delighted to see Moncton based psychedelic jam rock band, Chris Colepaugh and the Cosmic Crew make their first visit to Lethbridge at the Slice, July 23. Though there was scarcelThe Hardtails at Henotic, Aug. 28. Photo by Richard Ameryy a handful there to see it, they tore the place apart. I hope they come back here soon.
Some of them like Wild T and the Spirit, Aug. 2 at the Slice and The Mahones, paddy punk originators The Popes and The Delinquents Oct. 14 I expected to be sold out, but weren’t. But what never ceased to blow me away, was how the lack of numbers never swayed the performers whether they were playing for 15,000 fans or 15, they still put on great shows. They grinned a mile wide, like the Joys’ Sarah Smith did during her two hook filled classic rock style shows and in the case of the Popes’ Paul ‘Mad Dog’ McGuinness, balanced on  the railings.
Others have been just plain strange, like the Hank and Lily Show, who were a highlight  at the South Country Fair this year and played  a special Halloween show at Henotic, Oct. 29. They brought a zombie Michael Jackson to dance, drummer/saw player Lily Fawn was done up as a white faced, green haired zombie and Hank, emerging from headstones set on stage looked as ominous and masked as ever. They brought Edmonton’s Secretaries with them who were another  highlight of South Country Fair and were amazing opening for Hank and Lily, thanks to their outfits, some wild accordion playing and horn section which added an interesting twist to their Go Gos inspired garage rock.
Another weird and loud one was the Browns/Spastic Panthers  show at Henotic, Nov. 21. Clad in ski masks, the Browns played an almost too short set of high energy and extreme voltage punk which had band members rolling on the floor and jumping on tables.Henotic had a couple of the wildest shows of the year, particularly Calgary rockabilly greasers, the Hardtails, who blasted high octane rockabilly, Aug. 28, and capped off  a long set by setting  their stand up bass head on fire.

Henotic and Paul Lawton held a “Mammoth” show, Oct. 14-16 with three days of lots of local and some crazy out of town bands like DCT, the Ex-Boyfrends and You Say Party, We Say Die. Good times.
Henotic also had a cool show from the Shout Out Out Out Outs, Sept. 12 which featured two drummers in the windows of the old firehall, about four bass players and a wall of crazy keyboards which had a sold out crowd dancing.
Up and coming Vancouver pop-rock band, Said the Whale had  a couple big shows at the Slice and at Henotic as well which were well attended and a “whale of a good time.”
 I’m not much for big shows, but I was blown away by Neil Young at the Enmax, April 25. It’s hard to believe he had a brain aneurism a few short years ago. But he played with the vigour of a man a quarter of his age, a massive old amp towered over him. And he showed how well rounded of a musician he is, taking a turn on piano for a little ragtime, an acoustic set and a lot of Crazy Horse rock and roll.
One of my favourite Canadian folk bands is Tanglefoot, so it was great to see their last tour stop by the Lethbridge Folk Club, Nov. 27. They brought  impressive musicianship, intelligent lyrics about weird aspects of Canadian history, a keen sense of humour and engaging stage presence, making their show one of the highlights of 2009.
A new venue, which has been a popular draw for bigger folk and blues acts for the past couple years but which has really taken off this year, is the Geomatic Attic. The first one I saw was fiddle virtuoso Carrie Rodriguez, July 8. They had several really cool shows this year including  Po Girl, Nov. 1 plus Guy and Rod Davis in town for a two night run, Nov. 24-25. It is very cool to hear a man (Rod Davis) who actually played with John Lennon back in the Quarrymen days. They also hosted the second edition of the Highway 3 Roots Review, Dec. 16 with popular southern Alberta songwriters Leeroy Stagger, Dave McCann and John Wort Hannam
I’m looking forward to their next season which will include Carlos Del Junco and even better, Gurf Morlix who records with Romi Mayes and Ray Wylie Hubbard plus Stephen Fearing  on March 10 and Dave Alvin and March 22.
The Blarney Stone has not only brought in some huge rap/ R and b and pop acts like the Swollen Members, Karl Wolf and Tanglefoot at  the Wolf’s Den, Nov. 27. Photo By Richard Amerynumerous others, but also brought in a cool show by Shanneyganock, Newfoundland’s next big Celtic band and some killer big rock shows including Buck Cherry, Social Code, and my personal favourites, Inward Eye. Plus they brought in Mobadass, which almost made me a fan of rap music thanks to Earl Pereira’s  excellent bass playing and singing. Another good one was State of Shock.
Last but not least, Henotic hosted a pair of wild shows from the Pack AD. They did something cool  by having a duos night  and bringing on board local duos, Smokestack Jacks, Amelia Earhart and Austria, Nov. 10.
Other cool shows this year included  Big John Bates who played the Slice earlier this year, and a couple of wild shows from White Cowbell Oklahoma. While their Sept. 14 show at the Slice didn’t feature any toilet paper  getting shredded by a chainsaw like last time, there was fireworks and sparks, a lot of kinetic energy, a triple guitar aural bludgeoning and big riffs which brought the audience back to the ’70s
They’ll be back Feb. 18. And that’s just a taste of some of the wild shows which happened in Lethbridge in 2009.
Locally, there were some really talented local acts. A few of my favourites include Treeline, who  are equally adept  at playing blues music as they are at playing country, Caribbean, reggae or anything else you can imagine.
Smokestack Jacks are an intense new local blues rock duo who never cease to impress me.
 And I always love Shaela Miller’s  shows. She won the South Country Fair songwriting contest this and blew the crowd away with her new song “Loving Me” on the main stage.
There are quite a few wicked blues bands. Paul Kype and Texas Flood comes immediately to mind. And Darryl Düus is always a hoot to watch. He beams ear to ear and wanders through the crowd playing slide guitar with  beer bottles, salt shakers — anything available. And local acoustic bluesman Papa King has been playing quite a bit in the latter half of the year, which is great to see.
One band which is sadly no longer around, but who put on some of the wildest shows of the year, are garage punks Endangered Ape. While their music was an acquired taste, you couldn’t argue with the chaotic showmanship.
Of course there are many other fantastic bands roaming the streets of Lethbridge — Eyes of Isis, Planet Telex, Queen of the Worms, Lustre Creame, Phantom Creeps, the JPS trio …. I could ramble on but make yourself a New Year’s resolution you can keep and check some of these cats out for yourself. Heck, there are open mics pretty much every night of the week, which  showcase a plethora of local talent (the 1010 Pub on Mondays, the Slice Tuesdays, Henotic Wednesdays, Beaches Thursdays, The Wolf’s Den every second and fourth Friday and Saturday afternoons at  the Coal Banks Inn when they have a band.) Do yourself a favour and check them out. So here’s to 2010, my the best thing that happened to you last year be the worst thing that happens to you next year. Thanks for reading L.A. Beat.

 

 — Richard Amery, L.A. Beat editor

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