It has been another amazing year in Lethbridge with good news, bad news and a plethora of very cool shows, and 2016 is already looking pretty amazing. We’ll look ahead next week, but now things have slowed down for a week or so on the entertainment front, now is a good a time as any to look back.
Lethbridge said goodbye to Murray Nelson, who passed away from cancer this year. Nelson was one of the scene’s more prominent performers on stage performing solo and with a variety of bands as well as busking on the streets all over Lethbridge. He was also a talented videographer and a respected music teacher who taught many prominent Lethbridge musicians. He had also been a prominent performer at fundraisers for other musicians. His memory will live on in the students he taught and the souls he touched on stage or just chatting at various local watering holes.
On another sad note, in the new year, the Lethbridge Folk Club will be looking for a new location for their open mics on the second and fourth Fridays of the month as MJS Cycle is apparently closing by the end of the year. It doubled as the location for open stages and smaller Lethbridge Folk Club shows.
On a somewhat lighter, but still unpleasant note, Lethbridge got a black eye, so to speak, and made international news in April after shock rocker Marilyn Manson was punched at Denny’s on Mayor Magrath after his April 4 show at the Enmax.
That’s the bad news, but there has also been a lot of good news in 2015.
Lethbridge hosted a pretty big event in the arts — The Lt. Governor’s Awards and SOAR Emerging Artists Festival in June, which not only showcased some of Alberta‘s most talented artists, but also featured the ever growing pool of talent Lethbridge has to offer.
It has been a great year for Victoria born, Lethbridge based songwriter Leeroy Stagger, who released a great new CD “Dream it All Away” and capped off a successful year supporting it by winning the Peak Performance Competition in November.
Stagger’s new CD was one of several excellent Cds released this year by southern Alberta talent including John Wort Hannam, Karen Romanchuk, Cosmic Charley, the Supervoid, Accalia and Papa King Cole and Zojo Black to name just a few off the top of my head.
Lethbridge’s punk scene really took off this year, mostly thanks to promoter Alex Currie. Currie and company put on a day long punk and metal show, The Burning Bridges Festival, July 25 at the Moose Hall, another good venue for punk.
Another highlight this year was the formation of Attainable Records who are starting to do shows spanning a variety of genres. They had a weekend of showcases featuring a variety of Lethbridge, southern Alberta and Calgary talent in November.
Casino Lethbridge has expanded their musical horizons a little this year form the usual crop of classic rock and cover bands to also include comedy, mentalism and Calgary rockabilly band the Hi Strung Downers.
The Burning Bridges Festival featured a lot of the Calgary Beer Core scene including Citizen Rage, the Motherfuckers, Kroovy Rookers, Press Gang plus a couple of highlights from Edmonton including Grizzly Train and Rebuild/Repair.
The punk shows this year have been some of the most entertaining, particularly St. Thomas, Ontario horrorbilly trio the Matadors, who played Lethbridge twice this year once at Inferno and again in October at the Moose Hall with Butch Haller, a “90-year-old man” who plays rockabilly and country versions of hits from the ’70s to today. Other really fun shows were Calgary redneck punks Puttin’ On the Foil and baseball inspired punks the Isotopes also played Lethbridge twice, once opening for the Real McKenzies at Bo Diddly’s and again at the Moose Hall.
While the shows don’t get near the attendance they deserve, they have a pretty good core following, which will hopefully improve.
There were countless great punk shows from mainstream acts like Gob at Scores in June and Canadian punk icons like D.O.A. and the Real Mckenzies. SNFU returned to Lethbridge, July 16, for the first time in many years to tear up Inferno, the new venue for a lot of metal and punk shows.
But even if you weren’t into punk, there was a lot of music to entertain you.
While the Slice and the Owl Acoustic Lounge supplied a steady stream of outstanding up and coming folk, country, indie rock and even metal and punk, there was a lot of mainstream rock as well, most of it at Average Joes, who discovered Sunday shows can be a smash.
There was plenty of pop/ modern country hitting Lethbridge at Average Joes. Julian Austin put on another excellent show on April 17. As did Aaron Pritchett who brought his son’s band King and Cash plus Cory Marquardt To Average Joes on Jan 26. Up and comers Cold Creek County also played a pop filled show at Average Joes on July 4.
The old liver took a beating on Sundays as Average Joes had a string of excellent shows in October and November, including the best country show of the year with Shooter Jennings and his dad Waylon Jennings’ band Waymore’s Outlaws, Oct. 4 and the always amazing Ridley Bent, playing as a duo this time.
Joes brought back rockers Buckcherry and the Wild! for a wicked double bill, Nov. 8 and Big Sugar the following Sunday.
The Big Sugar show was especially special as we got to see them show off two wildly differing sides of their musical personalities. They showed off their more mellow, acoustic, more reggae side in February thanks to the Geomatic Attic who brought them to University Theatre and they plugged in and turned it up again in November with with Triggerfinger, one of Europe’s most popular bands.
Average Joes also benefitted from the cancellation of the Tail Creek Music festival in Edmonton due to rain and poor ticket sales by hosting a surprise visit, June 27 from Detroit rockers Pop Evil, who have a variety of radio hits.
There were also a couple of mainstream pop shows. I usually avoid those but had to check out an excellent June 9 all ages show at the Gate with pop duo Dear Rouge who get a lot of radio play. I unfortunately missed Jocelyn Alice at Average Joes, who has a radio hit “Jackpot.”
While some people show up fashionably late to shows, there is something to be said for showing up early to not only secure a seat, but also catch impressive up and coming opening acts.
Kelowna’s The Wild! are quickly becoming one of my favourite rock acts.
They kept the always popular One Bad Son on their toes in March at Bo Diddly’s with gritty AC DC style rock and roll and did the same opening for BuckCherry at Average Joes on Nov. 8. The ’90s rockers BuckCherry who are best known for their hit Crazy Bitch, showed a widening musical palette and even incorporated a saxophone into the show.
Australian rockers the Lazys also kept One Bad Son on their toes, just this week, at Average Joes, Dec. 17. Once again they had a very strong AC DC influence, which show One Bad Son sure know how to book a double bill.
The Glorious Sons also played Lethbridge several times this year including Whoop Up Days, but shortly after that, they hit Average Joes for a fantastic show, which was opened by Northcote and his band. I usually see him in a more acoustic setting of the Owl or at the Slice.
Saskatchewan born/ Vancouver based One Bad Son are one band to watch for the new year.
They play Lethbridge so often, they might as well be honourary Lethbians, not only playing high octane headlining shows here, but they also opened up for ’80s pop metal icons Def Leppard at the Enmax Centre and played Whoop Up Days this year.
Another hot opener was Head of the Herd, who deafened a good sized audience at Soundgarden while opening for Finger Eleven, Oct. 26.
Classic rock acts are always popular draws in Lethbridge, so there was plenty blasts from the past like Kenny Shields and Streetheart and Platinum Blonde to name a couple. I missed Prism’s semi annual Lethbridge visit to Coyote Jones – a new venue which used to be Scores, but caught an excellent show from Honeymoon Suite and Lee Aaron at Average Joes, July 24.
I usually don’t enjoy Enmax Centre shows usually due to lack of leg room and usually poor sound, but I couldn’t miss Def Leppard who brought back the spirit of the ’80s, April 25.
Another great blast from the past this year was when quirky ’90s pop/ rock band the Odds visited Average Joes in January.
My favourite blast from the past this year was Edmonton cowpunk pioneers Jr. Gone Wild who played the Slice and featured the always amazing Steve Loree who plays with a variety of bands including the excellent southern Alberta country/ roots band Tin and the Toad.
Jr. Gone Wild didn’t have as many people as they deserved which was par for the course for many of the shows at the Slice and the Owl Acoustic Lounge. Both of them are the place to go to see talented up and coming acts before they hit it big. One of the Owl’s highlights was a fun show from Fort, St. John folk duo Twin Peaks who played an excellent show.
The Slice was home to a variety of stoner rock, grunge tinged bands this year with Chron Goblin, Black Mastiff and Black Thunder all playing within the span of a month during the fall.
The Slice had the best of everything including pop folk favourites like Danny Michel and Peter Katz. Even Old Man Luedecke was among the many highlights of the Slice’s year.
The Slice also had some of the best blues shows of the year as well as their usual crop of excellent indie rock shows. Cecile Doo Kingue was a highlight as was Juno award winner Paul Reddick and Monkeyjunk’s Steve Marriner on Jan. 15.That was pretty much heaven for fans of beautiful blues harmonica. And harp lovers were pleased to hear Edmonton blues/ soul band the Boogie Patrol back at the Slice this year as well. It is always a good time when the Slice brings in The Gay Nineties to play some rock and roll.
They also featured some of the loudest and even some of the best shows of the year. I always look forward to hearing Toronto’s Public Animal in Lethbridge, but it was even better with Calgary Napalmpom on Aug. 23 on a Sunday night which was simply amazing, fun and wall shaking loud.
The Slice also featured one of the coolest side projects- High Kicks who are an offshoot of the Dudes. They played a couple of excellent shows this year including an excellent double bill with ’70s throwbacks, Bend Sinister on July 9. They even borrowed Bend Sinister bassist Matt Rhode for a double bass attack. Bend Sinister also rocked the joint on March 26 as well.
The Slice even had a couple of excellent surf rock shows with local surf band the Atomicos opening for Calgary’s the 427.
On the more punk side of surf, Winnipeg surf band the Thrashers were one of the Owl Acoustic Lounge’s many diverse highlights, which included a disappointingly cancelled show from NoMeansNo’s Tom Holliston.
As always an excellent crop of ambient indie rock bands visited both the Slice and the Owl. Some of those highlights included Heartbeat City, several shows from Calgary’s the Ashley Hundred, Locomotive Ghost on May 30 and Mindil Beach from Victoria.
The Owl Acoustic Lounge is becoming a popular live music venue, though people tend to talk more than listen when a live band is playing there.
Awna Teixeira was one of many highlights at The Owl which ended up being a great venue to hear bluegrass music with talented you bands like the Slocan Ramblers (who also played a great show at the Geomatic Attic this year) and Calgary’s Rotary Park (who played a great Lethbridge Folk Club show as well). Around the corner from the Owl, Regina bluegrass band the Dead South, one of many highlights of South Country Fair, played a well attended and entertaining show at the Hungarian Hall on Dec. 5.
There were a couple of popular music festivals this year as well. University of Lethbridge based community radio station CKXU celebrated five great years of Love and Records with their most diverse musical line up yet on Sept. 12 featuring beloved children’s performer Fred Penner, not to mention always popular draws like Calgary rockers Cowpuncher and Fernie stoke-folk band Shred Kelly to name just a few.
Alternative rock and noise rock fans enjoyed a variety of louder and more experimental acts courtesy of the second annual Electric Eye Music Festival May 7-9 with acts including Dri Hiev, Shooting Guns, Black Thunder, the Versions, Viet Cong and a long awaited return of Chad Van Gaalen all performing in Lethbridge at a variety of different venues for the Electric Eye.
For the alternative to that, a new classical music festival picked up steam as the third annual Centric Music Festival found it’s footing, June 24-28 mostly at CASA but also with a beautiful outdoor concert in Galt Gardens, June 26 featuring some of the festival’s highlights.
And just up the road in Fort Macleod, the South Country Fair was a good time as always with acts like Romi Mayes on the mainstage with Jimmy Bowskill, the Dead South and the Good Ol’ Goats who returned for their own shows. So did last year’s South Country Fair favourites Bend Sinister.
One of my favourite parts of seeing concerts is the spontaneous jams arising between band members during encores.
Steve Marriner brought his band back to the Geomatic Attic for a wild show with Cousin Harley, April 15 which wound up with the best spontaneous jam between the two bands of the year, April 15. It was the second of two shows including a fundraiser for the Global Drums.
An equal pleasant surprise was having The Sheepdogs showing up to jam at the Slice after their Whoop Up Days show, Aug. 18. They were a highlight of Whoop- Up Days, which had a more contemporary bent this year including familiar faces like the Glorious Sons, One Bad Son plus bluesman Steve Hill and several local bands opening the shows.
The Geomatic Attic always puts on great shows, some of which I had to miss like Joel Plaskett, Dan Mangan and Lee Harvey Osmond— the first two at Southmnster United Church and the last at the attic.
But they had some excellent roots and country shows including Lindi Ortega with Chic Gamine, Tim Hus and an intimate evening with Fred Eaglesmith and Tif Ginn.
The Lethbridge Folk Club, in addition to having bigger shows at the Lethbridge College Cave like the wonderful Linda McRae, also had some super smaller shows. They featured Ken Stead earlier in the year just before he released his CD “No Fear Here” and some excellent blues shows including Doc Maclean and Ken Hamm, who played the Cave. Another Folk Club highlight was Sweet Alibi, playing the Cave in advance of their brand new CD. They had an evening of folk and cowboy songs with Steve Cormier and Peter Van Camp. The folk club’s funniest show was the ever joking Pete Loughlin and Jenny Allen who had a decent sized audience in stitches with their jokes.
There were even a couple of great straight ahead rockabilly shows this year from Peter and the Wolves who played the Owl and returned for love and Records, Hamilton’s Ginger St. James who played the Slice.
I didn’t get to a lot of the rap and metal shows also happening, but Madchild , who returns to Lethbridge to play Inferno on Jan. 1 played an excellent show or two this year. For metal, I enjoyed Edmonton’s Bleed , the Golers and X Ray Cat (July 8 Inferno) and lots of local metal bands like Accalia and a return of Caste of Shadows
A lot of bands play here so often that they become good friends, so it was great to see folks like Calgary blues musician Erin Ross, Jenny Allen and the Pack AD who returned to the Slice (they also opened for Monster Tuck and Alice in Chains at the Enmax Centre last year) but I only caught a couple songs. Isobel Trigger playing some upbeat pop at the Slice and even hosted one of their jams.
And it is always a pleasure to see Toronto based songwriter Sarah Burton who played in several incarnations with a band and solo. It is was also wonderful to hear Winnipeg Blues band the Perpetrators at the Slice on July 3. Shotgun Jimmie returned to play Owl after about three years June 4. And Winnipeg based, Lethbridge born Keri Latimer returned to Lethbridge to play the Slice with Leaf Rapids and Slow Leaves, April 30. A special treat was seeing Winnipeg punkgrass band the D Rangers’ Jaxon Haldane playing with with Gordie Tentrees, April 24.
There really was a lot going on this year. So here’s to an even better 2016.
— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor