I don’t think many people will be sad to see the back of 2016 — a year which has basically sucked out loud. I spent most of it recovering from some illness or another. And nothing gets a person thinking of your own mortality and the fragility of human existence than losing musical icons and childhood idols we grew up listening to like Glen Frey, David Bowie, Prince and Waylon Jennings to name a few. Heck 2016 even claimed beloved TV dad Allan Thicke from Growing Pains, who was also a songwriter.
The old curse “May You Live in Interesting Times,” seems more apt than usual in a year fraught with terrorist attacks, wildfires, atrocities and tribulations of all kinds. I’d rather accentuate the positive though.
I’ve been to a lot of great shows, visited great friends and interviewed some of my favourite musicians.
A lot of fantastic local acts performed throughout the year and I only caught a fraction of all their shows.
As usual, Lethbridge has stepped up to help those in need with fundraisers and I’ve met many wonderful people. So here are some of my favourite memories.
The Owl Acoustic Lounge had most of the month‘s highlights.
Peter and the Wolves rang in new year on a toe tapping note at Owl Acoustic Lounge.
Up and coming Calgary area singer / songwriter and guitar picker Carter Felker played the first of several shows in Lethbridge this year, with a show at the Owl Acoustic Lounge Jan 8 with Peter Gardner.
But the Lethbridge Folk club also managed to heat up winter with a great bluegrass show with Go Ask Earl, Jan. 16 at the Lethbridge College Cave.
For folk with more energy, the always entertaining Greg Rekus returned to the Owl Acoustic Lounge, Jan 11.
Lynn Jackson played a sweet show of heartfelt blues tinged folk at the Owl on Jan. 28.
The month ended with a whole lot of catchy ’80s rock, Jan. 29 as Doug and the Slugs brought upbeat ’80s hits like “Too Bad” to Coyote Joes.
The month opened with a great new duo Winnipeg brother and sister pop/ folk duo Roger Roger playing the Slice, Feb. 1
The Geomatic Attic was in a mellow mood in February , allowing rockers 54 40 and the Trews to show their slower sides at Southminster United Church, Feb. 2 and Feb. 24 respectively.
On a sadder note as it was one I was really looking forward to, Montreal based blues musician Cecile Doo Kingue had to cancel her show at at Plum due to a van breakdown and the death of her mother.
But the Slice continued to be a mainstay of the local music scene. They hosted another fun show from Geoff Berner, Feb. 5. Berner would return in September to be a profanity laden highlight of Love and Records.
The first of of several big fundraisers in 2016 took place in February as the U of L Opera workshop helped resettle Syrian refugees with a fundraising concert, Feb. 7.
The Lethbridge Folk club put on another fun show in February with Boots and the Hoots at the Lethbridge College Cave, Feb. 6. They’d be a highlight throughout the year for people who love old school country music and quirky humour.
Indie rockers enjoyed a show from Yukon Blond who returned to Lethbridge for a Feb. 11 show at Average Joes.
An early incarnation of Jay Bowcott and Brady Enslen played the Owl Acoustic Lounge.They would return later in the year as Enslow.
And speaking of old favourites, Elliott Brood returned to Lethbridge played for full house at Studio, Feb. 12.
David Bowie was one of many great musicians to pass away this year, so a group of local musicians including Jon Martin, Taylor Ackerman, Jason Oakes, Clayton Smith and Paul Holden, to name just a few, banded together to pay tribute to his music at the Slice, Feb. 20.
For big name country stars, George Canyon returned to Average Joes, Feb. 22 to play a hit filled set.
Some bands just click with Lethbridge audiences. Saskatchewan based roots/ bluegrass collective the Dead South have been an immediate hit since playing South Country Fair last year. So they made one of their first visits to Lethbridge, Feb. 25 with an outstanding sold out show at Coyote Joes. They would return in November for another great show.
Continuing with the classic rockers go acoustic vein, Ed Kowalczyk of Live played a solo show for the ’90s moment of the month at Average Joes, March 7. He played a whole bunch of hits and Live’s hit album Throwing Copper in its entirety with a spectacular video display.
Good things happen to good people. Samantha Martin played an exceptional show of blues at the Geomatic Attic, March 8 with local soul/R and B singer Mwansa Mwansa opening. She made such an impression on the audience and Martin, that she would join Martin on tour in the summer.
March was marked by a March 11 fundraiser at the Galt Museum for the U of L food-bank featuring Dory and the Weathermen.
The next day featured another fundraiser at the owl Acoustic Lounge,March 12. The Cheeky pig Studio Grant event featured Dojo Workhorse, one of Danny Vacon’s many Calgary bands including the Dudes and High Kicks at Owl.
And there is always lots of fun during CKXU’s FUNDrive, so it featured several great shows at the Slice and Attainable Records.
My favourite part of March is St. Patrick’s Day celebrations so Vancouver Celtic punk icons the Real McKenzies gave a great head start to St. Patrick’s Day March 16 at Studio with the Boids, who I missed and Lethbridge Firefighters pipes and Drums
There was lots of local music for St. Patricks Day including The Silkstones who continue to make an impression on new and old fans alike.
And, March ended on a high note as blue rock behemoths ZZ Top played an amazing show at the Enmax, March 31.
April opened with with jazz fuelled blues from the Bluesland Horn band at the Slice, April 2
Lauren Mann played an exceptional show of roots and folk at the Slice as well.
And bagpipe fans and rock fans enjoyed the return of the Mudmen who played a fun show at Soundgarden, April 8
For ’90s rock fans, Sloan played a great show , April 11 At Average Joes and played all the hits and more.
The day before that, Average Joes hosted country rock musician Cory Marquardt, April 10 who was last here opening for Aaron Pritchett.
April 16 was a tough night for attendance. Jen Lane played a great roots show at the Slice.
Fernie stoke folk band Shred Kelly, who usually draw a crowd in Lethbridge, didn’t get one April 16 at Studio, but they’d return to play a packed Freshfest at the university in September.
On the other hand, people packed the Owl for local jazz/ pop band the Groove Apostles around the corner on the same night. They are quickly becoming one of my local favourites.
Also on the poor attendance note, Zoo Riots played the greatest indie rock show that nobody saw at the Slice on April 20.
Calgary’s Foul English played one of many excellent punk shows at the Moose Hall on April 22.
April was a big month for fundraisers.
On April 23 the Smokehouse hosted a big, day long fundraiser for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's featuring Eric Braun, a new Southern Alberta band, Suit Jacket Society, Mark Hall band, Tres Hombres and more.
The Girls Rock Camp held a fundraiser the same night, April 23 at the Slice which featured several bands forming in a week and coming up with a short set including bands made up just for the show, including me.
People remembered the South Country Fair, so they packed into the Slice for country/ roots band Good Ol’ Goats, April 29 at Slice who were a highlight of the fair last year.
April ended with the annual visit from Winnipeg blues rock trio the Perpetrators who played the Slice with a super set of blues and blues rock , April 30.
May was a big month for live music.
Vancouver indie rockers Said the Whale opened May at Studio with an excellent show, May 1.
Inferno featured an excellent punk show, May 7 with the Golers, Sick Ritual and World Class White Trash.
Fort McMurray was devastated by wildfires in May, so local bands chipped in to play a pair of big fundraisers for the Red Cross to help wildfire victims
Trevor Panczak and Shane Chisholm raised $14,000 for the Red Cross with a show at Coyote Joes, May 14.
Another fundraiser at Smokehouse brought in over $3,000 for the Salvation Army to help fire victims with performances by Tres Hombres, Shooting For Mars and Dory and the Weathermen who played a lot of fundraisers this year plus Kelly and the Bastards and the Mark Hall band.
The Electric Eye Music festival continues to be a success with plenty of metal, alternative rock, punk and just plain strange music happening all over downtown, May 11-15
A few of my favourites from Electric Eye were Advertisement, Physical Copies, Striker, Napalmpom (who would return to Lethbridge in November), Outlaws of Ravenhurst, Durban Poison, Fist City and Blü Shorts.
The Slice featured another candidate for best show nobody came to as the Decoys played a wicked set of addictive pop and rock music, May 18 , immediately appealing pop tinged rock.
Royal Tusk, who would visit Lethbridge three times this year, wound up their tour in Lethbridge, May 27 at Studio 54.
The Owl Acoustic Lounge featured some choice rockabilly shows including Calgary’s Hi Strung Downers, May 27 and Hamilton’s wonderful Ginger St. James, May 28.
She was competing with a big country show with Emerson Drive at Average Joes. They played their many hits.
Another show I was looking forward to , but which was unfortunately cancelled due to a car accident, was Tallest to Shortest who were to play the Slice, May 28. They will be returning to Lethbridge in the new year on Jan 27.
Duos showed how to do rock and roll right, by kicking off June at the unusual location of the Top Hat, June 1
Miesha and the Spanks played an incendiary show with HighKicks and local duo Cope, who I missed
The always fun Calgary rockabilly band Peter and the Wolves opened June on a high note, at the owl Acoustic Lounge June 4.
For something special, CKUA featured Dave McCann and the Firehearts for a live broadcast of the Trans Canada Music West concert series, June 10 at Geomatic Attic, which was packed, though their show the week before at the Slice was dead.
The Lethbridge Jazz festival expanded this year, unofficially beginning early on June 13 with gypsy folk duo Blue Moon Marquee who played a great show to a decent sized audience, especially for a Monday.
I caught a few shows, including an excellent Jazz in the Park feature in Galt Gardens with several festival highlights including Kat Danser who played the night before at the Owl Acoustic Lounge.
The Sue Foley band played a jaw-droppingly amazing night of blues music at a sold out Slice, June 18. Another highlight of the Jazz Festival was the Starlight Lounge featuring plenty of jazzy crooning at the Lethbridge Lodge. Crooners at Lethbridge Lodge hosts Starlight Lounge
And in the middle of all of that excitement, and competing with the Starlight Lounge Danny Michel returned to Slice for another great show, June 16. He would return later in the year to play the Geomatic Attic.
On a slightly different not, local Improv troupe the Drama Nutz called it quits with their last show June 24 at Club Didi which brought back familiar faces from the past decade to perform.
The Rotary Dragon Boat Races are always a highlight of June, not only for the races themselves, but for the local acts who play the event. On June 25 I saw couple of my favourites Alyssa McQuaid and the Steve Keenan band.
There were a lot of poorly attended shows in June including Hollerado at Pulse, June 24, which I expected to be a sell out.
Citizen Rage at Pulse/ Inferno, June 21 was a great Calgary punk show few came to see.
Another great albeit badly attended shows at the Slice was War Baby, June 25, which was one of many great hard rock and metal shows happening.
But the Slice hosted another great show with Bend Sinister, June 22 which left everyone smiling on a Wednesday night
People know what they like and can always count on Hamilton musician/ comedian B.A. Johnston to put on a show so he packed the Owl, June 21.
The month ended with Shotgun Jimmie at Owl, June 27, who always puts on a great show.
As usual July opened with Canada Day celebrations in Henderson Lake Park, which I didn’t get to. But I did get to see one of my favourite Canadian classic rock bands, Prism at Coyote Joes.
Mayhemingways played one of several shows at the Owl this year, the first one being July 4. it was a great mix of Celtic tinged folk and roots music. They would return in October.
Local rock band Outrun the Arrow, formerly NSR, playing one of many shows this year in July. They played a great show on July 7 at Pulse which included local pop punk band plus the Youngbloods who also played several excellent shows this year.
Another of my favourite blues bands, the Boogie Patrol played a funky blues show at Slice with local funk rock trio Adequate, July 8. Adequate would be a highlight throughout the year.
A lot of new bands played their first shows this year. Biloxi Parish made an impressive debut at the Owl Acoustic Lounge, which also featured a lot of indie rock including Windigo, Focus People and Bears in Hazenmore
A highlight of July is always the South Country Fair in fort Macleod, most of the music community including the major live music venues head west to enjoy the Fair.
It was July 15-17 though I missed most of it as I went on a road trip to Missoula to golf with my dad and see Grace Potter.
But I returned in time to see one of my new favourites, Big Rude Jake as well as Jr. Gone Wild on a rainy Saturday, Boots and the Hoots with Megan Brown, the Fates and Billie Zizi who would return to play the Owl later in the year were also highlights.
Another July highlight was the first Lethbridge Music Festival at Spitz Stadium featuring local talent Tyrants of Chaos, Metallica tribute Damage Inc., Zojo Black (one of last shows from Greg Gomola who would move later in the year) plus classic rockers Streetheart,Tom Cochrane and Red Rider and one of my guitar idols, Rik Emmett, July 23.
I discovered a lot of new favourite bands in July, not the least of which was Idaho blues/jazz musician Eilen Jewell, playing the Geomatic Attic, July 25.
July wound down with a big, loud rock show as Pop Evil returned to Average Joes, July 28.
And Vancouver surf rock band Tubuloids visited the Moose Hall to celebrate summer with surf punk for an intimate crowd, July 29. That show was competing with the return of Ghostkeeper at Slice July 29, who played unusual, hypnotic indie rock.
August was all about local music. Great shows from newer bands local bands JJ Thomas, Juxtaposers, Bummer Club and Fei Fei Du were highlights of August.
August also marked the debut of Lethbridge based internet radio station Jessfm.ca.
The Cheeky Pig Studio Grant fundraiser outside the Owl with Spacewolves and Outrun The Arrow and several other acts was among the musical highlights, Aug. 7 which was competing with a great punk show at the Moose Hall featuring Bats Out, the Royal Red Brigade and Iskra.
Casino Lethbridge brought in a cool act, the Folk Roadshow featuring Ben Caldwell of Broken Down suitcase, Aug. 12. And Cecile Doo Kingue returned to play two shows at Plum, Aug. 13 and 15.
Another of my favourites, Northern B.C ukulele wielding duo Twin Peaks are always a pleasure, so they returned to the Owl, Aug.15.
August sucked out loud for one main reason — the Slice closed it’s doors, though it would re open under new ownership in October. Regulars and long lost patrons sent the Slice off in style with three separate wakes
The last first wake featured progressive rock with Moon Tan, Moon Runner and local band The Rainbow Patrol, Aug. 22. Petunia and the Vipers provided a great send off for the Slice on Aug. 19, but some of the regulars had one last wake for the Slice, Aug. 25 featuring a lot of familiar faces including Rancho Deluxe, Tin and the Toad with Megan Brown, Shaela Miller, guest spots from Dave McCann and Megan Rourke.
That event was competing against two other big events, the last day of Whoop Up days, which featured a great, gritty blues show from Montreal blues musician Angel Forrest and Bigwood 9, which featured a lot of local bands plus a couple out of town visitors, Royal Tusk and Fancy Diamonds.
I only caught one day of a solid Whoop Up Days as I was on my annual Mulegrimmage, this time I went to Denver to see my favourite band Govt. Mule.
We prepared for life without the Slice in September. Luckily there was lots of live music and a cornucopia of festivals, concert series’ putting on shows in the fall.
The Owl Acoustic Lounge, became the place to see up and coming bands in September.
Old friends returned including Jesse and the Dandelions who played the Owl, Sept. 9 and Darryl Düus played some excellent blues with Papa King, Aug. 20 at the Owl Acoustic Lounge as well.
One of many amazing punk shows featured the Dayglo Abortions and D.O.A. teaching the young punks how to do it right, Sept. 15 at Pulse.
The month began with Ribfest in Galt Gardens, which featured lots of local talent and begins with The Tour of Alberta taking over downtown.
Another early September highlight was Billy Bob Thornton’s band the Boxmasters who played a fun albeit short show at Average Joes, Sept. 8.
There were lots of big festivals in September.
The University of Lethbridge opened the school year in style with a killer Freshfest lineup, Sept.10 including Mother Mother, Shred Kelly and local band the Silkstones playing one of many excellent shows.
Love and Records has become the place to be in mid September. Love and Records 6, Sept. 17 featured of my favourite like Boots and the Boots, Geoff Berner, Megan Nash, Five Alarm Funk plus lots of local talent including Ryland Moranz and Sparkle Blood and one of my new favourite local band the Groove Apostles playing a touch of jazz, pop and R and B.
The Folk Club also had a sold out Oscar Lopez show, Sept. 17, competing with love and Records
Artsdays provided lots of activities including Word on the Street, Sept. 24, which featured local talent including Mwansa Mwansa and Jolene Draper.
Outrun the Arrow was back to play several shows including a Cancer fundraiser at at he Owl in September as well.
The Owl Acoustic Lounge featured a fantastic blues/ folk at Owl, Sept. 24 with Kimberley MacGregor and Sean Hamilton, who played Lethbridge several times with different bands.
The Geomatic Attic had a busy fall. Carrie Rodriguez and Chip Taylor played the Attic, Sept. 18 and there was great delta blues at the Geomatic Attic with the always brilliant and entertaining Big Dave McLean and Tim Williams, Sept. 25
September ended with upbeat pop bands Elwins and Tokyo Police Club playing a busy Sept. 30 at Studio competing Octoberfest and Spree Killers and Artificial Dissemination at the Moose Hall.
October began strong with Calgary based indie rock band 36? at the Owl Acoustic lounge on Oct 1.
The next night featured another great punk show at Moose, Oct. 2 with SNFU, the Jolts and Western Death and No More Moments, who I missed.
The Geomatic Attic also opened strong with the blues show of the year as MonkeyJunk played twice, Oct. 3-4.
October had lots of excellent folk, eclectic indie rock including JP Hoe at Owl, Oct. 14 and Zachery Lucky Oct. 24.
The Enmax had some very cool October shows which I caught. A big shock rock show with the always entertaining Alice Cooper at Enmax, Oct. 14 featured lots of Alice Cooper hits, theatrics and Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump slapping each other then kissing and making up at the end.
A couple of nice later, the sounds of thrash echoed through the air and the eardrums at the Enmax, as thrash legends Slayer, Anthrax and Death Angel tore things up Oct. 16 with massive riffs and ear bleeding guitar solos.
There was another great punk show at the Moose Hall with the Creepshow which was competing with a poorly attended though awesome rock show at Average Joes with the Motorleague and High Kicks.
The Geomatic Attic had a string of sold out show with Birds of Chicago, James McMurtry and Fred Eaglesmith, which I couldn’t attend due to illness.
The best news of the month was the Slice reopened for Halloween Oct. 29 with lots of local talent breaking in the new ownership and newly refurbished bar.
November began on a laid back note, with an impressive Geomatic Attic show at the Southminster United Church featuring a whose who of Canadian roots music with Barney Bentall’s Caribou Express including Ridley Bent, Bentall, his son Dustin and many more.
Local bands stepped up again for another fundraiser, Nov. 5 at Legends for the Karla’s journey fundraiser featuring several bands including Driving While Blind and the Mark Hall Band to help out the victim of a brutal assault and rape.
There were a lot of sold out shows in November including Bif Naked’s show/ Book reading at Coyote Joes Nov 7 in support of her autobiography I Bificus.
There were several sold out shows at the Geomatic Attic including the Great Lake swimmers at the Southminster United Church, Danny Michel and the Highway 3 roots revue, which I missed due to illness and weather.
There was a great rock show at Inferno/ Pulse with Calgary rockers Cowpuncher and Napalmpom, Nov 10 which was definitely one of the best straight ahead rock and roll shows of the year.
On a country note, Aaron Pritchett played all his hits and some new songs, Nov 17 Average Joes for a good sized crowd.
And Calgary punk/ rock duo Miesha and the Spanks played another of several Lethbridge shows this year, this time at the Slice, which I missed due to stage managing Hatrix Theatre’s production of “ The Game’s Afoot.”
Nov 19 featured a trifecta of great shows from the Trews (plugged in this time) at Average Joes and the Folk Club’s sold out presentation of Valdy at the Lethbridge College Cave.
Another November highlight was Attainable Records successful showcases at the end of November at the Owl Acoustic lounge as well as Attainable Records, which featured punk and metal and alternative rock shows throughout the year.
November ended on a rock and roll note, Nov. 26, with several excellent shows, another fundraiser for Dory and the Weathermen at the Smokehouse, which I missed because it started early, and the return if one of my favourites, The Wild! who returned to Lethbridge to tear up Coyote Joes with new music and familiar hits. The other big event was the second annual Holiday mash Up, a fundraiser for Youth One at the Eagle’s Hall, featuring a plethora of local bands spanning all genres. I only caught a wild show from the Youngbloods.
December is usually all about Christmas shows, but there were excellent shows to make December really rock
A new showcase of roots and blues music, the Windy City Opry began, Wednesday , Dec. 14 with Eliza Doyle, who was just in Lethbridge to play with the Dead South, who also played several great shows this year.
And One Bad Son always put on a great show as they did, Dec. 15 at Average Joes for a good sized crowd.
They were trying out new music with an eye on having the audience choose their next single.