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L.A. Beat

Wide Skies Music festival features familiar faces and Dave and Phil Alvin

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Mike Spencer is excited to welcome back a lot of old friends  to Lethbridge to play the Wide Skies Music Festival, outside the Southminster United Church, July 26 and July 27.
“ Everyone except for Mariel (Buckley) has played the Geomatic Attic before,” observed Spencer, who has brought in most of the artists performing the two shows, to the Geomatic Attic, to play his popular concert series.
“There are two main reasons I’m doing this at Southminster. One, we received a heart of the City Grant and two, because we wanted to have a really good backup plan. The event is rain or shine. So if it rains on Wednesday, we can move into the Southminster United Church. They have always been excellent to us so we wanted to show it off as a venue so hopefully more people will wan to to book it,” Spencer said.

Dave and Phil Alvin play Wide Skies music Festival next week. Photo courtesy Yep Roc Records
“It’s called Wide Skies, because it is a good description for Southern Alberta, but it also reflects the feel of inclusiveness.  The idea is it is open to everyone,” Spencer continued, adding a bonus is being able to book bands who have not only played the Geomatic Attic before, but who are also in the area, playing either or the South Country Fair, July 21-23 like Lindsay beaver and the 24th Street Wailers or the Calgary Folk Festival the following weekend like Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin.

 Dave Alvin is pleased to be part of the festival.
“I have played Lethbridge before about six or seven years ago. I had my guitar player Chris Miller playing with me. It was  a room in an industrial  area of the city.  To look at it, you wouldn’t have known it was a venue. But I’d always had a great time playing the Calgary Folk Festival, so when this show came up, I said hell yes, ” observed Dave Alvin, who returns to headline the Wide Skies Music Festival, July 27 with his brother Phil Alvin and the Guilty Few including members of Dave Alvin’s two previous bands, The Guilty Women and the Guilty Men including guitarist Chris Miller, drummer Lisa Pankratz and her husband Brad Fordham on bass.

Dave and Phil Alvin were part of Downey, California based rockabilly / roots revivalists, the Blasters, always the outsiders, who cut their teeth in the late ’70s and ’80s, playing a variety of  shows from opening for 18,000 angry Queen fans to playing with some of the wildest  Los Angeles punk bands of the early ’80s including Fear, X, Social Distortion and Angry Samoans. Dave Alvin left the Blasters in 1986 and has since embarked on a successful solo career, most recently reuniting with his brother Phil for two CDs, “Common Ground Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin Play and Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy”— and their most recent CD, 2015’s  “Lost Time.”

“It‘s a combination of my last two bands because Lisa played with me in the Guilty Women and her husband, Brad,  played with me in the Guilty Men and Chris has been playing with me for six or seven years before that,” Alvin said.

“We’re going to play some rock and roll. It’s going to be  a pretty nice show. We’re going to play some of the songs from the last two albums, and some of my songs and even some Blasters stuff,” he said.Alex Cuba is playing Wide Skies music Festival on Wednesday, July 26. Photo by Richard Amery

 He is pleased to be reunited with his  brother.

“We stopped playing together  for  a lot of different reasons. My brother had some pretty serious health issues. He‘s still quite frail. we stopped playing together for some really silly reasons and some  really good reason. Now, his best friend has died, and my best friend has died and  now the silly reasons not to play have gone and the good reasons not to play together have been overcome by the good reasons to play together,” he said.

Lindi Ortega is playing Wide skies Music Festival on Thursday night, July 27. Photo by Richard Amery
Lindi Ortega, who last played Lethbridge in 2015 is glad to be coming back to Lethbridge in support of her  new EP “ Til the Going Gets Gone. She has released six recordings including her most recent EP.

“The first one was in 2002, but I don’t play the first two anymore because I was doing a totally different style of music then,” she said.
Calgary based singer/ songwriter Lindi Ortega will open the show.

The day before, there is a free outdoor show featuring a variety of familiar faces playing on two stages.

 The Shaela Miller Band will open the day at 5:315, followed by  Austin / Toronto based blues band Lindsay Beaver and the 24th Street Wailers. Local roots/bluegrass musician Ryland Moranz will follow at just before 8 p.m. Saskatoon roots collective the Deep Dark Woods will be on after that and Alex Cuba will  play the last set of the night at around 9:15.
Lindsay Beaver, lead singer/ drummer for Lindsay Beaver and the 24th Street Wailers is excited to premiere some new music  she will be recording in August with a variety of Austin luminaries like Jimmie Vaughan.
“ It’s been about three years since I released a CD, so it’s about time,“ Beaver said from a tour stop in Sioux City Iowa.

“ So we’re starting to record on Aug. 16. I just asked Jimmie if he’d be interested in recording and he said he would. I don’t know how it will be when we’re in the room together. I might pass out. He’s always been a hero of mine right back when he was with the Fabulous Thunderbirds,” she said.

Beaver began a crowd funding campaign to  bring in  guitarists Jimmie Vaughan, Laura Chavez, east coast  harmonica virtuoso Dennis Gruenling and other special guests.

 We‘re going to do it anyway,” she said adding crowdfunding will help  cover some of the expenses.

 She is looking forward to  playing Wide Skies Music Festival.
“It will be  about 90 per cent of new songs from the new album and a few from the other albums. It‘s still us. There’s a lot more blues,” she said.

 “We’re coming in on Tuesday night, but we have to leave right away after we’ve played . The alvin b brothers are playing the next night, so I wish we could stay. Their drummer is a good friend of mine, so maybe we can get her on stage with us,” Beaver chuckled.

While the Wednesday event is free, festival  passes cost $60, which include preferred seating for Thursday night, swag as well as a transit pass.

He noted there will be a suggested donation of $10 for Wednesday night to help cover expenses.Spencer has designed Wide Skies to be  as environmentally friendly as possible, so is including  transit passes as well as recycling options and sustainability initiatives. The food trucks are are being asked to compost and there will be mixed recycling available.

There will also be an outdoor artisans market and booths featuring other Heart of the City recipients like  Shakespeare in the Park and New west Theatre who are running the beer garden, which will feature a special beer, Coulee Brew is branding for the event.
Festival passes are selling well. Spencer would like to sell 300 in advance.
“ We‘ve already sold 200,” he said.
 More information is available at

Tentative Schedule Wednesday
5:15 p.m.: Shaela Miller
5:50 p.m.: 24th Street Wailers
7:55 p.m.: Ryland Moranz
8:50 p.m.: Deep Dark Woods
8:15 p.m.: Mariel Buckley
9:15 p.m.: Alex Cuba

 8:15 p.m.Lindi Ortega
9 p.m. Dave Alvin and Phil alvin and the Guilty Ones

A version of this story appears in the July 19, 2017 edition of the Lethbridge Sun Times/Shopper
— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
Last Updated ( Saturday, 29 July 2017 15:51 )  
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