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Live entertainment venues reopening for Phase 2 of Covid recovery

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It has been a long few months with no live music to enjoy. A lot of artists have been woodshedding and making new music, some have been releasing new CDs or perfoming online, but it’s just not the same watching a concert on a computer screen versus being  there in person and enjoying the vibe and the camaraderie of fellow music lovers.
I’ve felt a little adrift and without purpose not having music to cover. I forgot how much I enjoyed  it when I went to the first post Covid Honker’s open mic a few weeks ago with the Trippy Hippys.

 Knock on wood, things are cautiously re-opening as Stage 2 of Covid recovery begins on Friday, June 12.
A  few entertainment venues have  already started to reopen. The Slice restarted their Thursday open mics two weeks ago and Honker’s Pub’s open mics returned two weeks ago. They had a Saturday open mic two weeks ago and both Friday and Saturday open mics last weekend. They also opened up a patio in their parking lot.
Good Times also reopened with regular live comedy. They focussed on local comedy for the last two weeks. This week they feature Calgary comedian Malik Elassal on Saturday, June 13. He will be performing two shows at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.


Starpainter evolves from The Utilities into new country style sound and new CD

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As people change , evolve and grow up and move away, so do their bands.The Utilities have evolved into Starpainter. Photo by Richard Amery
Local indie rock band the Utilities, tweaked their line up upon the departure of long time drummer Drake McCheyne, reformed, embraced their love of alternative country and country music and rebranded as Starpainter.
Starpainter, featuring Joel Stretch - guitar, vocals, Keys; Colby Stolson - bass; Tyson Wiebe - guitar, vocals; Mick Hayward - drums, percussion and guitarist Joel Gray, just released their debut album “Bury Me With My Family.”  which they record with Jesse Northey at Moose Farm studios, north of Edmonton.

Frontman Joel Stretch answered a few questions about the album through e-mail.
“Starpainter is a sort of continuation and rebirth of The Utilities. The sound is a little different and the lineup changed. It felt like a new band so we renamed it. Drake (McCheyne) played on this record (beautifully) but that was his last hurrah with the band, so we decided we'd get a new lineup figured and put this out as the first record of a new project. Drake and I started The Utilities when we were kids so without him playing drums it felt like the end of a chapter for sure,” Stretch noted, adding this CD is more song focused.

“This record is more song-first than any of the stuff with The Utilities. The melodies, lyrics, and chord progressions got workshopped pretty hard leading up to recording. This is also a roomier record than any of The Utilities records were, too — we wanted to capture the sound of a band playing together, not just individual parts. The sound is a bit more twangy, but continues the trajectory we were on with The Utilities in many ways too,” Stretch added, noting they band members have always loved country  and folk influenced music.

“Lots of what we listen to is folk and country and that element reared its head a little more on this record. The Flying Burrito Brothers, Wilco, and Neil Young are a few favourites that get played a lot in whatever vehicle we're driving around to shows … there have been elements of twang or alt-country or whatever word you want to use from the very beginning of the band, but it’s true that this is more of a country record than stuff we did under the old name,” he continued, noting while there is no overreaching theme to the CD, he wanted the  songs to fit together.

“We wanted the songs to fit together, so we made some rules that we sometimes broke but mostly stuck to. We tried to use just guitars and organs for melody instruments for example. We were also very purposeful about keeping the songs short and the arrangements tight.” The CD has already been receiving airplay from radio stations like CKUA.

“CKUA is my favourite radio station. It means a lot to have their support. The hosts and all the behind the scenes folks at CKUA are genuine music lovers and it comes across in the programming. I want to especially thank Grant Stovel and Amy Van Keeken for including our songs in their programming — it makes a big difference for our band,” he noted.

Stretch focussed on melody when he was writing the songs.
“I was writing mostly short, melodic songs for this record. Songwriting is sort of mysterious to me. I can usually get six or seven songs out of any given process and then have to find new ways of working. I'm always having to find different doors into the same room. Some of the songs, “County Line” and “Grocery Store” and maybe a few others, started with lyrics and I worked backwards from there. Wild Azaleas started with that omnichord beat you hear on the recording. Most start with an intro or verse melody that I'll write lyrics for and build the song kind of front to back in that way,” he continued, adding the lyrics are about all kind of relationships.

“The lyrics focus on regrets and on relationships of all kinds. Switching towns and people moving away comes up lots too. The inevitability of death makes its way into a lot of these songs. My songs aren't exactly autobiographical, but I am inspired by conversations and stuff that happens to me or people I know. I listen to conversations and write about the way I'm feeling a lot of the time, but I always take whatever liberties to just make stuff up too,” he wrote, noting they chose from many different songs, but chose the ones with a similar mood and feel.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 10 June 2020 13:34 ) Read more...

Musicians spread message of hope and unity with fundraising song Together We’re Strong

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When the world’s in such a bad condition, music brings people together.Dustin Bird is excited about Together We’re Strong. Photo by Curtis Bird
 So Stirling, Ontario based rising country star Dustin Bird got together with Brian John Harwood of up and coming country band Kansas Stone write the uplifting song “Together We’re Strong.

 They got over a dozen of their picking and singing friends to participate in the recording. They include Kansas Stone (Barrie, ON); Alee (Edmonton, AB); The Road Hammers’  Jason McCoy & Clayton Bellamy (Barrie, ON) ; Cory Marks (North Bay, ON); Alli Walker (PEI); Ches Anthony (Saskatchewan); Danielle Bourjeaurd (ON); Dani Strong (ON); Chris Buck (BC); The Heels (BC);Jason Blaine (Pembroke, ON); Dustin Bird (Stirling, ON); Aaron Allen (London, ON); Aaron Pritchett (BC) and Chrystal Leigh (of Sons of Daughters) (BC).

The video features The Washboard Union, Gord Bamford, Beverly Mahood, Jason Benoit, Chris Labelle, Peter Walker (KX96), The Good Brothers, Tom Cochrane, Kelly Prescott, Russell Decarle (Prairie Oyster), Paul Ferguson (Cool100), Tracy Martin (CCMA), Nice Horse, Royale Lynn, Kendra Kay, Sacha, Cory Kelly (Tour Bus Ent./Complete Country), Chris Bray, Rich Cloke, Jamie Warren, Verle Mobbs (CMAOntario), Vanessa Marie, Carter Dani Doucette, Kelsi Mayne, River Town Saints, Dan Sadowski, Stephano Barberis, Missy Knott, Genevieve Fisher and the Snowbirds, who appear at the end including Jennifer Casey.

The song and video was released in honour of the Snowbirds’ Captain Jennifer Casey, who died in a tragic accident, May 17 in Kamloops. Proceeds from the single  will go towards Unison Benevolent Fund, a Canadian music industry charity whose mission is to help professional music-makers in times of hardship, illness or economic difficulties.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 07 June 2020 20:56 ) Read more...

Geomatic Attic showing optimism by rebooking shows for later in Fall

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The Geomatic Attic’s Mike Spencer is  confident Covid 19 panic will pass. So much so that he re-scheduled spring shows from Fred Eaglesmith and Tif Ginn and Shane Koyczan for late fall at the Sterndale Bennett Theatre.

Fred Eaglesmith and Tif Ginn's show has been rebooked for Oct. 28. Photo by Richard Amery
 The April 9 Shane Koyczan show will now be Thursday, Nov. 5 while Fred Eaglesmith and Tif Ginn’s June 23 show has been moved to Wednesday Oct. 28.

 Steve Dawson’s Black Hen Roadshow, Volume 4, originally set for June 3 is cancelled but will be rescheduled. Spencer said deposits had already been made for the Sterndale Bennett so the rescheduled Eaglesmith and Koyczan shows will still be there rather than at Geomatic Attic.

“We already had an agreement with the Sterndale Bennett. But it’s nice to have that option,” Spencer said.
 He said it is a gamble to book shows at the best of times, especially an entire series.

“I’ll pay between $1,000 to $3,000 and up to $5,000 for bigger acts in deposits, which add up,” Spencer said.
 The province’s Covid 19 ban on gatherings over 15 has unfortunately meant the Wide Skies Music festival has been cancelled this year.

“I saw this coming in March so we held onto deposits until June,” he said.
“But unfortunately, we didn’t have any other options as the province’s ban on gatherings over 15 is expected to run through to September,” Spencer said, adding MonkeyJunk and Birds of Chicago had been booked for the popular June mini-festival. He hopes to incorporate them in to the next season.

Last Updated ( Saturday, 09 May 2020 17:57 ) Read more...

Lethbridge Folk Club plans for future after cancelling remainder of season due to Covid

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The Lethbridge Folk club is in a holding pattern thanks to Covid 19.
 They have had to cancel the remainder of their season which included some excellent blues music  from Carlos Del Junco in March, and Winnipeg bluesman Big Dave McLean in April as well as Colorado bluegrass quartet the Blue Canyon Boys.

Big Dave McLean is one of the shows the Lethbridge Folk Club Cancelled due to Covid 19. Photo by Richard Amery
“We’ve cancelled the rest of the Spring season. The venues aren’t available, so we aren’t doing open mics, which were at Casa. Basically we haven’t booked anything else because there is too much unknown. And when you book artists, you are paying deposits,” said Lethbridge Folk Cub president Tom Moffatt.
“ It’s disappointing. There are shows I really wanted  to see.

 “Luckily we didn’t lose a lot financially. The artists and venues have been really good about returning deposits,” said Moffatt, noting  he club is waiting to see how things unfold.

“We don’t want to risk the health of our audience by forcing them into a concert situation,” Moffatt continued.

“The artists have expressed interest in returning, but we haven’t booked anything yet,” he said.

Last Updated ( Saturday, 09 May 2020 18:02 ) Read more...
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