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.