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L.A. Beat

From the Editor's Desk

The best of 2009 tough to choose

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What to choose, what to choose? This year has been a fantastic year for live music in Lethbridge. So what have  the most memorable  shows been? It’s a tough choice as there have been so many.
Because Oct. 10’s show at the Slice with Rich Hope, The Ramblin’ Ambassadors and the Manvils officially launched L.A. Beat, that one is definitely among my favourites. Rich Hope at the Slice, Oct. 10. Photo By Richard Amery
All three bands provided a lot of energy, a lot of diversity, some killer musicianship, a variety of styles of music from country fried instrumental rock to blues to rock and roll, some wild showmanship and I’ve been wanting to see Rich Hope live for years. Fantastic. You’ve got to love Rich Hope  jumping on a  table and howling the blues at the audience. Speaking of showmanship, any of the shows from Australia’s Mason Rack band were exceptional. At the end of the first set at both his shows this year at the Slice, including a packed one on Sept. 26, Mason Rack played some deadly slide guitar on “Who Do You Love’, then grabbed a pair of drumsticks and  did a drum solo on the drum kit, then crab crawled through the audience drumming on a beer keg, tables, chairs, the floor — anything  he could hit with a drum stick. He sounded amazing doing it. Quite a few people were there to see him playing with local blues trio Fat Baby Jake, though not a lot were there the previous couple times.
 A lot of great shows, namely a couple shows by Toronto rock band the Joys at the Slice ( April 8, Oct. 21) rank  near the top of the list, were really poorly attended. Ditto for 40 Sons at the Slice,  Nov. 25. I was delighted to see Moncton based psychedelic jam rock band, Chris Colepaugh and the Cosmic Crew make their first visit to Lethbridge at the Slice, July 23. Though there was scarcelThe Hardtails at Henotic, Aug. 28. Photo by Richard Ameryy a handful there to see it, they tore the place apart. I hope they come back here soon.
Some of them like Wild T and the Spirit, Aug. 2 at the Slice and The Mahones, paddy punk originators The Popes and The Delinquents Oct. 14 I expected to be sold out, but weren’t. But what never ceased to blow me away, was how the lack of numbers never swayed the performers whether they were playing for 15,000 fans or 15, they still put on great shows. They grinned a mile wide, like the Joys’ Sarah Smith did during her two hook filled classic rock style shows and in the case of the Popes’ Paul ‘Mad Dog’ McGuinness, balanced on  the railings.
Others have been just plain strange, like the Hank and Lily Show, who were a highlight  at the South Country Fair this year and played  a special Halloween show at Henotic, Oct. 29. They brought a zombie Michael Jackson to dance, drummer/saw player Lily Fawn was done up as a white faced, green haired zombie and Hank, emerging from headstones set on stage looked as ominous and masked as ever. They brought Edmonton’s Secretaries with them who were another  highlight of South Country Fair and were amazing opening for Hank and Lily, thanks to their outfits, some wild accordion playing and horn section which added an interesting twist to their Go Gos inspired garage rock.
Another weird and loud one was the Browns/Spastic Panthers  show at Henotic, Nov. 21. Clad in ski masks, the Browns played an almost too short set of high energy and extreme voltage punk which had band members rolling on the floor and jumping on tables.Henotic had a couple of the wildest shows of the year, particularly Calgary rockabilly greasers, the Hardtails, who blasted high octane rockabilly, Aug. 28, and capped off  a long set by setting  their stand up bass head on fire.

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L.A. Beat helps fuel 2009 Stock Car Champ

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The L.A. Beat,  Lethbridge, Alberta’s arts and entertainment magazine is excited and proud to be part of the team which fueled a young Calgary, driver Chantal Ormon’s trip to the top of the 2009 Evolution Cupcar Racing Series, stock car racing championship.alt
 So congratulations to Chantal. L.A. Beat wishes her the greatest success in her racing career.
Look for the LA Beat colours on the championship #12 CodeWest Ford Fusion stock car on display at West Edmonton Mall on Saturday, Nov. 21 as part of the gala awards weekend for the Edmonton International Speedway.
The event begins at 5 p.m. on the Newcap Stage in the West Edmonton Mall and is open to the public.
The Evolution Cupcar Racing Series features the Minicup stock cars driven by youth aged 8 to 16 years in a touring series that visits asphalt oval race tracks in Western Canada including Penticton and Vernon in B.C., Regina and Saskatoon in Saskatchewan and Edmonton, Calgary and Medicine Hat in Alberta.

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor

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L.A. Beat launch a success thanks to great bands and great people

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I couldn’t have picked a better show to piggyback on for L.A. Beat’s official launch party at the the Slice, Oct. 10.The Ramblin’ Ambassadors. Photo By Richard Amery

Three smoking acts made the gig one of the hottest of the weekend if not the year. It began with Calgary surf/instrumental/rockabilly band the Ramblin’ Ambassadors who tore the place apart and just got better, making their set a tough act to follow.

There was a lots of big, bold Gretsch twang as the Ramblin’ Ambassadors showed the audience how to make an entirely instrumental sound work. Rich Hope and the Manvils were up to the challenge though.

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Three Day novel contest a testament to creativity and sleep deprivation

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It is said everybody has a novel in them. Most people just never have time to sit down and actually altwrite it. This is the idea behind the  Three-Day Novel Contest which, through a conglomeration of  independent Vancouver writers, has been giving budding novelists the proper kick in the pants they need to start writing their masterpiece over the September long weekend since 1977.
This year, beginning  at 12:05 a.m. Sept. 4 and ending just before midnight Sept. 7, I joined writers from all around the world in a three day testament to creativity, sleep and food deprivation and dedication to the craft of writing.
After all, legend has it that Jack Kerouac wrote his classic “On the Road”  in a three week burst of creativity and coffee in April 1951 on one long sheet of taped together tracing paper.
I figured with modern technology I could write a novel in three days and not have to tape together paper. Besides mine is based loosely on Kerouac’s life as well as mine — particularly  my favourite passage in “On The Road” where the novel’s protagonist Sal Paradise has been abandoned by his inspiration Dean Moriarty and his girlfriend in San Francisco, he’s penniless, homeless and starting to starve when he stops in front of a shop and sees a woman there which gives him a vision of  a past life where she was his mother and he was her wayward son.
So I thought that might make an interesting novel about a 30 something who is looking for his purpose in the world and decides to find out who he is through examining all of his past lives including Kerouac, and numerous others. So several years ago I started researching past lives, Tarot cards  and various historical eras going back to the Crusades.  Not to mention near-death experiences, a little bit of Buddhism  and  a little bit of spirituality but I never got time to actually sit down and write the actual novel as life always seemed to get in the way.
 But  several months ago I did a story for the Lethbridge Herald on local artist and author Will Osler, who did really well in last year’s contest. He enters it every year and told me what an amazing experience it was, so I gave it a shot.
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A tale of two festivals

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Though every band and his dog had a gig in Lethbridge  this past weekend, I couldn’t resist  checking out the third annual Sled Island Music and Arts Festival in Calgary for the first time.
Several local bands were playing at the festival, sometimes described as being similar to South By Southwest in Austin. It’s not quite comparable — yet — but it has potential.
 In Austin (I've experienced South by Southwest for the past two years)  they have the main strip— sixth street, which is just silly with bars. Live music of every genre you could imagine  blasts from every single bar on the strip, some affiliated with the extremely expensive south by southwest festival which also includes kick ass panelists a killer trade show and free parties everywhere, others with  various competing festivals, and still others holding open mics like they always do whether there is a festival happening around them or not. You can’t move in the streets for the hordes of crazy cats swarming in and out of all the bars, in a spirit of wacky camaraderie you can only find in a city where musicians swarm to like flies to horse apples. There’s buskers and bands setting up on the street and a plenitude of smells of delicious food waft through the air. They even close off Sixth Street so music (also film and techies) lovers don’t have to dodge traffic. In short South by South West is akin to a religious experience for music geeks from all over the world.
 Sled Island? I didn’t  get that vibe at all. Granted this was my first time, but on first look at the program, I planned my festival around the specific bands I wanted to see. The Lethbridge bands were a priority —the Myelin Sheaths, the New Danger Kids, the Square Waves (who had to cancel due to personal reasons) and Endangered Ape (who I missed because they played mid-week, and I couldn’t get up there until Friday) and The Moby Dicks (who I missed because they were playing all the way across the city right after the Sheaths’ set — I still don’t know how Sheaths’ guitarist Joel Butler made it in time to drum and sing for the Moby Dicks).
 The other band who were a must see were Vancouver’s Swank, who had a Friday night gig  at a neat venue called the Stetson, which was  about 10 km away from everything else. The point is when venues are so far apart, you lose a lot of time and music in transit. In Austin, I learned  sometimes you could have a great experience by just parking yourself in one bar and letting the music come to you.  Plus many bands played multiple times during South by Southwest. This year Antones was the bar of choice, though it is also a venue off the main drag, but at least you could walk to it.
 So I took a similar tact at Sled island. On Saturday night I parked myself at Dicken’s Pub (also a really cool basement underground venue) to see the Sheaths’ energetic and fun show of  garage punk. My sister, who was with me was shocked by the $30 cover they wanted for that show which also included a loud and energetic set of girl-powered metal from Edmonton’s Jezibelle, The Ex-Boyfriends, Lint and the Liars, who were the big draw, though I couldn’t make it to the 1 a.m.start time. So we left for for The Lord Nelson, a couple blocks away where the cover for non wristband holders was more reasonable). I hit that venue early before the Sheaths’ short, loud and fun set to ostensibly see the Square Waves, but instead caught an interesting Austin based guitar/ bass/ computer duo called  Before Dawn, who were playing synth-hook filled dance music to an indifferent crowd.
 I went back to catch Boston’s the Main Drag, who had what turned out to be a packed house dancing to original synth laden, guitar powered dance rock. I missed their Lethbridge show the night before, so was glad to catch  these budding Rock Band stars (their song “ A Jagged Gorgeous Winter” is featured in the game). They were fantastic, but the next band, Calgary’s Brenda Vaqueros blew me away. I haven’t seen a band that tight in a long time. They locked in and knocked off an energetic set of garage rock which showed what the Myelin Sheaths could sound like with a few more years experience. Colour me impressed. That alone was worth the trip up. That and Swank.
 On Friday though, I started off at an unusual venue— the Plaza Theatre in Kensington, where the New Danger Kids were set up on the stage in front of the movie screen and good to go after Muchmusic madman, Nardwuar’s video vault part 1. Nardwuar himself was in his high pitched-squeaky voiced and hairy chested element, playing with the crowd, crowd surfing, asking them to give him back his chest hair and sharing some of his secrets of interviewing.  He showed video clips of him interviewing and dumbfounding people like Katy Parry, the Kings of Leon, punk legends Jello Biafra and Henry Rollins and numerous others who were shocked by the amount of research Nardwuar put into his interviews, not to mention all of the rare records they and even the musicians’ parents had played on.
 Nardwuar went MIA for a while, but showed up in time to introduce the New Danger Kids and was impressed so much by their tight emo tinged U2 styled ambience filled set  that he asked them to do an encore, which they declined.
 And here’s the cool thing about the Lethbridge scene— they were all out in force  to support their own ( The New Danger Kids were out in force at the Sheaths’ show too). Members of the Myelin Sheaths were crowded in front of the stage. A certain member of the Moby Dicks towered over the bouncing masses. And they were done, a little too soon.They could have played forever, but it was time for some unusual garage rock from Edmonton’s Hot Panda who incorporated everything from weird keyboard sounds, an accordion and even a kazoo into their boisterous set. A New Orleans band called Quintron was setting up and Nardwuar’s own garage rock band  the Evaporators were set to close off the evening, but I really wanted to see Swank and knew I had a long drive ahead of me to the south side of the city. God bless GPS systems.
I was not disappointed by the Stetson’s laid back pub-like atmosphere, which had a fantastic Winnipeg power-pop trio called the Sons of York playing when I got there. They had more hooks than a fishing tackle box, an abundance of energy and sing-along choruses. I was disappointed in the sparse crowd, though kind of glad to see Lethbridge isn’t the only place where people (in many cases) don’t show up for fantastic music.
 Vancouver rednecks Swank was  the band of the night just before midnight. They barely scratched the surface of all of the different genres they can play usually in the same song, but they played a couple of their rousing drinking songs off their latest CD “Campfire Psalms” including “Drunkards Damnation Jamboree,”  and brought out some electric banjo and stand up bass for  twisted gospel style songs “Hey Jeb,” “Coming To Your Town” and brought out some snarling Gretsch — styled rockabilly action for “Shoot at the Devil” and some really cool, punk edged new material.
Before the show singer Spencer McKinnon said  the band was going to go through 50 new songs for a new CD in September and hope to be back in Lethbridge next year. They ended a way too short set with “How Do We Do” off of their CD “the Survival Issue.” So why do I rave about Swank? Let me count the ways. They play tighter than a drum skin, they have a warped sense of humour, they can play almost any genre of music from gospel to punk, to country, they put on a wild show and did I mention how hilarious they are? And they don’t hold back even when there are only a dozen people in the audience, though most of them were dancing. It’s all good.
In conclusion— Sled Island has a lot of potential, great music and cool venues, albeit spaced apart, but I miss the vibe of South by Southwest. I’d go back. For sure.
— Richard Amery, L.A Beat Editor
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