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L.A. Beat

From the Editor's Desk

Numerous great shows in 2010

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There isn’t a lot going on this week other than a plethora of excellent open mics, Sonis McAllister and the Barracuda Orchestre at  the Tongue N’ Groove, Jan. 7, Bridgette Yarwood at the Mocha Cabana on Jan. 7 and Billie Vegas the Boogie Patrol opening for Delhi 2 Dublin at the Slice. Photo by Richard Ameryplaying the casino this weekend, so now is a good time as any to look back and remember the good times we had in 2010.
 Not only did a lot of new venues open or relocate this year, but new bands sprouted out of the woodwork all over the city. It also seemed like every band and his dog released CDs this year, with a lot more on the way.  Not to mention local bands playing excellent shows throughout the year.

Treeline, Toques and Beards, Leeroy Stagger, John Wort Hannam, Jesse and the Dandelions, the Necessities, Trevor Panczak, Sleeping With Tuesday, Smokestack Jacks, Phantom Creeps, Lustre Creame, Leah Sadler, Shaela Miller, Fist City and the Myelin Sheaths were only a few of the local musicians playing regularly and releasing excellent new music this year.

I saw a lot of shows over the past year, so many that they blend together in my mind, so it is a tough task to choose favourites as I’ve enjoyed all of them in their own unique  way. In fact there are as many  different types of  shows as there are performers. Here are just a few in no particular order. Musical tastes are subjective, so I don’t want to hear  any complaints about my choices or the ones I missed. Because even I miss a show every now and then.

Boogie Patrol with Delhi to Dublin
— The Slice, Sept. 14: It is always a pleasant surprise when the opening act comes close to blowing the headliners off the stage. There were a couple of shows like this. Energetic Edmonton blues/ R and B band the Boogie Patrol played to a packed Slice, Sept. 14. It was packed because most of the people were duly impressed by Delhi 2 Dublin’s amazingly incendiary set of rock tinged R and B/ reggae/ blues and world music at this year’s South Country Fair and were looking for a second helping. However, the Boogie Patrol, a late addition to the bill, were more  than up to the challenge of opening. These skinny little guys from chilly Edmonton sounded like they should have been big black guys from  the south side of windy Chicago. They blew a lot of minds and won a lot of new fans with their inimitable stage presence, crazy harp playing, frenetic organ and top notch musicianship.
 And a lot of people must have remembered them from that show, because their headlining show, Nov. 27 at the Slice was just as hot and featured a crowded room.

Magnificent 7 and Shred KellyDec. 3 Owl Acoustic Lounge :  After Henotic closed, several new venues opened up, particularly  the Owl Acoustic Lounge, which concentrates on acoustic music and is run by Steven Foord and Mel Rodriguez from Henotic who have ably kept Henotic’s spirit alive. Fernie’s Shred Kelly were one of the Owl’s many highlights this year, opening for Winnpeg’s Magnificent 7s. And in fact they almost blew them away with their intense, high energy set of roots/ folk and bluegrass music. As a special bonus, I actually remembered covering Shred Kelly keyboardist / vocalist Sage McBride in a few different performances back in Kenora in another life. But the Magnificent 7s were up to the challenge of following a hot opening act by playing an incendiary set of original bluegrass music.

Several bands featuring unusual instrumentation also were a highlight of the year.
Not only did several shows from the three drum and multi-instrumental Sunparlour Players at the Slice provide a lot of energy for the plenitude of dancers at their almost capacity shows but several other bands brought crazy instruments and costumes.

 Shane Philip —  April 2 Henotic: One man band Shane Philip played three mind bending shows at Henotic, including one of the last ones at the beloved room, (which closed in May). He simultaneously played several types of drums, numerous guitars and three didgeridoos, while singing spellbinding melodies.

Maria In The Shower —  July 28 the Slice:  Maria in The Shower, dressed like grifters from the 30s, sported bowler hats, played a trumpet  and lots of other things as well as a stand up bass among other things for their very cool show, but unfortunately not many people were there to experience this  unusual event.
Blackberry Wood —  Aug 26 The Slice : Blackberry Wood, featuring one of the members of Maria in the Shower, played the Slice a couple of times, bringing an array of percussion, brass and Vegas kitsch costumes through a hot set of jazz and old tyme country music with a modern twist.

Shane Chisholm at Average Joes. Photo by Richard AmeryShane Chisholm Sept. 3, Dec. 4 with Julian Austin Average Joes: One of the new venues opening this year was a revamped and relocated Average Joes. With a beautiful new stage and top shelf lights and sound, they brought in a variety of classic rock (Prism, Helix and Nazareth) plus tribute acts and country acts throughout the year.  But one of my favourites was Claresholm based rockabilly/ country performer Shane Chisholm. He’s a big guy who has a presence all of his own, but when he brought out the home made stand up bass he made out of a van’s gas tank, I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Especially when he made it sound so good, big and resonant. And when he did a dual drum solo on it with his drummer, followed by setting off a shower of sparks on it with a grinder, that was just plain awesome.

White Cowbell Oklahoma Slice Feb. 18: Mayhem and chaos is assured when White Cowbell Oklahoma come to town. This was the case twice this year, Feb.18 and Sept. 23.
The Feb. 18 show was better because they pulled out all the stops with chainsawing toilet paper and  a blazing cowbell courtesy of Charlie Chainsaw, who couldn’t make it to the September show because he was either arrested or sick depending on if you believe frontman Clem T Clemson. Luckily the band is more than bells,  whistles, fireworks  and loud noises. They have the musical chops, catchy songs and an affably goofy and manic stage presence to back it up.

Joel Plaskett Geomatic Attic April 10: Geomatic Attic The Geomatic Attic had some great shows this year. It’s tough to choose a favourite from everyone from the  Good Lovelies, Ron Hynes, Steve Dawson, Slaid Cleaves, The Weber Brothers, the Sojourners to a special Jill Barber show at Southminster United Church for Womanspace, but two sold out dates from Joel Plaskett were one of the best. He was comfortable with the crowd, played some of their requests,  a lot of old favourites and joked all night long.

Forbidden Dimension Henotic April 16 with the Von Zippers : Henotic had too many great shows to list this year before they closed in May.
But  in the upstairs lounge in  a surprisingly cold April 16, Forbidden Dimension heated things up with some classic rock, garage rock, metal and blues. Now I know what Calgarians have been raving about all these years.


A tale of two arts centres

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In case you’re wondering and /or worrying about  what happened  to the old IGA building downtown, it is making way for the future — the future of the arts in Lethbridge.

But like everything good, it takes time and a little bit of money, though not as much as you might think. Because soon, construction will begin on a new community arts centre designed to replace the Bowman Arts Centre and help complete an ‘arts corridor ’ in the downtown core which will cater to all members of  the increasAn artist’s depiction of the new Lethbridge Community Arts Centre. Photo submitteding population and corresponding number of people involved in the arts including visual artists, actors, dancers, quilters, potters and musicians.

The Community Arts Centre project is part two of of a three pronged investment in the arts in Lethbridge, which began with the recently  completed refurbishment and renovation of the Southern Alberta Art Gallery.

“The Arts facilities are inadequate in the terms of how many people use them and the capacity of the buildings, ” said Suzanne Lint, Allied Arts Council executive director adding facilities like the Yates Centre and the Bowman Arts Centre were developed back in the ’60s, when Lethbridge’s population hovered around 30,000, now, some 40 years later, outside acts can’t even get a booking at the Yates and the Bowman Arts Centre is bursting at the scenes.
So with this in mind, the Allied Arts Council and Lethbridge City Council got together about four or five years ago to formulate a plan  to address this issue.

The first step was completed in September with the completion of $3.9 million worth of renovations to the Southern Alberta Art Gallery which added additional space to the reception and display areas, a new loading dock as well as a new library space among other changes.


CKXU puts the fun in FUNdrive this week

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Local community radio station CKXU, 88.3 FM is in the middle of their annual Fundrive this week, which means they are looking for a helping hand to help keep providing you with 24-7 commercial free music which you can’t hear anywhere else.Artist Aaron Hagan adds to CKXU’s mural at Synesthesia, Oct. 29. Photo By Richard Amery

 So with that in mind CKXU is holding a variety of events around Lethbridge this week, in addition to taking pledges and attempting to reach their goal of $12,000.

“It is the one time of year we solicit our listeners in the community to donate anything they can to help us run efficiently as possible in the highest quality possible,” said CKXU executive director Jorden Ager, adding they aren’t just taking money, they are giving mass schwag in return.

The schwag includes the CKXU Friends card which also comes in keychain form this year and entitles listeners to discounts at a variety of businesses around the city as well as t-shirts, hoodies, water bottles and even CKXU hot sauce. The money helps to upgrade equipment like CD players and turntables among other things needed to keep the station running smoothly.

 What you get depends on the amount of the donation.
CKXU DJs play music you don’t hear on any other radio stations. Styles range from bluegrass to indie rock and everything in between including blues, modern rock, punk, garage rock, jazz and classical. 

There is even a show dedicated to video game music and another dedicated to old time radio programs. They even have a show dedicated to the local art scene.

The station has a special place in my heart because they were a big part of my university experience back in the day when they were CKUL and only heard on cable FM. Now they are on the air and can be heard in most parts of the city. I can even get them in my car almost as far away as Fort Macleod.

 Plus they let me do an old school punk show, Wednesdays, 8-9 p.m.  which uses a lot of their impressive vinyl collection, not to mention my Friday night blues show, the Hotrock Blues Beat, Fridays 6-8 p.m.

To take a twist on the old saw about Albertan weather, if you don’t like what’s being played,  just wait five minutes. And the DJs include university students and commmunity members of all ages, who choose much of their own programming so they aren’t beholden to record companies. This means local musicians can get a lot of airplay on the station which they probably wouldn’t anywhere else.
In honour of Fundrive CKXU has numerous events happening this week.

 Things kicked off with Synthesesia, Oct. 29 — a well attended event at the NAAG gallery , which featured local music including Lustre Creame and Pilgrimage of the lost plus artists adding their  inspiration to a huge CKXU mural in one of the studios.


Poor attendence plagues Lethbridge shows and kills off open mics

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 It seems like everybody and their dog is a musician in Lethbridge. But a common complaint among all of them is there is no place to play. This is most definitely not the case. Open mics abound at numerous locations around the city, but pretty much all of them are plagued by a common malady at Lethbridge gigs — poor attendance. Ben Brown playing at the Owl Acoustic Lounge. Photo by Richard Amery Poor attendance is the death of a many a music scene. It would be a shame to see it happen here.

Granted it is summer and the students are gone for another couple weeks and a lot of people are on vacation or drinking on their balconies on the odd evening we have sunshine, but still open mics are a fantastic forum for up and coming as well as experienced musicians to strut their stuff, road test new material or just meet other musicians.

I’ve even been known to play at some of them though I haven’t for a while due to other commitments. That and I still have trouble remembering my own lyrics, not to mention still trying to stave off stage fright.

Fortunately audiences at most open mics in the city are pretty forgiving, unfortunately not many people are showing up to them which has resulted in the cancelation of several of them.

 Thursday used to be open mic night in Lethbridge, but unfortunately this is no longer the case, at least until September.
Beaches Grill and Pub shut down their popular Thursday open mic back in July due to poor attendance during the summer.

This past week, Coyote Joes shut down their Thursday live karaoke/ open mic until Sept. 9 upon which it will return better organized and just in time for the students to return.

Also the popular Owl Acoustic Lounge open jam has been moved from Thursdays to Wednesdays. L.A. Beat is the official sponsor of  the Owl’s Wednesday jam.


Betty’s Run For ALS is a chance to remember an inspiration

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I don’t write a lot of editorials for L.A.  Beat. I am lucky to have columnists who do a much better job of it than I do. I am lucky in many ways. But I have to write about an issue close to my heart — ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
 In addition to hitting 3,000 Canadians per year, killing an average of 2-3 per day, it has affected a number of very significant people. Bluesman Leadbelly died of ALS in 1949, as did baseball player (and the disease’s namesake) Lou Gehrig and more importantly, my mom, who died from it in 2004.
So in honour of her memory my sister, myself and my dad are participating in Betty’s Run For ALS in Calgary tomorrow morning (June 12, 2011).

The scientific definition of ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)) is “a rapidly degenerative, always fatal neuromuscular disease. It attacks the nerves that the body would normally use to send messages from the brain to the muscle, resulting in weakness and wasting. Eventually, the individual with ALS is left completely immobilized, with loss of speech and eventually an inability to swallow and breathe.”
The short definition of it is, ALS is a death sentence. There is no cure and no real treatment. Scientists don’t even know what causes it.

All you can do is try to make the person with it as comfortable as possible as their bodies slowly waste away while their mind remains aware of what is going on as they slowly become a prisoner inside their own bodies, unable to do even the simplest things like feed themselves, go to the washroom or even scratch their nose.
’80s guitar shredder Jason Becker has been living with it for the past 20 years which is unusual as most people die within five years of being diagnosed with it.

The average life expectancy of people with ALS in 2-5 years. My mom lasted a year an a half.
 I don’t want to think of mom in her last days or about helping to drive her down to the Mayo Clinic for the final diagnoses and convincing her she had no choice but to accept this death sentence and that she had to make the most of the next year of her life.

I smile, sadly, when I think about her in her hospital bed painstakingly spelling out on a letter board (which was her only method of communication,) about how she wanted to hear the new Govt. Mule CD I just bought with Christmas money she gave me, watching her last about a bar into ‘Bad Little Doggie,’ before she labourously spelled  ‘turn it off,’ on the board.
 I don’t want to think about the tube feedings the wheelchair or the specialized van we had to use to transport her back and forth to appointments. I think fondly of her caregivers and my dad and sister who were there non stop and how she told me not to quit my job and come home. Always listen to your parents, but a year and a half passes quickly.

And before you know it, she’s gone.

I remember the vibrant woman who believed in trying everything at least once; who took me to piano lessons when I was small,  who nagged me to practice guitar, who basically shoved me onto the ice as soon as I expressed a vague interest in playing hockey, after all  ‘why not?’ She’d take care of the little details like hockey equipment , sticks and the registration fees later. It was more important to get out there and do it.
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