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L.A. Beat

From the Editor's Desk

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.

Henotic will be missed

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Henotic will be mourned and missed May 2, after Mammoth Cave Fest 2, when they will be closing their doors forever.
The Facebook announcement, April 16, came as a huge shock to Lethbridge’s art and music community, who have embraced the latest bar to call the old firehall home. Henotic has become the home punks, students, indie rockers, artists and people who just want to have a nice meal out, have been seeking.The Hardtails  at Henotic. Photo by Richard Amery
Henotic owner Jason Beacock came a long way in just a year and a half by giving Lethbridge artists and musicians a location and opportunity to meet,  meld and commune. Combined with all of the amazing music the Slice has been bringing in regularly,  classic rock shows at Average Joes and dinner music at the Mocha Cabana, we had a veritable downtown scene happening.

Whenever people disparaging refer to Lethbridge as Deathbridge or complain there’s nothing to do in Lethbridge, you only had to point to Henotic as a microcosm of big city style culture and music with Lethbridge’s small town feel as an example to the contrary.
While a lot of venues are bringing in live music now, none of them have the unique character, not to mention variety  that Henotic offers. Henotic closing leaves local artists suitably bummed out, almost anchorless and leaves a void that is not easily filled.

Simply displaying local  artists’ work on the walls, mostly from the Burning Ground Studio in the basement of the old firehall building, gives artists priceless exposure. They also provided a home for organizations like the Most Vocal Poets and for a brand new Dr. Sketchy’s anti-art school.
Music wise, they embraced a variety of acts like no other venue embraced including garage rockers and punks, who don’t fit in anywhere else, but seem to fit in at Henotic.
There was also a lot of weirder, more dance orientated acts. Big acts like the Shout Out Out Out Outs and You Say Party, We Say Die plus soon to be big acts like Ridley Bent, renown bluesmen like Rod Davis, acts who should be bigger and more than likely will be like Romi Mayes, really cool acts like Calgary rockabilly band the Hardtails, crazy roots acts like the Schomberg Fair and numerous others.

Not to mention their Wednesday open mics which countless up and coming musicians including me, embraced as an opportunity to play out those live performance butterflies, road test new material and just actually get out in public. I’m looking forward to hosting the open mic tonight , April 21,  though very nervous.

They’ve also given local musicians the opportunity to open for a lot of these bigger names, which is a priceless opportunity for them.
Not to say the others don’t but it is a sad day anytime you lose a venue, let alone two (the GCBC Lounge upstairs as well as the downstairs)

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