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Here's to the best of a bad year: Good riddance 2020

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This year has been the best year of my life. I was in three plays, had three art shows, went back to school and the Allied Arts Council presented me with the Mayors Award for Individual Excellence, as L.A.Uncovered playing  Halloween at Pop’s Pub South. Photo By Richard Amery Beat celebrated 10 years of supporting and covering Lethbridge’s amazing arts and entertainment scene.

 Wait a minute, that was last year. Thanks to Covid 19, 2020 has been an apocalyptic, puritanical nightmare where there’s no singing, dancing or live music or entertainment allowed, where live music venues, theatres, art galleries, restaurants and bars were forced to close for “ the greater good.”

And just like in the Greek myth of Sisyphus who was forced to push a rock up a mountain  as a punishment for trying to cheat death, only to have it roll back to the bottom and force him to do it all over again for eternity,  just when it looked like things were under control in September and things cautiously started to open up again and it might look like things would get back to normal, the second spike hit and, as predicted, things got a lot worse.

I’m not a medical, epidemiology or virology expert, but every graduate of Facebook university has become one. Perhaps spouting and repeating conspiracy theories helps them cope. We have all been doing our best just to survive a year that has seemed to last forever. Before you share something you saw on Facebook or Youtube, or get after someone who has a different opinion about how to deal with unprecedented times, just remember people have their own agendas. Someone, somewhere is making money off not only your fear but your paranoia. It sure isn’t me. It's been exhausting being inundated by it all.

I knew 2020 was going tPeter and the Wolved playing behind pexiglass. Photo by Richard Ameryo be a challenge. I went back to school as planned in January, but had to postpone it to take care of some serious family issues. I continued singing lessons and even had my first audition for New West Theatre’s production of Dear Johnny Deere. I didn’t get the part but it was worth it for the experience.

I missed auditions for Shakespeare’s in the Park’s Merry Wives of Windsor as I went on the Outlaw Country Cruise from Miami to the Florida Keys to Jamaica and back at the end of February. For my live music fix of the year, I saw Steve Earle, the Waco Brothers, the Mavericks, Supersuckers, Bottle Rockets and NRBQ and got back just as everything was shutting down because of Covid. I got to fulfill a long term dream of overcoming my stage fright to play Ray Wylie Hubbard’s “Stolen Horses” on stage in front of people in the same venue as Ray Wylie Hubbard, who was on the boat, but wasn’t in the audience as he was preparing for his show right after the jam. He actually got a request for “Stolen Horses,” though he said he couldn’t remember how to play it. And that was the highlight of a year that was a big bag of suck.

 The rest of the year was spent taking care of my dad, taking care of his business, getting him settled into his new place, hiking in the coulees, reading a lot and doing a few much neglected home improvement projects.
 This is where it is most important to count blessings. Covid has been devastating senior’s residences all over the country. Thanks to the efforts of the staff and some strict health precautions, my dad’s residence has thankfully been Covid free, knock on wood. So has my aunt‘s residence. I’ve also been relatively healthy and so have my friends and family.
 A lot of people took the opportunity of forced downtime and CERB payments to re-evaluate their lives and come up with their second acts. I didn’t. I probably should have, but we all cope in our own ways.

 To quote Ray Wylie Hubbard “ The days I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations, I have really good days.”

When it looks like the world is falling apart, people turn to art. Just think of all the music you listened to during the lockdown and the TV and movies you binge watched. None of that would have been possible without artists.

Artists are resilient. They have to be at the best of times. This year they were forced to use all their creative muscles and adapt like they never have had to adapt before.
 Local artists like Gabe Thaine opted to do regular online performances throughout the summer. Pop up concerts were popular all over the city when the weather was nice. Michael Bernard  Fitzgerald opened his “Greenbriar” tent  tour in Lethbridge, playing a late announced show at  a farm outside of town, which almost immediately sold out. Country star Gord Bamford had to pivot after cancelling his massive Rednek arena tour. He opted to do a smaller drive-in tour in July , where people could watch he and his band play their many hits from the comfort of their vehicles. The tour was designed to raise money for mental health organizations in all his tour stops. Their Exhibition Park show raised money for Woods Homes and Lethbridge and District Family Services.

 A lot of other artists took advantage of downtime to create new music. Starpainter, Brenna Lowrie, Skinny Dyck, Taylor Ackerman’s Global Acid Reset, Corb Lund and Dark Wrangler were among numerous local bands who released new music during the pandemic. Those were just the ones I heard. Local punk band Berserker also has a new CD out, but I haven’t had a chance to hear it yet.


Allan Roy Wilson tunes in to music community for new CD

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Allan Roy Wilson’s music has hit the right note with people all over the world, but he wasn’t going to take a rest during Covid last year. He just released his first full length, 10 song CD “ I Just Want You To Come Home” at the end of 2020.

Allan Roy Wilson has released his new CD I just want you To Come Home. photo by Richard Amery
“I started releasing the songs two and a half years ago between 2018 and 2019. I thought if I can write seven songs, then I can write three more,” said Wilson, noting all of the songs on the CD are the only ones he had for the project.
The well known member of the McKillop United Church band and local cover bands got inspired by the events of 2020 and Covid to write three new songs to complete the long awaited new CD.

 Three tracks, “You Should Not Walk Alone,” “Roadhouse” and “Love And Grace (Everywhere),” have already received crescendos of praise from fans all over the world on social media platforms.

He engaged an all star local orchestra to help fill out the sounds he created.
“I went into the studio with 99 per cent of the songs written. So I had a good idea of what I wanted the songs to sound like before I went into the studio,” he said.
“It’s like directing a film. I had the script written and gave everyone their parts,” he described, noting he had to work around his musical guests’ schedules as well as Covid protocols.

“When I decided not to put together a band for this project, it meant I could bring in who I needed. I would tell them what I wanted to hear and let them go with it,” Wilson explained, noting lead guitarist Steve Keenan added a hot solo for “Music Makes Me Fly.”

“It only took two takes. They were great. I asked him if he wanted to do another take and he said nope, we’ve got it,” Wilson said.
Moberly studio owner James Odenburg, who produced the Cd, also added lead guitar on most tracks and bass on “Music Makes Me Fly”and “You Should Not Walk Alone,” one of the earliest and most popular tracks. Wilson sings lead vocals and plays mandolin and rhythm guitar on his CD.

Oldenburg’s bandmate Paul Holden, who also plays with several local bands including Hippodrome, plays bass on most tracks. Hippodrome saxophonist Ryan Heseltine adds sax to a couple of tracks. Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra cellist Mark Rodgers and bassoonist Robert George play on several of the tracks.


Taylor Ackerman’s Global Acid Reset open 2021 with new single from upcoming EP

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There’s no moss on local musician Taylor Ackerman.

 He is first out of the gate to release new music in the new year as “ Stand Tall,” the first single from Taylor Ackerman’s Global Acid Reset’s upcoming new Ep “Encephalon,” will be released Jan. 8
 The rest of the five song EP will be released online on Feb. 5.

 Like last year’s CD, “Perfect Vision,” “Encephalon” will only be available online.

Thew five song EP includes three originals and covers of the Sadies’ “Talking Down” and Lee Hazelwood’s “Cold Hard Times.”
“‘Stand Tall’ is a song I wrote about 10 years ago and played with Toques and Beards, ” said Ackerman, who chipped away at the project in his downtown studio space throughout Covid last year and played live in between lockdowns.  It is about longstanding musical venue the Slice.

“This is a more rock and roll version. The original version was more of an acoustic singer / songwriter version because I was really into (Winnipeg musician) Scott Nolan, who is a really excellent storyteller,” Ackerman continued, adding he borrowed his talented friends when they were available to record on the new songs.

“I also changed the key because my voice is lower than it was then,” Ackerman added.

The new EP features Dustin Gegel playing drums on most tracks. Tyler Bird plays bass on most of the tracks including  “Stand Tall” on which he also plays drums.

 Don Cassell sings on “Stand Tall,”  sings harmonies on others and plays harp throughout the CD,  which reflects Ackerman’s long affinity with the blues.


Lethbridge Theatre troupes adapt to a post Covid world

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It is said that William Shakespeare wrote some of his greatest works including King Lear in the middle of a plague. As Covid 19 shut down most live entertainment for the year, local theatre troupes have explored the depths of their imaginations to cope with a crazy year in 2020.

Cole Fetting  performs in Shakespeare in the Park’s Merry Wives of Windsor. Photo by Richard Amery
 Theatres were among the venues forced to close due to Covid. So they found other ways to get their art to their audience, mostly going the online route.

New West Theatre’s popular December holiday show is a huge part of a lot of Lethbians’ holiday celebration. Not being able to have live shows, the  talented cast recorded videos of themselves performing Christmas classics, which they released during the holiday season. They utilized their own radio station 90.7 f.m. to broadcast a quick three song soundtrack to accompany a beautiful new light show at the Yates Theatre.

 Perhaps taking a cue from country star Gord Bamford, they turned their annual August production into an outdoor  “Live at the Drive in” show. Audiences could watch their variety show of ’50s and ’60s jukebox hits from their comfort of their vehicles while listening to the music on the radio. In July, they performed classic radio plays including Alfred Hitchcock’s “39 Steps, ”  Sherlock Holmes’ “Murder at the Casbah,”  “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” and two episodes of Flash Gordon.

Their March production of Dear Johnny Deere, inspired by the music of Fred Eaglesmith was really well done, but they had to cancel their last few shows due to Covid restrictions imposed in March.


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About L.A. Beat

L.A. Beat is Lethbridge, Alberta's only online arts and entertainment magazine.

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