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L.A. Beat

From the Editor's Desk

Some of the reasons why 2012 rocked

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This coming year is already shaping up to be a good one.Greg Rekus jumps at the Owl Acoustic Lounge. Photo by Richard Amery
 Just in the next month we have Canadian Celtic punk icons the Mahones returning to the Slice, Jan 17 and a big rock show with Buck Cherry and One Bad Son, Jan 10 at Average Joes.
 The Lethbridge Folk Club already have a solid season scheduled beginning with the Lizzy Hoyt Band, Jan 19, just to name one.
 And the Geomatic Attic also has a rock solid winter season set beginning with Whitehorse returning, Jan. 30 and a lot more to come. Rival Sons have been booked to play Average Joes, Feb. 4 as well. So far next year looks like it will rock just as hard as the last year. So let’s take a look back.
It’s been a long strange year with a cornucopia of amazing shows and a lot of talented local musicians performing regularly and releasing new CDs. I can’t choose a favourite local performer because I enjoy all of them and there are so many of them, but there have been a lot of exceptional touring acts
 I’ve only caught a fraction of all of the shows happening this year, but here are a few highlights of my year.

Weirdest interview

A tie between the Real McKenzies frontman Paul McKenzie and rapper Tech N9ne.
 I don’t know a lot about rap music, but enjoy talking to rappers. Madchild is always a pleasure to talk with. However some interviews stand out. Tech N9ne began our interview by answering the phone with a long echoing Tech Niiinnnnneee then laughed at my confused response of “what the…”.
 I’m glad I finally got to see the Real McKenzies’ bagpipe powered punk music. And I’ve been a fan of Paul McKenzie since his early days playing with Vancouver punk pioneers the Enigmas. However he began our interview with a long diatribe about cleaning the mould out of his old van before beginning the Real McKenzies’ latest tour and cracked me up by describing his time with the Enigmas as a “life sentence ago.”

Which brings me to the coolest punk show.
I love a good punk show and we had several of them this year.
 I enjoyed Durban Poison’s Aug. 29 show at the Slice with the Yeah Dads and Stressed Out, Die Mannequin at Average Joes, May 22 and a high octane performance by the Motorleague, Lustre Creame and The Turncoats Nov. 17 at the Slice.
However my favourite punk show The Real McKenzies rock Bo Diddly’s. Photo by Richard Amerywas March 15 at Bo Diddley’s with the Scallywags and the Real McKenzies. How often do you get to hear bagpipes and a saxophone in a punk band playing in front of a chaotic mosh pit in front of the stage? It makes me think every punk band should have bagpipes.

Most patient classic rocker
I love chatting to classic rockers and am constantly surprised by how easygoing they are, not to mention how easy it is to get hold of them. This year I had the pleasure of talking to some of my favourite classic rock musicians including Platinum Blonde and Kim Mitchell among others. However, it was a really pleasure to chat with Nick Gilder of Sweeney Todd to advance his Nov. 1 show.

 He called me up scant hours after I e-mailed him and waited patiently on the line ( I didn’t know it was him, he just said, hello, this is Nick), while I sorted out an issue with the cell phone company who called me on the cell phone I accidentally left on.

Best classic rock show

 This is another tough one. Nazareth put on a great show at Average Joes, July 23. But even though I only caught have of it, I really enjoyed  Kim Mitchell at this year’s Whoop-Up Days, Aug. 25.


An amazing year for Lethbridge music in 2011

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It has been a pretty amazing year for Lethbridge music. A lot has happened — the opening and closure of the new Tongue N’ The Sheepdogs were a hit this year. Photo by Richard Amery Groove downtown, the re-opening of Whispers in the same spot and it’s closure, not to mention the New Year’s Eve closure of the Old York Tavern, formerly Bobby Johns.

On the other hand, new venues like the Owl Acoustic Lounge have thrived, the Slice always has wicked shows, longstanding venues like the Wolf’s Den have had excellent shows and several other venues like the Geomatic Attic and the Stone have also had a lot of highlights this year.

There have been new music festivals, like the Magnetic South Festival, Word on the Street and new venues like the NAAG Gallery which featured Shotgun Jimmie among others and lots and lots of live music.Cal Toth and friends reunited their old bands during the Mike Kuzminski benefit concert, Aug. 27. Photo by Richard Amery

 I definitely can’t choose between all of the great local bands playing throughout the year. Lethbridge’s thriving music scene continues to grow with a cornucopia of bands of all stripes and styles, most of whom played superb shows throughout the year.
A heap of new local CDs were released this year. 

And the artists played a plethora of shows including excellent performances from Karen Romanchuk, the Shaela Miller Threesome, Treeline with Sean Brewer, Phantom Creeps, Andrew Scott, Joshuah Reuben Fritz, Alyssa McQuaid, Herky Cutler, Toques and Beards, Zojo Black, Salem Abraha, the Coal Creek Boys, Leon Barr, the Moby Dicks, The Record Holder. And those are just the CDs I heard.

 Numeorus other Lethbridge bands didn’t release new CDs, but still performed frequently in the city including the Skilletlikkers and their offshoot, Rancho Deluxe. Plus Planet Telex played several times this year and Smokestack Jacks played at least once a month.

Lethbridge’s burgeoning punk, garage rock and metal scene continued to gather steam. There were excellent shows this year from Stressed Out, Enceladus, Lock N’ Load and young and upcoming talent like Shocked Standards who made an impression at several events in 2011.

There were also last shows from the Moby Dicks and “reunion shows” from the Record Holder.

 There is also a healthy jazz and blues scene in Lethbridge. Local bluesmen like Darryl Düus and Paul Kype tore the roofs off any place they played this year. And, as always there is a core of local jazz players, many involved with the Lethbidge Jazz Society. James Oldenburg, Brad Brouwer and Paul Holden always seemed to be part of any jazz gig happening in town.

 And yes, as always, there were numeorus band playing your faovurite covers playing every week at a plennitude of venues.

 As always, there have been lots of new bands playing like Dalliance Elixir and the Coal Creek Boys or reforming their lineups like Gravity Crash, just to name a few.
But there were a lot of highlights from touring musicians like Sam Roberts plus metal band Scythia and their “oboe of death” playing Finnegans, Aug. 24 to Matthew Good stopping his show at the Stone, Nov. 17, in the middle of a song to roundly chastise a pair of chowderheads for fighting.

There have been big name country acts this year like Gretchen Wilson and Big and Rich and reunited ’90s rock acts and, as always, a lot of new discoveries, and consequently new favourite bands.


Lethbridge area fires and wind keep fire department busy

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In the immortal words of renown science fiction series “The Hitchikers’ Guide to the Galaxy “Don’t Panic.”

The trouble with Twitter  and social media is it is a medium for spreading half truths and speculation, which in turn triggers unnecessary panic. The big news now is fires happening west and south of Lethbridge.

L.A. Beat’s Books Beat editor Michelle Greysen took some pics of the fire just before dark.

 As of 8:12 p.m., according to a City of Lethbridge tweet,  the fire has been contained on the west side  and crews remain on site to check for hot spots and Univeristy Drive has been re-opened.

There are several accurate sources for  information the city of Lethbridge is updated regularly as is the city of Lethbridge Twitter feed.
Shot just before dark from the south corner on the Popson Park road drive and over the hill in SunRidge. Photo by Michelle Greysen
In the meantime, I’ve been glued to the Lounge 94.1 and Country 95.5 who have regular updates, while keeping the emergency frequencies

  Some general advice, stay off the roads and keep out of the way of the emergency personnel who are taking care of things.

Unless it is absolutely necessary stay off the roads.

While there is no official evacuation order for the city of Lethbridge as of 8 p.m., Nov. 27, there are evacuation alerts for Copperwood and Highlands which means residents should prepare, just in case. As there is no official evacuation order in the city so it is safe and recommended to stay in your homes unless emergency personnel knock on your door and tell you to evacuate. Though some people have left their homes.

An evacuation centre is being set up at the Fritz Sick Centre at 420, 11 Street South, just in case.
Here are the most recent updates from the city of Lethbridge site.Photo by Michelle Greysen

Nov. 28 9:45 a.m.: The Lethbridge Fire Department is working and monitoring hotspots today and there are extras fire crews working today to ensure residents remain safe.  The Blood Reserve fire is out with resources monitoring that area as well.

Yesterday there was 100 % commitment of all resources from all fire stations within the City of Lethbridge.

25 people attended the Fritz Sick reception centre, which is now closed.

Residents are thanked for their cooperation throughout this event.

11:31 p.m.

As an precaution, RCMP are evacuating residents West of Mountain Meadows in the river bottom.  Residents of that area are able to go to the Fritz Sick reception centre.

11:13 p.m.
The Fritz Sick reception centre will remain open for Lethbridge County residents who have been evacuated until further notice.  County residents looking for more information can call 403-328-5525.

City of Lethbridge residents are able to remain in their homes or return home.

The Lethbridge Fire Department will continue to monitor hot spots.

9:09 p.m.
Reception Centre made ready 'just in case' for west Lethbridge residents (Soccer Centre) is now being closed as fire is contained. Fritz Sick Centre remains open for County residents.

8:19 p.m.
The fire came across river before 3:30 p.m. today from the Westside Blood reserve area. The fire is contained and the City of Lethbridge is now containing hot spots. The City of Lethbridge in confident the fire is contained.

Westside residents have not been asked to evacuate. The City of Lethbridge is sending resources to blood reserve to work with their resources on the fire.

6:51 p.m.
Lethbridge Regional Police are advising the public that travel along westbound Whoop Up Drive as well as westbound and eastbound University Drive is restricted.

Unless it is absolutely necessary residents are advised to stay off these roads and remain indoors. Motorists who must travel along these roadways should expect delays. In addition, Highway 3 to West Lethbridge is currently closed by the RCMP.


Crushing that monster “Lack of Interest”

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There is a monster loose on the Lethbridge music scene and his name is Lack of Interest and don’t forget about his sullen little sidekick Apathy. There is also another one cropping up called Infighting or Ego, but he’s a whole different issue.

Unleash the Archers’ Brittney Hayes. Photo by Richard Amery
You know them well, they are the little demons whispering in your ear telling you there is nothing to do in Lethbridge, they take great glee in getting people to call this city Deathbridge. They revel in it. But they should not be heeded because they only speak lies. If you think there is nothing to do in Lethbridge, you aren’t looking hard enough. These demons should be ignored and crushed.

 And while it is easy to blame students leaving for the summer for  slower summer months, the scene doesn’t stop because of it. There are 88,000 some people here now and a lot of different venues offering something to do all over the city. 

There are local artists releasing new CDs every day and at least something going on downtown every night. Great shows. Shows that would cost you twice as much if you were to go to Calgary to see them. Shows that you could stay here to see and not get robbed by gas prices or beer prices like you would if you went to the city to see them.

 Especially on off days, when we get touring musicians en route to big cities, who need to fill an otherwise empty travel day. They stop here, but nobody is here to hear them — because of Lack of Interest.

We had a couple alumni from Fred Eaglesmith’s band playing here, Dan Walsh last week and Roger Marin a few times before that. They have come into their own as awesome songwriters, but few heard them. Marin was here with an awesome Austin cat named Mark Jungers, but few heard him. Lack of Interest roared in approval and drowned him out.

 Last night (May 30), the fantastic Tom Savage Trio played the Slice to like eight people. They were excellent, they played the blues and upbeat, tight alt-country. Like Canada’s own version of the Drive By Truckers.

Also May 30, well known Vancouver metal band Unleash the Archers came to the Stone. They had at least had about 20 or 30 people banging their heads to some really intense female powered metal. Great show and it included local metal band Enceladus and Caste of Shadows.


What gives you the right to be a music critic?

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Douche bags are the dissonant notes in the symphony of life which make you appreciate the beautiful melodies that are everybody else. That’s not a swipe at anybody in particular, it just seemed like a good line to begin an editorial.

So what gives me the “ right”  to be a music critic? It’s a fair question when posed in a casual conversation, but is pretty rude, insulting and disrespectful when shouted by a complete stranger full of bad attitude and bluster across a crowded, noisy bar.

I’m usually a pretty easygoing and open minded guy when it comes to music, but I’ll admit I’m getting a little cranky in my old age, so if you throw your pretty little bad attitude in my face, I’m probably going to throw it back at you, especially on an ugly, chilly and snowy February night. What gives anybody the “right” to do anything?

I’m blessed to have been on both sides of the stage, as both a performer and a writer/ photographer. Most musicians thrive on stage, but I can’t stand it. I prefer the creative aspect of songwriting — crafting a lyric , creating a story or writing a catchy guitar riff —  rather than the performing aspect.

Plus I have horrible stage fright and a tendency to forget my own lyrics, so I have the utmost respect for anyone with the guts to get out there and let an audience experience their original music — and I’ll say and write as much. I’ve done so many times. As a result I’m probably even too much of a cheerleader for the local scene. Well, I cheer because I think they deserve it.

 I’ve been playing organ/ piano since I was six, guitar since I was 10 and writing my own songs since I was 12 because I never had the patience to learn covers. I think the first song I ever wrote was a happy little pop ditty called “That’s Why I Hate Christmas.” It was horrible and I can’t even remember how it went now.  

Many years later,  my best friend, a very pretty girl named Kimmy B, with a hell of a voice got me into modern country music, so I bought a bass and a lesson book and taught myself how to play it so she could complete her Top 40 country band and discovered I had stage fright. At our first gig, she had to give me a big hug on stage to stop me from either fainting or vomiting.

Being in that band convinced me to take my own songwriting a lot more seriously, which lead to me joining the Songwriters Guild of America and going to events to pitch my songs in Nashville and Memphis — a humbling experience which only showed me how far I have to go as a songwriter. Shortly after that,  I got into blues, bluegrass, folk music and alternative country,  then I saw Willie P Bennett and the D-Rangers play  and was so impressed that I bought a mandolin and learned how to play it. The banjo is next.

Along the way, I have met  and picked the brains of a lot of great, talented cats — surprisingly humble cats who have written some huge radio hits, like Jason Blume, who writes pop music for people like Britney Spears and  the Backstreet Boys as well as a lot more cooler stuff and Bob Feldman, who wrote “My Boyfriend’s Back.” 

At Songwriter’s Guild events and at SouthbySouthwest in Austin, I sat in on a lot of seminars about songwriting and the music business held by people who have “made it” in the business, read extensively on the subject and met more great cats like Jeffrey Steele who have written for a lot of big names. So I’d like to think I know something about music and the music business.

I am more than just a music player, I am a music lover and I also know a little something about the business. Because music is my passion, and my whole life. Because when I’m not writing about it or photographing it, I’m playing it or listening  to it.

 But the basic, simple answer (that can be answered and heard in a noisy bar) to the innate question of what gives me the “right” to criticize music, is “everything.” So now, after a couple nights of sleep and a few less beers in the system, let’s expand on that.


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