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L.A. Beat

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.

Best mainstream country show
Once again, it is always a pleasure talking to mainstream country musicians who are so down to earth. Among others, I had great chats with Gord Bamford, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Prairie Oyster and especially Carolyn Dawn Johnson.
 Johnson and I had a very friendly conversation and she even personally set me up with tickets for see her perform with Johnny Reid in the Enmax Centre. It was  fantastic. I wish she’d played longer than her 45 minutes, but I especially enjoyed her duet with Reid. I had to leave early because I didn’t want to miss Fred Eaglesmith.

 Which brings me to favourite chat with an old friend.
I’ve been in the business long enough to know most of the musicians I  interview, having interviewed them many times, so when I chat with them it’s like chatting with old friends rather than doing an interview. Whether it’s talking to Wendell Ferguson about his show at the folk club and getting into a big discussion about guitars or talking to Big Sugar’s Gordie Johnson about producing the new Govt. Mule album, it’s always a pleasure.
 I’ve talked to alt country troubadour Fred Eaglesmith so many times that I’m running out of new questions to ask him, but we always chat like best friends and he always genuinely thanks me for calling him.
Which brings me to best alt country show
This one is tough, so many bands are using banjos, steel guitars and fiddles in their music. But I got the chance to see Fred Eaglesmith a couple times this year at the Geomatic Attic in October and at the Slice, April 21 and he always blows me away with a high energy show that is part comedy routine, part folk and part country music. His show is not to be missed and you don’t even have to have “gone through at least one death and a couple divorces” to appreciate his show.
 Shred Kelly, who are coming back to the Slice Jan. 5, always blow me away, as they did Oct. 5 with plenty of sweaty banjo, acoustic guitar, keyboards and the gorgeous voice of Sage McBride.

Best weird blend of country and something else

 This is a tough as bands like Blackberry Wood and the F-Holes always blend country music with jazz and a lot of humour and in the case of Blackberry Wood, strange bumblebee costumes at the end of September when they played the Slice for about 10 people.

 Best indie pop show

A lot of indie rock/ pop bands played Lethbridge this year, not the least of which was Mother Mother and Hannah Georgas at  Average Joes, Dec. 10.
 However my favourite was Joel Plaskett playing Southminster United  Church, Sept. 27 for the Geomatic Attic with special guest Mo Kenny. Just Plaskett and his guitarist Peter Elkas entertained a massive audience with popular songs from throughout his career and told stories, creating a kitchen party atmosphere.

Best indie rock

 A lot of these happened at the Slice, with bands like Wool on Wolves and Great Bloomer, Nov. 21 and Hey Ocean who returned for Halloween and Yes Nice who brought ’80s pop back to the Slice, Aug. 22. Elliott Brood who are always entertaining and were again June 25
But my favourite was Cuff the Duke , Oct, 10 at the Geomatic Attic.

 Best rock show

 There were a lot of these this year, most of them at Average Joes.
 A few of the highlights were the Trews, March 6, and of course Big Sugar, who had a blast, Nov. 6 and Matt Mays, Oct. 27. They also brought in Nazareth who were fantastic as usual and Everlast on Sept. 20.

Mason Rack gets a fan to help  play his guitar. photo by Richard Amery Crankiest performer
Most performers are very easygoing on stage, but some of them are just grouchy. Everlast was in a bad mood for his Sept. 20 show at Average Joes. The first thing he did was yell “turn down the f-------g lights” and glared at the sound and light people until they did. He didn’t say much after that, not that you could hear him anyway as he was usually drowned out by the bass and drums which seemed to happen a lot at shows this year.
On a more humourous side, also at Average Joes, 54-40’s Neil Osborne, who has also been known to be moody at times was in his own little world, Sept. 16, until he finally stopped the band’s show to ask politely to have all of the televisions in the bar turned off because they were distracting him.

 Best shenanigans on stage — Mason Rack band

 There were a couple excellent small bar stage shows including Blackberry Wood at the Slice Sept. 27. They always have a circus theme going on with their gypsy jazz tinged upbeat folk music so the horn players, dressed as bumblebees, jumped all over the stage and into the audience.
But the Mason Rack band always have the best shenanigans as they did, Aug. 31 at the Slice.
 In addition to playing energetic blues music for a full house, Mason did his signature drum solo which took him into the audience and all over the room tapping on the floor, a couple beer kegs, assorted chairs and tables and in and around audience members. The three band members then juggled drumsticks while not missing a beat as they tossed sticks between them while drumming on beer kegs and drums. Rack also wandered into the crowd and got an audience member to stand up and play his Weissenborn guitar while he guided her hands.

 Best blues show

 This is another tough one, but The Owl Acoustic Lounge had quite a few of them, ranging from the semi-local like Erin Ross, who played a couple times, to blues icons like Morgan Davis, Aug. 11 and  Doc MacLean on Dec. 1.
 The Geomatic Attic also had some excellent blues shows including Juno Award winners Monkey Junk, Nov. 8.
The best had to be Movember Nov. 30 at Bo Diddley’s where  local trio Papa King, Daryll Düus and Leigh Doerksen opened up a fun filled fundraiser  for Edmonton blues band the Boogie Patrol, who never cease to amaze and entertain.

 Best rap show

 I don’t go to a lot of the rap shows, it’s just not my  kind of music, however, I really enjoyed Madchild and Tech N9ne at Studio 54, Sept. 12.

Best show nobody saw

 Unfortunately this happened a lot and even more unfortunately happened to be blues shows this year. Some of the best shows nobody saw were at the Slice.
 An outstanding show by Peter Karp and Sue Foley comes to mind, Oct. 17 as does a cool show from Kelowna’s Poppa Dawg at the Slice, their voices blended perfectly and their band kept step perfectly behind them.Miss Quincy playing the Slice, June 13. photo by Richard Amery

Songwriters in the Round

Of course the two best workshop style shows happened on the same night with Bill Bourne, Indio Saravanja and Scott Cook playing the Geomatic Attic , Dec. 9 while  The Highway 3 Roots revue (Leeroy Stagger, John Wort Hannam, and Dave McCann) ended  at the Slice Dec. 9 as well.

Most energetic folk show

 When you think about folk musicians, you usually picture a guy or a girl sitting on a stool in the corner of a darkened  room, strumming an acoustic guitar and singing pleasant melodies and maybe playing a bit of harmonica. While we had a lot of singer-songwriters this year, some take it to another level. Like Greg Rekus, who put on a one man show at the Owl Acoustic Lounge, Sept. 26 tapping out rhythm on an elevated wooden platform set on stage, while he leaped and writhed around the stage.

Best jazz show

 As always the Lethbridge Jazz festival supplies some of the best jazz performances. This year was no exception with  cats like Marvin Stamm performing. But Gordon Leigh and the Naked Ear have been  doing something interesting at the Mix Lounge at Ric’s  Gril. They have been combining rap music with hip hop featuring local rapper Furious D.

Best new discovery
 Every year I find new musicians to appreciate who I haven’t seen before.  There were  a lot of them this year,  but Vancouver blues musician Miss Quincy was my favourite new discovery. While she has been playing for several years, she premiered her hot new all female blues trio at the Slice, June 13 with Ross Neilsen and the Suffering Bastards. There is nothing  sexier than a woman who can song and play the blues, except three women who can song and play the blues. They were also one of my favourites at an exceptional South Country Fair this year. They put  on a couple killer shows with  off the hook musicianship and beautiful melodies

 So that was 2012. May the best thing that happened to you in 2012 be the worst thing that happens to you in 2013.

— by Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor

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