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Excellent music on Outlaw Country Cruise 3

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I have a pretty eclectic taste in music. I listen to bands even hipsters haven’t heard of, I know this for a fact because pretty much nobody recognized any of the bands I was irritating people with by raving about over the past couple months leading up to my voyage on the Norwegian Pearl for the Outlaw Country Cruise 3, Jan. 21-26.

The Bottle Rockets and Jason and the Scorchers’ Warner Hodges play together. Photo by Richard Amery
Some of my favourite bands barely ever play Canada and are never played on modern radio but were playing the Outlaw Country Cruise 3 sponsored by the Outlaw country station on Sirius XM. While the station plays your usual diet of Merle Haggard, David Allan Coe, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash, they also play a lot of up and coming “outlaw country ” musicians, Southern rock, punk rock and cow punk , roots rock , alt country and other music that just doesn’t fit in, so the bands on the bill reflected that diversity.


 Some people recognized Steve Earle and the Cuban influenced country band the Mavericks, who were the “headliners” on this bucket list cruise which was basically a gigantic music festival taking place on six stages on three different levels of a monster cruise ship sailing from New Orleans to Costa Maya, Mexico.
A couple people vaguely remembered the Bottle Rockets, Jason and the Scorchers and Blackberry Smoke because they heard them on my shows on CKXU 88.3 f.m.


Junior Brown playing the Outlaw country Crusie. Photo by Richard Amery But what made me feel pretty old is the younger people I talked to who didn’t recognize Texas born, New York based “hardcore troubadour”  Steve Earle, who played a special 30th anniversary concert of his album “Copperhead Road.”


And even though Steve was the headliner and playing numerous times (and for the most part completely different shows) during the week like most of the artists, I only caught bits and pieces of his shows including the Copperhead Road show, because they were competing with other bands I really want to see who rarely, if ever, tour Canada. And I know Steve would put on a great show because I’ve seen him play here. He was one of many Texas musicians playing on the ship. I got to sit in on a couple of Outlaw country broadcasts including Steve Earle swapping stories about dearly departed Guy Clark and Nashville in the early ’70s.

I also got to see an excellent workshop featuring Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell, Ray Wylie Hubbard and Lucinda Williams swapping songs and telling stories, which was excellent and kept my attention off the floating city being blown back and forth by 50 knot (approximately 100 km/ hour) gale force winds, which while I may be used to them in Lethbridge, is a little disconcerting in the middle of the Caribbean Sea.


 Usually I’m in the front row, right next to the stage for almost every show that comes to Lethbridge, making pictures and taking notes in the endless quest to let people know that there is a whole world of great music just waiting for you discover beyond the Elizabeth Cook on the Outlaw Country Cruise. Photo by Richard Amerybanality of modern Top 40 radio, so it was weird to just be part of the masses just sitting back and watching the show.

Other than the Bottle Rockets, even I stayed at the back of the room, and barely took any pictures, not wanting to pack a telephoto lens (which were “not allowed” though some people brought them).

It was a weird unsettling feeling, but the trip of a lifetime — like I said bucket list.


 Every morning, they crew would deliver a schedule of cheerful welcome brochures and portable schedules of all the fun planned for the day which you could carry around on a lanyard along with your cabin key which you’d have to use to get drinks and of course get into your room,  to choose the shows you wanted to see and the pieces of shows you could catch if they were competing with each other.

Fortunately the stages weren’t that far apart, so it was easy to catch a little bit of everything.

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Take a walk down memory lane with fun shows throughout 2018

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As always, I went to a lot of  shows this year, yet not as many as I would have liked due to other commitments like family and theatre. Here are some of my favourites by the month.
January
 Jan. 6 —One of last shows at all ages venue Attainable Records  and the last show for local punk / alternative rock trio Advertisement raising money for Lethbridge Shelter.
 Jan. 14— The Lethbridge Folk Club always brings in some excellent acts. It is always great to see Canadiana troubadour Tim Hus as we did when he played the Lethbridge College Cave for the Lethbridge Folk ClubJohn Wort Hannam plays a founder’s Day celebration show at the U of L in January. Photo by Richard Amery
 Jan 20— Calgary country singer Tom Phillips played a sold out show at the Slice  country music at a sold out Slice
Jan 21— One of my new favourites, Edmonton musician Kimberley MacGregor played several shows this year including one of several songwriters in the round. She played the Owl Acoustic Lounge with the Silkstones, Elliott Thomas and Burning Bridge.
 Jan. 21—Local metal band Tyrants of Chaos, who would sell out the Slice in December, almost sold out the Slice along with  Outrun the Arrow and Extrados
Jan. 26— Michael Bernard Fitzgerald played sold out solo show at Geomatic Attic. he’d return later in the year for a sold out show at the Slice with a full band.
Jan. 28— Edmonton based, Newfoundland born celtic rock band the Derina Harvey band rocked the Slice Celtic style with upbeat  Celtic rock music. They return to the Slice this January.


FebruaryHoneymoon Suite’s Derry Grehan playing Lethbridge in February. Photo by Richard Amery
 Feb. 4— Scott Cook played one of many excellent Lethbridge Folk Club shows in support of his new CD
 Feb. 8— Boots and the Hoots playing one of many excellent Windy City Opry shows at the Slice.
Feb. 10— The Owl Acoustic lounge started adding spice to their Monday open mics with touring hosts,   this time with Kayla Luky and Rotary Park hosting.
Feb. 11— Local rock band Outrun the Arrow’ took over the Slice for a video shoot for their song “the Middle.”  
Feb. 18—There were lots of laughs with comedian Tom Green at  Studio 54.
Feb. 19 — As usual, this year featured lots of classic rock.  Loverboy was to play the Enmax later in the year, but Honeymoon Suite rocked Average Joes on a Sunday night.
 Feb. 20— Elkford blues rock band The Burn Ins  rocked the Owl Acoustic lounge in support of their new CD
Feb. 21— Moose Jaw singer songwriter Megan Nash made the first of several visits to Lethbridge at the Owl Acoustic Lounge
Feb. 25— Folk punk band Audio/Rocketry returned to the Slice. Joe Vickers from the band would later play a solo show at the Slice later in the year.
Feb. 26— Austin via Halifax and Austin blues band The 24th Street Wailers made their Lethbridge debut at the Geomatic Attic, playing one of three great Southern Alberta shows.


March
March 7— There was a great rock show with Montreal’s Dany Laj and the Looks with the Dirti Speshuls at the Slice.
 March 8— Old Man Luedecke ,brandishing his banjo , gave Lethbridge another chance  as he returned to the Slice to play for an attentive audience.
March 16—The Andrea Superstein Trio played beautiful jazz at Geomatic Attic
March 16  — The annual pre-St. Patrick’s Day party with the Real McKenzies is always  a highlight of the year and definitely March. This year they brought baseball punk band the Isotopes to Average Joes.
March 21— Multi-instrumentalist Ben Caplan visited the Geomatic Attic for sold out show.
March 23— Central B.C blues rock trio Devon Coyote made a long awaited return to the Owl with a new CD.
March 30— Winnipeg grunge/metal band Solhouds featuring Elise Roller of Go For the Eyes rocked The Owl Acoustic lounge.The Real mcKenzies returning to play Lethbridge in march. Photo by Richard Amery


April

April 6— Vancouver based indie rock band  Yukon Blonde played a sold out show at Average Joes
 April 13 — Calgary rock band Cowpuncher played one of their last shows at the Slice
 April 18—  Hamilton funnyman BA Johnston played one of three great shows at the Owl Acoustic lounge in support of his new CD Gremlins 3
 April 21 — Locomotive Ghost played one of several excellent modern indies rock shows at the Slice.
 April 25 — A great candidate for best pop show nobody saw Matinee and Fast Romantics at the Slice
April 25  — Juno award winning bluesman and harp master Paul Redidck finally got a sold out crowd in Lethbridge with a show at the Geomatic Attic, April 25 with MonkeyJunk’s Steve Marriner
April 28 — The Best roots/ folk show of the year in a year full of them was the long awaited return / reunion of Winnipeg Bluegrass/ punk band the D-Rangers who I’ve been following since they formed in Winnipeg/ Kenora back in the day and who took a seven year break. They tore up the Slice with uptempo punk tinged bluegrass music.The D-Rangers returned to the Slice in April. Photo by Richard Amery
April 29 — Petunia played one of many great shows in Lethbridge including New Year’s Eve at the Slice and again on April 29 this time as a duo with Nathan Godfrey


May

 May 3— Calgary Celtic punk band the  River Jacks played one of several excellent punk shows at the Moose hall
 May 4 — Elliott Brood returned for a packed show at Average Joes.
 May 5 — Another great show nobody saw was Vancouver rock/ folk musician with Rodney DeCroo and his band at the Slice.
May 6— The best blues show everyone missed was Danny Brooks at Slice.
May 7 — South Country Fair songwriting competition was back this year and proved to be a touch decision for the judges who decided on winner Carter Felker who played a number of excellent local shows
 May 11— Another great show from Edmonton’s Kimberley MacGregor and Elliott Thomas at the owl Acoustic lounge.
May 11 — New Jersey punk rock veterans Hudson Falcons played an excellent show at the Moose hall with Streetlight Saints
May 12— Edmonton blues rock band  the Boogie Patrol always entertain as they did at the Slice in support of CD Man on Fire.
May 13— Eamon McGrath and his band played an intense show of folk punk at Owl Acoustic lounge
May 14  — Average Joes continued a successful run of Sunday night shows with country star George Canyon Average Joes.
May 17 Canadian Celtic punk veterans Mahones made long awaited return to the Slice in support of their anniversary CDs “The Hunger and the Fight part One and Two).


June

June 3 — Lethbridge said farewell to talented local singer Mwansa Mwansa who left for Toronto.
June 3 — Megan Nash returned to the Owl Acoustic lounge with Bears in Hazenmore. It was great to hear her backed by a band.Megan Nash performing with Bears in hazenmore at the Owl in June. Photo by Richard Amery
June 3— Calgary pop punk veterans Downway returned to Lethbridge to play the Moose Hall.
 June 8 — Calgary surf rock band the 427s played a trippy show at the Slice backed by a multi-media show as the background to their addictive surf rock
 June 9 —Lethbridge Girls Rock Camp band swap is always a fun event as local musicians mirror Lethbridge the Girls Rock Camp milieu by forming a band, writing a song and playing their first gig in a week.
June 14 — Northern Ontario, ukulele powered duo Twin Peaks returned to Owl for another excellent show.
 June 16— Kimberley MacGregor played another outstanding shows  at the Owl, June 16 with John Guliak, Levi Cuss and Curtis Phagoo
June 16 — It was great to hear Manotick based rock band Hollerado play a smaller venue again as they played a close to sold out show at the Slice.
 The rooster Davis Group played Jazzfest in June. Photo by Richard Amery June 17 — Jazzfest is always a highlight of June. While I missed Colin James at the Enmax Centre, I caught Rooster Davis  and Ann Vriend at the Owl, June 17.
June 21— The Owl Acoustic Lounge hosted several Pride week events including  an excellent show with pop punk band Jock Tears and Supermoon
 June 24—Prism play the hits at Average Joes in another excellent regular classic rock show.
 June 23-25 —Rotary Dragon Boat Races featured plenty of local  musicians playing in sweltering heat.
 June 28 — The always fun Matadors played their usual entertaining psychobilly show at the Moose Hall. To add to their devil rock mystique, they added a red clad devil figure overseeing the show in the background.
June 28  —the Way Down Wanderers an amazing young bluegrass band from Chicago tore up the Slice in one of several fantastic roots shows at the Slice this year.
Twinning celebrations Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens but I unfortunately missed it and the Amanda Marshall concert at the Enmax which they sponsored.
 June 30 —Taylor Ackerman returned for a visit with new music with Global Acid Reset, June. 30 at the Slice

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2017 fraught with peril , anniversaries and excellent live music

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Once again, we appear to be living in interesting times.  To reference an old movie, It has been a year fraught with eminent peril — wildfires, floods, smoke, terror,earthquakes, unseasonable weather aShaela Miller and ‘Skinny’ Dyck were among local musicians having a successful 2017. Photo by Richard Amerynd overall ugliness.

 Once again, we lost many of our musical icons including Chuck Berry, Tom Petty, Gord Downie, Gregg Allman, Chris Cornell,Fats Domino, Mel Tillis, Malcolm Young and Glen Campbell and Don Williams just to name a few. It has been an interesting one to say the least.
 The troubles of world be damned, there was plenty of good news on the local scene.There were a cornucopia of great shows, fundraisers and lots of new CDs from local artists including Trevor Panczak,  Silkstones, Atomicos, Groove Apostles, Cope, Junkman’s Quire, New Weather Machine and Skinny Dyck’s twenty one nighters compilations plus Tin and the Toad, to name only a few.
 Leeroy Stagger released an excellent new album, “Love Versus,” and started the Dirty Windshields Radio hour on CKUA.


 Canada celebrated 150 years and both Lethbridge College and The University of Lethbridge celebrated milestone years with festivals.


Among the many highlights of the year, Shaela Miller’s concert series the Windy City Opry celebrated a successful year. She also entered the Story Hive video competition in April. She recently competition had a successful crowd funding campaign for her upcoming new CD “Bad Ideas” which is due out early 2018.

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Remembering the best of a bad year in 2016

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I don’t think many people will be sad to see the back of 2016 — a year which has basically sucked out loud. I spent most of it recovering from some illness or another. And nothing gets a person thinking of your own mortality and the fragility of human existence than losing musical icons and childhood idols we grew up listening to like Glen Frey, David Bowie, Prince and  Waylon Jennings to name a few. Heck 2016 even claimed beloved TV dad Allan Thicke from Growing Pains, who was also a songwriter.
The old curse “May You Live in Interesting Times,” seems more apt than usual in a year fraught with terrorist attacks, wildfires, atrocities and tribulations of all kinds. I’d rather accentuate the positive though.

Hollerado returned to Lethbridge in June. Photo by Richard AmeryI’ve been to a lot of great shows, visited great friends and interviewed some of my favourite musicians.

A lot of fantastic local acts performed throughout the year and I only caught a fraction of all their shows.

As usual, Lethbridge has stepped up to help those in need with fundraisers and I’ve met many wonderful people. So here are some of my favourite  memories.

January

 The Owl Acoustic Lounge had most of the month‘s highlights.
Peter and the Wolves rang in new year on a toe tapping note at Owl Acoustic Lounge.
Up and coming Calgary area singer / songwriter and guitar picker Carter Felker played the first of several shows in Lethbridge this year, with a show at the Owl Acoustic Lounge  Jan 8 with Peter Gardner.
But the Lethbridge Folk club also managed to heat up  winter with a great bluegrass show with Go Ask Earl, Jan. 16 at the Lethbridge College Cave.
For folk with more energy, the always entertaining Greg Rekus returned to the Owl Acoustic Lounge, Jan 11.
Lynn Jackson played a sweet show of heartfelt blues tinged folk at the Owl on Jan. 28.
The month ended with a whole lot of catchy ’80s rock, Jan. 29 as Doug and the Slugs brought upbeat ’80s hits like “Too Bad” to Coyote Joes.

 February
The month opened with a great new duo Winnipeg brother and sister pop/ folk duo Roger Roger playing the Slice, Feb. 1
The Geomatic Attic  was in a mellow mood in February , allowing rockers 54 40 and the Trews to show their slower sides at Southminster United Church, Feb. 2 and Feb. 24 respectively.
On a sadder note as it was one I was really looking forward to,  Montreal based blues musician Cecile Doo Kingue had to cancel her show at at Plum due to a van breakdown and the death of her mother.
But the Slice continued to be a mainstay of the local music scene. They hosted another fun show from Geoff Berner, Feb. 5. Berner would return in September to be a profanity laden highlight of Love and Records.
The first of of several big fundraisers in 2016 took place in February as the U of L Opera workshop helped resettle Syrian refugees with a fundraising concert, Feb. 7.
 The Lethbridge Folk club put on another fun show in February with Boots and the Hoots at the Lethbridge College Cave, Feb. 6. They’d be a highlight throughout the year for people who love old school country music and quirky humour.
Indie rockers enjoyed a show from Yukon Blond who returned to Lethbridge for a Feb. 11 show at Average Joes.
An early incarnation of Jay Bowcott and Brady Enslen played the Owl Acoustic Lounge.They would return later in the year as Enslow.
And speaking of old favourites, Elliott Brood returned to Lethbridge played for full house at Studio, Feb. 12.
David Bowie was one of many great musicians to pass away this year, so a group of local musicians including Jon Martin, Taylor Ackerman, Jason Oakes, Clayton Smith and Paul Holden, to name just a few,  banded together to pay tribute to his music at the Slice, Feb. 20.
For big name country stars, George Canyon returned to Average Joes, Feb. 22 to play a hit filled set.
Some bands just click with Lethbridge audiences. Saskatchewan based roots/ bluegrass collective the Dead South have been an immediate hit since playing South Country Fair last year. So they made one of their first visits to Lethbridge, Feb. 25 with an outstanding sold out show at Coyote Joes. They would return in November for another great show.

MarchMwansa Mwansa was one of several excellent local acts making an impression this year. Photo by Richard Amery


Continuing with the classic rockers go acoustic vein, Ed Kowalczyk of Live played a solo show for the ’90s moment of the month at Average Joes, March 7. He played a whole bunch of hits and Live’s hit album Throwing Copper in its entirety with a spectacular video display.
Good things happen to good people. Samantha Martin played an exceptional show of blues at the  Geomatic Attic, March 8 with local soul/R and B singer Mwansa Mwansa opening. She made such an impression on the audience and Martin, that she would join Martin on tour in  the summer.
March was marked by a March 11 fundraiser at the Galt Museum  for the U of L food-bank featuring Dory and the Weathermen.
The next day featured another fundraiser at the owl Acoustic Lounge,March 12. The Cheeky pig Studio Grant event featured Dojo Workhorse, one of  Danny Vacon’s many Calgary bands including the Dudes and High Kicks at Owl.
And there is always lots of fun during CKXU’s FUNDrive, so it featured several great shows at the Slice and Attainable Records.
My favourite part of March is St. Patrick’s Day celebrations so Vancouver Celtic punk icons the Real McKenzies gave a great head start to St. Patrick’s Day March 16 at Studio with the Boids, who I missed  and Lethbridge Firefighters pipes and Drums
There was lots of local music for St. Patricks Day including The Silkstones who continue to make an impression on new and old fans alike.
And, March ended on a high note as blue rock behemoths ZZ Top played an amazing show at the Enmax, March 31.


April

April opened with with jazz fuelled blues from the Bluesland Horn band at the Slice, April 2
Lauren Mann played an exceptional show of roots and folk at the Slice as well.The Groove Apostles made an impression this year. Photo by Richard Amery
And bagpipe fans and rock fans enjoyed the return of the Mudmen who played a fun show at Soundgarden, April 8
For ’90s rock fans, Sloan played a great show , April 11 At Average Joes and played all the hits and more.
The day before that, Average Joes  hosted country rock musician Cory Marquardt,  April 10 who was last here opening for  Aaron Pritchett.
April 16 was a tough night for attendance. Jen Lane played a great roots show at the Slice.
 Fernie stoke folk band Shred Kelly, who usually draw a crowd in Lethbridge, didn’t get one April 16 at Studio, but they’d return to play a packed  Freshfest at the university  in September.

On the other hand, people packed the Owl for local jazz/ pop band the Groove Apostles around the corner on the same night. They are quickly becoming one of my local favourites.
Also on the poor attendance note, Zoo Riots played the greatest indie rock show that nobody saw at the Slice on April 20.
Calgary’s Foul English played one of many excellent punk shows at the Moose Hall on April 22.
April was a big month for fundraisers.
On April 23 the Smokehouse hosted a big, day long fundraiser for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's featuring Eric Braun, a new Southern Alberta band, Suit Jacket Society, Mark Hall band, Tres Hombres and more.
The Girls Rock Camp held a fundraiser the same night, April 23 at the Slice which featured several bands forming in a  week and coming up with a short set  including bands made up just for the show, including me.
People remembered the South Country Fair, so they packed into the Slice for country/ roots band Good Ol’ Goats, April 29 at Slice who were a highlight of the fair last year.
April ended with the annual visit from Winnipeg blues rock trio the Perpetrators who played the Slice with a super set of blues and blues rock , April 30.
 

May
May was a big month for live music.
 Vancouver indie rockers Said the Whale opened May at Studio with an excellent show, May 1.
Inferno featured an excellent punk show, May 7 with the Golers, Sick Ritual and World Class White Trash.
Fort McMurray was devastated by wildfires in May, so local bands chipped in to play a pair of big fundraisers for the Red Cross to help wildfire victims
Trevor Panczak and Shane Chisholm raised $14,000 for the Red Cross with a show at Coyote Joes,  May 14.

Edmonton rockers Striker opened this year]s Electric Eye Music Festival with a whole lot of rock. Photo by Richard AmeryAnother fundraiser at Smokehouse brought in over $3,000 for the Salvation Army to help fire victims with performances by Tres Hombres, Shooting For Mars and Dory and the Weathermen who played a lot of fundraisers this year plus Kelly and the Bastards and the Mark Hall band.
The Electric Eye Music festival continues to be  a success with plenty of metal, alternative rock, punk and just plain strange music happening all over downtown, May 11-15
A few of my favourites from Electric Eye were Advertisement, Physical Copies, Striker, Napalmpom (who would return to Lethbridge in November), Outlaws of Ravenhurst, Durban Poison, Fist City and Blü Shorts.
The Slice featured another candidate for best show nobody came to as the Decoys played a wicked set of addictive pop and rock music, May 18 , immediately appealing pop tinged rock.
Royal Tusk, who would visit Lethbridge three times this year, wound up  their tour in Lethbridge, May 27 at Studio 54.
The Owl Acoustic Lounge featured some choice rockabilly shows including Miesha and the spanks played several great Lethbridge shows this year. Photo by Richard AmeryCalgary’s  Hi Strung Downers, May 27 and Hamilton’s wonderful Ginger St. James, May 28.
She was competing with a big country show with Emerson Drive at Average Joes. They played their many hits.
Another show I was looking forward to , but which was unfortunately cancelled due to a  car accident, was Tallest to Shortest who were to play the Slice, May 28. They will be returning to Lethbridge in the new year on Jan 27.
 
June
 Duos showed how to do rock and roll right, by kicking off June at the unusual location of the Top Hat, June 1
Miesha and the Spanks played an incendiary show with HighKicks  and local duo Cope, who I missed
The always fun Calgary rockabilly band Peter and the Wolves opened June on a high note, at the owl Acoustic Lounge June 4.
For something special, CKUA featured Dave McCann and the Firehearts for a live broadcast of the Trans Canada Music West concert series, June 10 at Geomatic Attic, which was packed, though their show the week before at the Slice was dead.
The Lethbridge Jazz festival expanded this year, unofficially beginning  early on June 13 with gypsy folk duo Blue Moon Marquee who played a great show to a decent sized audience, especially for a Monday.

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Eleven years of great memories with the Slice

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I never thought I’d be writing a eulogy for my favourite hangout — the Slice, which officially closed its doors, Aug. 22 after 11 amazing years. There was also one final, final bash on Saturday, Aug. 27 which was a blast which brought back a lot of my favourite familiar faces including a tweener from Megan Rourke, Shaela Miller and a rejigged Tin and The Toad with special guest Dave McCann and Rancho Deluxe and several others which I missed due to trying to catch parts of all the other shows happening on Saturday.Shaela Miller playing the Last Slice. Photo by Richard Amety


There were hugs, handshakes and high fives aplenty and more than a few tears at the four wakes for the Slice last week (including the Saturday, Aug. 27 show)  including Petunia and the Vipers, a spontaneous last minute Saturday, Aug. 20 open stage and the Moon Runner/ Moon Tan/ Rainbow Patrol show on Aug. 22.


Is it wrong to shed tears for a bar like so many did during the Petunia and the Vipers’ Aug. 19 show? I don’t think so. The Slice was more than a just a bar, it has been a godsend and a second home for the Lethbridge music community, especially since the Tongue N’ Groove closed it’s doors about the same time the Slice started taking off and Henotic was just beginning in the old firehall.

Petunia and the Vipers at the Slice, Aug. 19. Photo by Richard Amery
When I arrived, everybody I talked to raved about their adventures and misadventures at the Tongue N’ Groove, but I only arrived in time to catch the last couple of shows there so I never really understood the magic people seemed to find there until I learned the Slice was closing.
 In 2007, I had just moved back to Lethbridge from Kenora, Ontario where I spent a lot of time in Winnipeg, hanging out at the Times Changed. When I found the Slice, which reminded me a lot of Times Changed, I thought I found my home away from home. And as soon as I had their pizza, I knew I had.


They brought in some of my favourite Winnipeg performers like the Perpetrators and Romi Mayes, Manitoba Hal, the D Rangers and Scott Nolan (who also frequently played Kenora) which made the transition of a big move to a new community (though I went to school here back in the day) a lot easier.


 Like a lot of people, I always figured The Slice would always be there. They’ve outlasted a lot of local watering holes which featured music or bars that have moved away from live music because people don’t come out for it.
It’s easy to take an institution like the Slice for granted. If you were too tired, too poor or feeling too lazy to go out and see a show there, you always assumed you’d be able to catch the next one. All good things come to an end. I guess.


But to actually see it go is a devastating blow to everybody in Lethbridge’s burgeoning counter-culture community who was looking for a place to listen to live music you wouldn’t hear anywhere else; people who didn’t want to go a bar and watch a dozen TVs showing sports ( the one tiny TV in the Slice set unobtrusively in a quiet corner above the bar and kitchen usually featured a cooking show and sometimes a Flames game); people looking for a place to belong and perhaps meet other people a little bit off the mainstream. The troublemakers, sloppy drunks, scrappers and pick up artists who always seem to flock to bars, seldom found their way to the Slice. Not to say it didn’t happen, but it was the exception rather than the rule.


Was it a dirty, dingy, dive bar? Some people might saFireworks at the Slice. Photo by Richard Ameryy so, but so was CBGBs. More importantly the people at the Slice were always friendly and welcoming and the pizza was always delicious and the music was always excellent and often mind expanding.


The Slice has been a cornerstone of the Lethbridge independent music community since I arrived back here and was indeed one of the first bars I discovered while wandering the desolate, downtown streets simply looking for a quick supper during a few moments off at the Lethbridge Herald. I found a lot more, I found a place I felt I fit in. Because of the Slice I got to interview and write about and photograph bands I may not have otherwise given a second glance to.


 Everybody has their favourite memories of the Slice. Do you remember the time the Sheepdogs stopped by the Slice’s beloved Tuesday open mic and were convinced to jam after their Whoop Up Days show, last year? That was just one of many magical moments there. I’ve seen some of my favourite performers there like Shred Kelly, more unusual shows like Delhi 2 Dublin, which I might not otherwise have given a chance.Jesse Freed manning the bar. Photo by Richard Amery


Countless local bands formed there, broke up there, formed new bands there, had their first and last gigs there, formed bands just for special events for CKXU and fundraisers for the Girls Rock Camp and other worthwhile causes, and had plenty of adventures and misadventures there in between a lot of great music and occasionally way too many beers. People met their mates there and some have since married and had kids.


Over the past 11 years, The Slice has basically been the CKUA of bars, showcasing music you just wouldn’t hear anywhere else. You never knew what you’d get, but you knew it would be good, even if it wasn’t a style of music you’d usually listen to and you knew you would have a great time. You’d always find good people, good pizza and a lot of good vibes.


 I remember a lot of late nights and consequently long mornings due to late starting shows there. I’ve seen roots shows, country shows, rock shows and punk and metal shows and plenty of ambient indie-rock shows and other weirder shows which are more difficult to describe. Even a couple of rap shows. They have all been entertaining and have given me something new to appreciate.


 In addition to their own shows, they opened their doors to popular local music festivals including the South Country Fair, Electric Eye, Lethbridge Jazz Festival and CKXU Love and Records afterparties. There have been wakes there for beloved regulars like Frank Dooley and Murray Nelson who have passed on and fundraisers for other regulars fallen on hard times.


 The Slice was more than a bar, it was a community. A damned fine community of people who care about each other and care about supporting live music.
I got to see and support some of my very favourite Lethbridge musicians there. I couldn’t possibly list all of them. Somebody would be missed. I met some of my favourite people in this city at the Slice.

 

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