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L.A. Beat

Kirb-fest features a variety of musical styles and ages

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Kirbfest kicked off with an anemic crowd, Friday night, June 17 at the Yates Theatre.


There really was something for everyone including a lot of Folsom Prison blues and a lot of talk about parenthood, especially fatherhood.

 Founder John Kirby brought the “Festival Across The River” across to the plains for day one of  the festival, that people started naming after him.

 Kirby opened up the first night by talking abut the history of the festival, some  10 years ago, noting he wanted bring people playing in their bedrooms or kitchens to a stage and began the rudimentary festival, which soon gained momentum.

 This is the first year he collaborated with New West Theatre to bring it to the Yates Theatre.

Kirby  and  guitarist Randy McHugh started off the musical portion of the show by playing a couple of well worn covers of. Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” and CCR’s “ Bad Moon Rising.”


Steve Keenan performs at Kirbfest, June 17 at the Yates Theatre. Photo by Richard Amery

 McHugh made way for Kirby”s wife to sing a couple of songs with pre-recorded accompaniment including a heartfelt tribute to her son Will, who passed away a few years ago, called  “Jealous of

the Angels”


They finished wh their set with a duet on Johnny Cash and June Carter -Cash’s  “Jackson.” 


After a quick changeover, Steve Keenan, dressed in a natty suit and hat played a solid  solo set of acoustic folk and blues including several favourites from his most recent CD “In My Hands.”

He started with “Country Buzz”, then noted he’s been playing with the arrangement of his song  “Cindy Lou,” chuckling the song almost caused his divorce.

 He delved into his back catalogue for some jump blues with a JJ Jones  sounding “ Don’t Lead Me On.”

 He fallow that up with a couple more form his most recent album including the title track “ I don’t a need A Million” and the title track,” which he prefaced by facing having a kid saved his life.

Keenan ended his set with the upbeat blues rock of one of my favourites “ “Whiskey Drinking Blues .”

Desert Orchid performs at Kirbfest, June 17 at the Yates Theatre. Photo by Richard Amery


 While it is always wonderful to see established acts like Keenan, I’m always excited to see acts I haven’t seen before including talented youth like First Nations trio Desert Orchid.

 Kirby introduced them by noting a lot of kids make bad choices, but  he was excited to see a lot of them playing music instead.

The kids,  including frontman Cassius Hungry Wolf, who looked barely out of their teens,  ran the gamut, starting with some Nirvana, going back to play some ’50s pop and surf music, but really showed some impressive blues rock/ psychedelic shops by tackling a couple of Cream classics “ Strange Brew” and “Sunshine of Your Love.”

 Those songs were a set ending highlight as was  “ We are the Sex Bob-omb” from the movie Scott Pilgrim which their drummer sang.


Set two started with something completely different— opera music from Argentinian singer Jorge Aviles.


Aviles told the audience they probably wouldn’t understand the lyrics as they were sung in Spanish, and later Italian, but told some of the stories behind the compositions.

“ Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way,” he said before singing some beautiful opera including a piece by Handel.


He stepped aside so his accompanies Cheryl Emery could play a solo piece about a woman who has unrequited love for a married man, so she decides to walk into the ocean.

 Aviles, wearing a north Argentine poncho, moved on to sing some songs by Argentinian indie genius musicians, which were about and or influenced by samba music. One song about a little kid who’s moth

er was a prostitute and inspired by Tango.


Jorge Aviles performs at Kirbfest, June 17 at the Yates Theatre. Photo by Richard Amery

 Aviles ended wita song from Les Miz about praying for a soldier to come home safely, observing his own 30-year-old son is in Latvia helping out Canadian soldiers.


Another talented young Siksiika band based band Double Rider played a long set of mostly original country rock music from their EP and an upcoming album.


The band barely cracked smiles, but played tight, catchy songs, with the drummer and guitarist alternating on lead vocals and singing together on a couple songs.

Originals “ Walk With Me” and “Happy Is How I Feel,” were highlights, as was a killer cover of Nancy  Sinatra’s “These Boots Were Made For Walking.” The drummer knocked over a s cymbal, but the bassist impassively put it back up for him without missing a note.


They wound down with a couple covers including Carlene Carter’s “Every Little Thing You Do” and, of course, Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.


 John Wort Hannam wound up night one with a brief set of stories and solo acoustic songs, showcasing his fleet fingered finger picking.

“ He began with “Let’s Be Reckless Together” and promised to play  a couple songs written  during the pandemic.

“ Remember when we thought it was only going to be three week,” he said, before playing “ See You on the Other Side of the Curve.”


Willy Big Bull, who is debuting his band to close off tonight’s (June 18)’ Kirb-fest, joined Hannam on a beautiful version of Ian Tyson’s classic “Someday Soon

 Hannam played mostly songs from his most recent CD “Long Haul,” including “Hurry Up Kid,” which he prefaced was about watching his son try to do online learning during  the pandemic, and always telling him to hurry up, while hoping his son could stay that age.


Double Rider performs at Kirbfest, June 17 at the Yates Theatre. Photo by Richard Amery

He ended by retuning his guitar and playing  “Young At Heart,” a beautiful tribute to his father, who died of leukemia at the beginning of the pandemic.


Kirbfest continues this afternoon at 2 p.m. with a free kids show featuring Quade Mountain Horse, Blackfoot Dance Troupe, Hootenanny, The band Formerly Known as Karen, Lewis and Pam, Chris Weasel Moccasin and Jax Running Rabbit finishing the afternoon off  at 4 p.m.


 Kirbfest part three begins at 7 p.m. with Bailey Kate, The Little Lethbridge Opera Company, Richard And Glenda Red Crowe, Kyrese Mountain Horse, Joel Stretch, Lance Tailfeathers and Willy Big Bull and WinterCount.

—By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor

Last Updated ( Saturday, 18 June 2022 11:37 )  
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