While hiding from the extreme cold we have been experiencing, down to -38c, I locked down and listened to some tunes, first up on the turntable was North Country Funk by Joey Gregorash, I bought this record without hearing a single note from it on the advice of my friend Bruce from Record Collectors Paradise and I have no regrets. I have returned to this album for repeated listens and the one song that stands out for both Bruce and me, is Down By The River, which I think is equal to, if not better than Neil Young’s version. Either way, this is still a good winter album, the cover photo says it all.
Next up were Explosions In The Sky who told me with their album that, The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place. To step outside at -33C makes the earth feel like a cold dead place, however, we Edmontonians are a hearty lot and life goes on, a bit slower perhaps for those of us with arthritis, but it does go on.
Another song by Explosions In The Sky, Snow And Lights, from their album How Strange, Innocense. This is a favourite band of ours, Joel and I, so I didn’t mind queuing up another listen by them.
A blast from the past came next, The Mamas & The Papas are California Dreamin’ on such a winters day. I am personally Jamaica dreamin’ on such a cold and snowy winters day.
A little levity came next with Frank Zappa, Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow, a 45 this time so it was a short cold shot.
A Hazy Shade of Winter by Simon & Garfunkel, another blast from the past that gives us another shade of winter in case we ever tire of the frozen white one we are stuck in.
Fifteen Feet Of Pure White Snow by Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds, this is from the album No More Shall We Pass, which I think is a masterpiece of music. This line is particularly apt for our recent weather:
“I’m beginning to freeze
I’ve got icicles hanging from my knees”
Listen to the entire album if you have a chance, this warrants a comfortable spot on the recliner and listening on the big speakers.
White Winter Hymnal by Fleet Foxes from their self titled album
Snow Blind by Black Sabbath from Vol4
I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm by Billie Holiday from Holiday Blues
Snowblind from Drowning With Land In Sight by The 77s
Snowblind Friend by Steppenwolf from Sixteen Great Performances
Snowin’ In Brooklyn by Ferron from Shadows On A Dime
I think the remainder of these songs speak for themselves, except for the last one, by Ferron, it’s actually snowin’ in Edmonton, but I’ll give her credit all the same because it probably is snowin’ in Brooklyn as well. I saw Ferron live at the Edmonton Folk Fest and fell in love with her music and the Shadows On A Dime album, which I go back to every now and then, just because it feels so good to reminisce about that performance. It may be cold outside but the turntable is still spinning and up next is Hot Buttered Soul by the great Isaac Hayes, it gets the blood flowing and the feet moving, good stuff.
I hope you manage to stay warm and listen to some good music, it warms the soul.
On the evenings of Friday, November 30 and Saturday, December 1 we had the pleasure of listening to Yukon Blonde and The Zolas do back to back shows at The Station on Jasper. This repeat was a first for both of us although we had seen both bands previously, this was the sixth time for Yukon Blonde and the seventh for The Zolas. Listening to two groups do back to back shows presented us with an opportunity to make some observations on band dynamics, set lists, crowd demographics and dynamics, how the music and lights were mixed and the overall vibe from each show.
The Zolas hail from the Vancouver area but make numerous tours that include Edmonton, where it is evident that they have a lot of fans. Currently, the core of The Zolas consists of Zach Gray on guitar and vocals, Dwight Abell on bass, and Cody Hiles on drums with a touring pianist rounding out their sound.
Over the years I have heard The Zolas grow and spread their playing into new and exciting sounds while they have also developed and matured as a cohesive unit, they sound better with each listening. They are more confident and they are using new sounds and arrangements that make their older songs sound fresh. They have always been a band that had a good on stage presence and that did not change with these two shows. Zach is good at banter and engaging the crowd and the band as a unit kept the energy moving forward with a minimum of dead spots such as guitar tunings.
The Zolas are adding more nuances and textures to their music through the use of synthesisers and trigger pads. This was most notable for Zach as he played both synthesiser and guitar in which he used the headstock of his guitar to tap trigger pads. The band generated good energy with the crowd and were able to sustain that energy through their set, although I think it was a better crowd on Friday than Saturday and the crowd energy was different. The Zolas traditionally close with Zach taking his mic stand, guitar and a small synth into the middle of the crowd on the floor and play Escape Artist. Zach asks the crowd to turn on their phone flashlights and it creates a cool dynamic.
Over the years I have seen this done several times and the audience reaction isn’t always the same. On Friday night it was good, not as good as a previous show at a different venue and a different crowd, but it was darn good. Saturday night, on the other hand, had a very different crowd that didn’t engage as well from my perspective.As always, The Zolas meet and greet with the crowd after the show and are good at it. We didn’t get a setlist from the Zolas this time around, but we got a selfie with Zach which is a tradition he does with us. My appreciation for this band goes up every time I see them live or listen to them at home. They are a highlight band for me. My favourite song is Frieda On The Mountain:
“Freida on the mountain
What do you see on the other side?
Freida on the mountain
What do you see on the other side?”
I’m sure that my family and friends will understand why it is a favourite.
Yukon Blonde is a band that started in Kelowna but work out of Vancouver nowadays. The band is made up of Jeff Innes on vocals and guitar, Brandon Scott on guitar and vocals, Graham Jones on drums and vocals, James Younger on bass and vocals, and Rebecca Gray on keyboards, synths, and vocals.
Wikipedia classify them as an indie rock band although I can hear the influence of psych, disco, 80’s easy listening, and straight ahead power rock. They are a tight band that can are comfortable playing with a variety of sounds. Having the luxury of 3 band mates that can sing lead, all 5 of them singing backing vocals, 3 of them that play synth and two lead/rhythm guitar players, they can spread the sound around and add layers and textures that compliment each other and build a big sound.
The highlight for me of both shows by Yukon Blonde was their long jams on the song Radio. I didn’t time it because I was so mesmerised listening to it, but it went around, up, over and then back for more than the traditional 3 minutes that they would get on a radio edit. It then it segued into Saturday Night which was another high energy stretched out anthem. The closing song both nights was a tribute to George Harrison and the Travelling Wilburys, in which both bands took the stage, and they did a rendition of Handle With Care.
The Station on Jasper is a good venue, the staff are polite and courteous and the sound is usually pretty good. They have a decent menu, we had the nachos and they were tasty. Like I said earlier, the crowds were very different for the two shows. Friday night had a lot of happy people that were there because they wanted to hear the music. Saturday felt like it had a lot more intoxicated people who came to the venue to get drunk and either socialise through the whole show or spend the entire night texting. Very different crowds that I am sure the bands could sense as much as we did.
The sound was muddy, very bass heavy and very loud on Friday night, which was a shame because so many people were there to hear good music. Saturday night had a better mix although it was still very, very loud. At least the bass wasn’t as bad as Friday night, it was still too much, but it was better. Heavy bass is a trend that we have noticed at a lot of shows, so it isn’t confined to one venue. The excessive volume is also at epidemic proportions, and it’s everywhere even in stores.
Conclusion: I thoroughly enjoyed both bands both night and would gladly return to The Station on Jasper.
Photos by Joel Weatherly. More Photos at Joel Weatherly Photography.
Friday, October 5 and Saturday, October 6 were exciting and memorable evenings for me, I had the opportunity to listen to the music of some highly talented people, and it was excellent indeed. Up and Downtown Music Festival (UP+DT) has been going for six years, but this was my first venture into the adventure of this exciting format. UP+DT is a multi-venue festival that celebrates independent music in 11 different venues within the downtown area of Edmonton. They celebrate both local talent and artists from other parts of Canada.
Friday night saw us at the 9910 club which was a first for me in this venue. It is an intimate basement establishment with a wet bar on the right side wall as we entered, a few booths on the opposite wall and a small stage on the wall opposite the bar. nehiyawak was starting to play as we walked in and after a quick survey of viewing options, we stood facing the stage about five or six body counts from the front of the stage.
We saw nehiyawak at the Interstellar Rodeo this summer and liked what we heard, so we were happy to see them again in a different context, from a big stage in an amphitheatre to a small setup in an intimate club. nehiyawak transitioned well. The sound in 9910 was excellent, it was a good volume and a good mix so kudos to the sound technicians.
I enjoyed watching and listening to nehiyawak, they enjoy making music, and that creates a feedback loop of us enjoying hearing them, which loops back to them. The drummer Marek Tyler was a joy to watch, he was ebullient, happy to be singing and doing percussion. His cousin guitarist-vocalist Kris Harper plays a vintage guitar that looks almost bang on to my first guitar. A little gear envy on my part. The band is rounded out with the bassist, keyboardist Matthew Cardinal.
nehiyawak made my ears happy twice this year, and I look forward to more good things from this Edmonton based outfit.
After a short turnaround that stripped the stage down to one mic stand, a tuning pedal and a single guitar, Destroyer took to the stage, and we had moved up to the very front which put us about a meter away from him. I did say it is an intimate club, didn’t I?
In 1995 Dan Bejar started Destroyer as a solo home-recording project. After a dozen full-length albums and several EP’s, not to mention his work in such notable groups as The New Pornographers, Dan was now on stage before us accompanied by nothing other than his vocal cords and his guitar.
I have a great deal of admiration for artists who can do that; there is no place to hide if mistakes happen. And mistakes do happen, we are still human after all, but a skillful musician such as Dan Bejar can work with that and keep the music coming. Destroyer played a set that kept the audience fixated, except for a few loud people at the bar. Which made for some good spirited banter between the bar crowd and the people in the crowd who couldn’t hear the music which led to humourous mediation by Destroyer.
Friday night ended on a bright note, and I looked forward to Saturday night at another venue that I had never been in before. CKUA is a much-loved radio station in Edmonton, and although I knew that they live streamed artists in the studios, I had never been fortunate enough to attend any of them, until now.
The station is in the old Alberta Hotel building which has been beautifully restored to house the radio station. The Performance Hall is a high ceilinged room in a ground floor room with decent acoustic treatment and excellent sound. Hats off to the soundboard operators, they did a good job.
The first set on Saturday night was Lindsey Walker. We had listened to Lindsey at a Sofar pop us show earlier in the year, and I was happy to hear her perform again. At Sofar Lindsey was solo, but on this night she was accompanied by Alex Vissia on bass and backing vocals, whom we had seen performing previously as a solo act, and Vicky Berg on piano, synth and backing vocals. These three ladies are very talented and their set zipped by leaving me looking forward to hearing them play together again.
In the middle of Saturday night, we had Poor Nameless Boy, Regina-based indie folk artist Joel Henderson and his band. I had not listened to any of their music before so I didn’t know what to expect, but in the end, I was happy that I got to hear them. Joel Henderson, who is the heart of Poor Nameless Boy, sings songs that sound at home on the prairies but are not constrained by any genre branding iron. He sings about people and the things that people do, and he can take the little things that often go unnoticed and turn them into a meaningful song. Poor Nameless Boy is a gifted singer and song craftsman who I would like to hear again.
The closing act for the night was Mauno, a four-piece band hailing from Nova Scotia consisting of singer/guitarist Nick Everett, guitarist Scott Boudreau, bassist/vocalist Eliza Niemi, and Adam White on percussion. This band refuses to be confined by any genre or stylistic title. They play music, and they play it damn well. The music is technical, it is melodic, it moves my body and my heart. It makes love to the air that it touches. Mauno sings about life in concise and pointed lyrics that run with the whims of the music. It is artistic, and it is passionate. I enjoyed being able to see Mauno play live because they add so much more in a live show that a piece of vinyl cannot contain. Done, now I am going to go and listen to their record, Tuning
Inter- is a prefix occurring in loanwords from Latin, where it meant “between,” “among,” “in the midst of,” “mutually,” “reciprocally,” “together,” “during.”
Stellar – of or relating to the stars; consisting of stars.
Like a star, as in brilliance, shape, etc.
pertaining to a preeminent performer
Interstellar Rodeo 2018 was among stars, stars of the stage, stars of live music, stars of recorded music. It brought together stars from diverse cultural, musical and geographic backgrounds. We were indeed in the midst of preeminent performers. And it was good, oh my, the moments shine like stars in the sky.
Stars in the sky were a no-show with lots of cloudy and rainy weather across all three days. We were in line at the gates on Friday night when a monsoon moved in with lightning and hail, we braved it to the point of being soaked to the skin and knowing we would be cold and uncomfortable if we stayed. We went home, dried everything out and prepared for a better day on Saturday.
Saturday was stellar. The day started with Nêhiyawak, homegrown talent from right here in Edmonton. They played a set of prog and 1960’s psych inspired music that I found quite enjoyable. An excellent start to the day.
The Deep Dark Woods started playing against a backdrop of deep dark skies which soon turned into a torrential downpour with lots of lightning and everyone took shelter from the storm under the big white Heritage Amphitheatre.
After a spell, the rain let up, and the music restarted, I give credit to The Deep Dark Woods for not losing their enthusiasm and energy. They put in an incredible set, and I am enamoured by their sound.
Due to lack of space in a blog post, I am going to touch lightly and quickly upon many artists who deserve much more credit than I can generate in this space.
Jayden, an up and coming star is an example that I enjoyed hearing for the first time. The Mavericks, founded in 1989 and still going strong, showcased great Tex-Mex, rockabilly, and alternative country.
Ruby Boots, I am sure she is a very talented lady, but she got the short straw between The Mavericks and Lisa Leblanc which are two very high energy sets. Ruby Boots is a gentler soul. I hope to hear her in another setting someday.
Lisa Leblanc is from the far east, New Brunswick fer shure. She plays an eclectic mix of genre-mashing music. Margaret Glaspy was up next, and I had not previewed her music before the festival. I enjoyed her ability to play in a power trio; it’s not always easy being the only guitar but she pulled it off with ease.
Jay Gilday is a talented singer/songwriter hailing from Yellowknife. I look forward to hearing more from Jay.
The closer for Saturday was July Talk, a band that I was familiar with and looked forward to seeing and hearing again. Spellbound from the opening note to the very last one, I didn’t want their set to end. There have been a few bands over the years that do that to me. July Talk mixed high energy with fantastic stage chemistry that raced and staggered between songs with ease. Having July Talk close the Saturday set was an excellent choice by the Interstellar Rodeo organizers.
Sunday opened to gray and dreary clouds, but joyful music from Faouzia who is of Moroccan descent and plays music that is a mash-up of influences but a fun listen. I was particularly impressed by the power and cadence of her singing.
La Dame Blanche hails from Cuba and sings in Spanish, I don’t understand more than a handful of words in that language but whatever she was singing was terrific. I can not describe her show, Google it and see for yourself what I mean.
Diga hails from Behchoko NT, about as far from the climate of Cuba as you can get but his singing and playing are every bit as warm and personable. He is a song craftsman, enough said, go now and listen.
The Dead South, from Regina Saskatchewan, are an acoustic group that encourage foot stomping with their energetic mix of folk, western swing and paddle wheel gambling music. They sing quintessential country and western songs; dogs, broken hearts and drinking.
There were no songs about crows nests.
Josh Q, A staple of the Iqaluit music scene is a big man with a big heart who sings songs about a big land. He has a good voice and a nice sound going on with his guitar.
The Interstellar All Stars is a mix of musicians who have played the festival in the past, this year featured Jason Plumb and his band The Willing, Rose Cousins and Tim Baker. Tim Baker played in Hey Rosetta but is flying solo. All-star groups are a gamble, sometimes they work, on some songs they hit on every cylinder, but not always. That held true this year; there were moments that were amazing, but there were others that were a John Deere tractor running on 3 cylinders. A good effort by everyone and thanks for coming back to Edmonton.
An artist that I have wanted to see for some time now is Alejandro Escovedo who’s resume is a kilometre long. He started with some newer material including “Sally was a Cop” and then he turned it up a couple of notches, and the band went full-on punk with some incredibly powerful music that included a cover of David Bowie’s song “All The Young Dudes”. He even did Pete Townsend power chords. A great high energy set that brought the house to their feet. That was a high light moment of the Interstellar Rodeo for me.
Courtney Barnett is another high light reel moment. She brought out the grunge and power for us, and it was good. She is a powerhouse from the land down under that sings songs that mix equal parts wit, humour and down to earth observations of life in general. Courtney and her band pumped up the volume, the Interstellar crew pumped up the light on the amphitheatre, and the crowd ate it all up. I left the festival grounds one happy camper, after two days of incredible music. I can’t wait to see what next years line up will be.
A few off the cuff observations before I close this blog. Alcohol consumption. There were copious amounts of it. I like the SevenFest and The Edmonton Folk Music Festival where the drunks are more or less confined to small corrals and the people who came to listen to the music can do so without some loud drunk slurring down their collars. Why do drunk people keep talking louder and louder as they get drunker and drunker? And I really don’t care what your sex life is like at the moment! I know the Interstellar Rodeo makes a killing off booze sales but at what cost. Drunks that require heavy-handed security to enforce and then remove from the premises. Drunks were falling all over because they could barely walk but were driving home or in one case driving to another concert. I was glad they left to hear The Beach Boys so we could enjoy Courtney Barnett without them yelling and slurring at each other. In summary, I was not thrilled with the amount of alcohol on the hill.
Bathrooms, washrooms, cans, loos; whatever you want to call them, there were not enough of them, and they were very poorly maintained. For example, all of the portable potties ran out of toilet paper and ladies were running around trying to find a volunteer to fix this. One gracious lady donated a box of tissue paper to save a few of them from despair. And they were dirty and full of crap, literally. They need to be cleaned, emptied and maintained much better than they were this weekend, it was a disgrace. The permanent washrooms were not much better, and there were not enough. Why is this such a hard concept for festivals to master, there are never enough bathrooms? Even the new Rogers Place received criticism for opening without enough bathroom space, especially for the ladies. I suggest doubling the amount that Interstellar had this year and using the gender-neutral approach, first come first served regardless of gender. Increasing the number and then cleaning and maintaining them would make for a lot more happy festival attendees. It would also make sense based on the number of beers the patrons were pounding back, that liquid all has to go someplace.
Another thing that I think would make the festival better involves the pathways. I suggest covering all the grass pathways with a generous covering of wood-chips. Wood-chips will keep them safer for walking on, or walkable in general since after the rain there was a lot of slipping and sliding. Wood-chip pathways will also clearly show where a path is, so people do not start setting up camp on the space allotted for walking, which I observed more than once. Wood-chip is also easy to clean up after the festival with an industrial vacuum, plus the lawn under it will be in better condition for the pleasure of the next event to be staged there.
The volunteers deserve a huge shout out; they went above and beyond. Their hard work and dedication go a long way towards making this a successful festival. Thank you to every one of them.
The queue was mostly observed and respected. I tend to lean towards the British system where cutting in line is tantamount to a crime against humanity and saving a place in line should only happen under exceptional circumstances such as the driver trying to find a parking spot for a person who is unable to walk long distances. Saving a place for your friend who is just too lazy to arrive on time does not qualify, go to the back of the line. I will make an exemption for the occasional family member but not for the whole Brady Bunch showing up late, go to the end of the line.
Smokers were few and far between which was a pleasure. I only witnessed one selfish person smoking in the queue and one smoking off behind a tree, like that made it more acceptable. I didn’t notice anyone smoking in the festival grounds but did get one whiff of wacky tabacky that was very brief, so I appreciate people adhering to the no-smoking rule that applies to any and every type of inhaling of noxious substances. Thank you for not smoking, anything.
Ford Pier was the master of ceremonies, and he did an excellent job of it. I hope he comes back and I hope the m.c.’s of some other events take notes from watching him, their lack of talent for being an m.c. can only go so far. I enjoyed watching Ford rock out to some of the music, clearly moved by what he was hearing. Rock on Ford.
In conclusion, it was a stellar Interstellar music festival. I enjoyed the music and that far outshone the flaws. Thank you Interstellar Rodeo for making me a happy cowboy.
I had listened to the Steep Canyon Rangers before the evening of Friday, June 23rd at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, but to be honest, it was only because I had listened to Steve Martin and they were performing with him. My impression of them from that limited listening experience was that they were one heck of a good band, and they are. They have been racking up awards since 2006 when they won Emerging Artist of the Year from the International Bluegrass Association all the way up to a Grammy in 2012 for Instrumental Performance of the Year. They have good credentials so I was looking forward to a night of good music.
I received more than I expected, the evening began with The Birds of Chicago, a trio from where else, Chicago. The band is led by the married couple JT Nero and Allison Russel, a transplanted Canadian formerly of the group Po’ Girl. They were accompanied with a third member on guitar and slide resonator whose name slipped by my ears. The Birds of Chicago had played at the Edmonton Folk Fest last year so we were familiar with them but the set tonight took me away to a very pleasant place, a happy place. The songs swooped and danced gracefully like a bird in flight. They held the audience in the palm of their hands. It is rare for an opening band to get a standing ovation but The Birds Of Chicago deserved it. A true delight to hear them live again. Fortunately, they are coming back to Alberta this summer on the folk music circuit, playing Grande Prairie and Edmonton in November.
After a short turnaround, The Steep Canyon Rangers opened the show with what could only be called one hell of an opener. It built energy as each member of the band strolled onto the stage and built on that until it felt like they had given it all they had. They hadn’t, there was plenty more to come. They weaved between folk ballads, bluegrass, Americana, a few classical overtones and at moments it felt like a jazz jam session. One of the highlights for me was a number in which they all played their instruments as percussion, it worked and it was spellbinding. Percussion mandolin, percussion upright bass, percussion guitar, it was incredible. These gentlemen not only know how to play a great variety of music, they do it smoothly with both professionalism and intimacy. At times it felt like we were at a family hoedown and on one tune The Birds of Chicago joined them for a number where they all gathered around the microphone for a sing-along. Great stuff.
It was a magical evening of music that will linger in my memory for a long time. Another bonus is how personal they are, both groups did a meet and greet in the lobby after their sets where they signed CDs and we were fortunate to get a set list from the Steep Canyon Rangers that they all graciously signed. A perfect end to a truly memorable evening of music.
This has been a big year for me musically, my band, New Romancer, played their first show, I started writing for The Spill Magazine, and I probably listened to more music than I have before. 2016 has also been a difficult year as many great musicians have passed away. Seeing as best of lists are a customary thing to do, I figured I should put one together. I decided to do an unordered list as I have a difficult time saying that one album is truly superior to another especially if they are among my favourites.
TOP ALBUMS OF 2016
BADBADNOTGOOD – IV
The suitably titled fourth release from these hip-hop Jazz fusion artists is a wholly enjoyable listen. With vocal contributions from the likes of Sam Herring and Charlotte Day Wilson, it shows growth and experimentation from these talented musicians.
WHITNEY – LIGHT UPON THE LAKE
It’s been a good year for Whitney they’ve garnered international recognition for their laid back, country twang inspired sound, and have toured extensively to promote their debut album. Light Upon The Lake is a captivating listen, and Whitney is a pleasure to see live.
SKIPTRACING – MILD HIGH CLUB
In Alex Brettin’s follow-up to Timeline, we get to see him further explore his Mac DeMarco inspire, 70’s radio infused sound. I found this album oddly difficult to put down as it takes influence from soft rock, Jazz, and even standard pop. A very unique and enjoyable mid-fi listen.
BAT FOR LASHES – THE BRIDE
I’m a big fan of concept albums. I really appreciate when an artist attempts to convey a story through their music. Bat for Lashes’ newest release relays the rather sorrowful tale of The Bride. This album contains her signature soaring vocals and is filled with interesting instrumentation. This was only made better by seeing her perform live.
CHILDISH GAMBINO – “AWAKEN, MY LOVE!”
Whether you love or hate Bino’s new direction, it’s undeniably interesting. “Awaken, My Love!” sees him leave behind rap for soulful R&B. I appreciate his attempt at switching genres and while the new style may shock fans of his rap, it will provide new areas for the talented Donald Glover to experiment with.
STRFKR – BEING NO ONE, GOING NOWHERE
I’m a longtime fan of STRFKR. I’ve played their previous releases countless times and I was very excited for this release. It contains everything I enjoy about STRFKR: introspective lyrics, catchy upbeat synths, and even Alan Watts samples. I wrote a review on this album if you want more details. I’m excited to see them live next year.
ANGEL OLSEN – MY WOMAN
This album was my first introduction to Olsen and I was pleasantly surprised. Her delicate vocals, interesting lyrics, and relaxed guitar playing create an interesting soundscape to get lost in. This record has been on repeat since I discovered it.
LASER – NIGHT DRIVER
While this is their first release as Laser, the musicians in this band are incredibly experienced. Laser is fronted by Lisa Lobsinger of Broken Social Scene and features some extremely talented musicians. This low-key album can be a difficult one to get into yet is oddly satisfying to complete.
BAND OF SKULLS – BY DEFAULT
I’ve been a fan of Band of Skulls ever since I heard their debut album. Their straightforward rock sound is perfect for getting pumped up or hitting the highway. By Default contains more of their distinct sound and highlights some of the talents hidden in this three piece band.
CHARLOTTE DAY WILSON – CDW -EP
I know this is technically an EP not a full-length release but I’ve loved this release immensely this year. I first got word of Charlotte Day Wilson from her appearance on BadBadNotGood’s IV, since then I’ve waited in anticipation to hear more of this talented artist. This soulful R&Bish debut EP is absolutely delightful and has some addicting vocal work on it.
DAVID BOWIE – BLACKSTAR
One of the most talked about musicians this year was the late David Bowie. One of music’s biggest innovators and influencers released one last stunning album before passing away. Definitely a good album that has rendered new meaning in his death.
I went to 33 performances this year. Here are my favourites.
THE ZOLAS W/FAST ROMANTICS @ UNION HALL MARCH 31, 2016
I always enjoy seeing The Zolas, this time was made extra special due to us being invited to their Sonic 102.9 radio session. After meeting them at the session and seeing their show that evening I was impressed. I was even more impressed by the band’s ability to recognise us after their show with The Strumbellas later in the fall.
BAT FOR LASHES @ UNION CHAPEL MAY 16, 2016
This was a magnificent performance by an artist I had been dying to see. The Union Chapel was a perfect venue to see her perform excerpts from her then-unreleased album, The Bride. This intimate concert gave me a new perspective on Bat for Lashes and also reinforced my appreciation of old churches as concert venues. This concert was filmed and portions have been released.
UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA W/WHITNEY @ STARLITE ROOM MAY 24, 2016
When attending this concert I wasn’t very familiar with the works of either band. I immediately garnered fandom for Whitney and appreciation for Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Whitney blew me away with their unique styling and instrumentation. I’d gladly go see either act again.
OF MONTREAL W/MOREWINE AND MITCHMATIC @ THE NEEDLE VINYL TAVERN JUNE 19, 2016
of Montreal is a rather bizarre band. Their show was packed with energy and musicianship. It was truly fantastic to see this act on their first trip to Edmonton. Opening for of Montreal was local talents Morewine and Michmatic both of which performed excellent sets and continue to be active in Edmonton’s music scene.
STING AND PETER GABRIEL: ROCK PAPER SCISSORS @ REXALL PLACE JULY 24, 2016
It’s always special when artists collaborate and share a stage. It’s even more special when two legendary artists like Sting and Peter Gabriel do it. This performance featured the two covering each other’s material, singing their own songs, and working together to create an exceptionally symbiotic stage.
STURGILL SIMPSON @ UNION HALL AUGUST 14, 2016
Sturgill Simpson has been making waves in the country and popular music scenes. His rants have made headlines and his Grammy nomination has stunned most everyone. It’s for these reasons that he makes the list. His actually fantastic performance was overshadowed by the terrible venue and absolutely awful audience. Sturgill is awesome. Union Hall can eat a bag of dicks.
AN EVENING WITH DAVID CROSBY @ WINSPEAR CENTRE SEPTEMBER 12, 2016
David Crosby is a legendary musician, most well known for his work with the Byrds and Crosby Stills Nash and Young. His intimate and relaxed performance featured his playing some of his old material, doing the occasional cover, and showcasing his newest works. Just Crosby, a guitar, and his son at a piano resulted in an empty looking stage yet a full sounding hall.
TOKYO POLICE CLUB W/THE ELWINS AND BORN RUFFIANS @ STARLITE ROOM OCTOBER 8, 2016
My goodness, what a lineup for a single night. These three indie bands have been on fire the past few years with their releases surging over airwaves and their concerts garnering attention. Up+Downtown a relatively new multi-venue music festival brought these and many more artists in town for a weekend of music. Hopefully, next year’s festival will have as good of a lineup.
PURITY RING W/HANA @ WINSPEAR CENTRE OCTOBER 21, 2016
While the Winspear Centre is typically associated with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and other highbrow acts it is a fantastic venue for artists of all styles. Electronically based Purity Ring and HANA had the venue’s acoustic properties pushed as their thumping bass lines and soaring vocals ripped through the hall. I wrote a review of this hometown show.
JAMES VINCENT MCMORROW W/ALAN RAYMAN @ WINSPEAR CENTRE NOVEMBER 21, 2016
I very much enjoy seeing James Vincent McMorrow live. His last performance at the Winspear was a solo tour de force and convinced me to go see him again. This time he was in the company of his band to promote his newest and fullest-sounding album yet. Joining him for this leg of the tour was the mysterious and artistically interesting Alan Rayman.
Welp, there’s my picks for this year. Hope 2017 is even better.
I don’t remember the first time I saw Corb Lund play live, must have been back about ’06 or ’07. It was in Churchill Square, or the Concrete Polygon as we like to call it. I think it was for the food festival, anyhow, I was working at Hope Mission at the time so Valerie and Joel met me there and we walked over to Churchill Square to catch his show. Some of my co-workers were already listening to his music and I knew they had good taste in music so I thought it prudent to hear what they were listening to and raving about so much.
My suspicions were confirmed, they did have good taste in music. Corb Lund and his band delivered a crowd-rousing show that left me wanting more. So I went to the store and bought two CD’s: Modern Pain and Five Dollar Bill.
The Music resonated with me. It spoke of things I was familiar with and we humans do like the familiar even when it is new.
I had been raised on country and western music. My Dad was a guitar player heavily influenced by Hank Williams and the Carter family with a little Flatt and Scruggs thrown in. In fact, I didn’t know there were other kinds of music until my teen years when I was introduced to rock and roll. Since then I have been on a life-long journey of new musical discoveries, everything from ABBA to Zappa but always retaining a love for country and western music.
Corb Lund was a breath of fresh country air in an era when most country and western music was barely discernible from pop music. Corb Lund knew his musical heritage and didn’t stray too far from the template.
On February 6th at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, henceforth know as the Jube, I was able to revisit the music of Mr Lund and it warmed my soul. His music has changed, not a lot, but it has matured and grown with him. His lyrics are the icing on the cake for me though. In his early albums I tapped my toes along to “We Used to Ride ’em”, and I really used to. I could relate. I used to ride ’em, not for very long, but I did. I was good for six seconds but that isn’t enough in a rodeo. I used to ride ’em though and Corb Lund gave me a song about it. And then “The Truck Got Stuck”, I was there. The only difference between a 4 wheel drive and a two wheel drive is that the 4 wheel drive gets stuck further in. I got stuck more times that I care to remember, even had the Hutterites pull me out once. I laughed as a flood of memories washed over me in tune to “The Truck Got Stuck”.
Corb Lund delighted me and many others that February evening with a well-rounded show of both golden oldies and new tunes. His backing band were amazing, being an envious guitar player wannabe I was particularly impressed by Grant Siemens. He blew me away with his guitar, mandolin and lap steel playing. Now I want a baritone guitar, thanks a lot Grant. Another highlight of the evening was a guest appearance by Geoff Berner singing “That’s What Keeps The Rent Down Baby”. A seriously hilarious song that resonated with me from the years that I worked in the inner city with the homeless, marginalised and wonderful people that live there. Mr Berner sang with The Hurtin’ Albertans backing him up and it was good. After the concert, Corb Lund was in the lobby signing and smiling but there was a road weariness evident in his face. He was polite and gracious but stopped short of being in the moment, I understand. It’s not an easy life and after working hard for an hour and a half he probably would have enjoyed a quiet room with a view instead of groupies and autograph hounds. I am in the latter bunch, an autograph seeker. He was polite enough to do two signatures for me and with a third on a record that I bought at the merch table, I left the Jube a happy man.
If The Corb Lund Band, The Hurtin’ Albertans or The Smalls ever play your town I would highly recommend taking the opportunity to hear them live. They are good on vinyl at thirty-three and a third but even better on a stage in your hometown (bonus if it’s Corb Lund’s hometown as well).
I enjoy seeing a band multiple times in different venues and different situations. Yukon Blonde is my most recent multi-view band. When I last saw them they were opening for Hey Rosetta! at the prestigious Francis Winspear Centre for Music, this time they were headlining the significantly less formal Starlite Room. The informal bar setting fitted the band’s songs of young love and desired girls nicely.
As much as I enjoy the musical stylings of Yukon Blonde, the portion of the evening I most anticipated came in the form of the opener, On An On. Hailing from Minneapolis, formed from the dissolved band Scattered Trees, their spacey Indie Rock sound captivated my ears since I first heard Give In. Their fantastic set contained a number of my favourite songs (setlist found below) and sounded almost exactly the same as their recordings. Despite the sound being slightly muddled at the beginning it was a very strong opening set.
Yukon Blonde took the stage shortly after 10 pm and quickly electrified the room. Their Indie yet still radio friendly songs are quickly recognisable and make it easy to join the hoard of fans belting out lyrics. Since this was a casual Saturday night concert I stuck around after the show to meet the band and attempt to snag a setlist and tour poster (I was successful). The band was very accommodating, inviting us backstage in an attempt to locate all five of their members and offering to sign my poster and setlist.
The concert had a certain unapologetic Canadian air to it. Not only does the band come from British Columbia and reference a territory in their name, but during the slight break between the main set and their encore performance of “Stairway,” the audience added, “please” to the standard chant of “one more song” in a bizarre display of politeness. As the concert also coincided Rebecca’s Birthday the band lead an uncoordinated audience in a rendition of Happy Birthday.
All in all it was a very good concert, having seen the headliner twice I would recommend seeing them for a lively Indie concert. If you get the chance also check out On An On as I thoroughly enjoy their music. Yukon Blonde is currently touring Canada with On An On.