Geoff Berner at Lotus Books

Geoff Berner at Lotus Books, February 8, 2014, 8pm.  Check Geoff’s website at  Geoff Berner and also Youtube video Play, Gypsy, Play. Also his wikipedia entry Geoff Berner wikipediaGB-tour“Geoff Berner (born in Vancouver 197) is a Canadian singer-songwriter and accordion player from Vancouver, British Columbia. Due to his insightful humour, politically inflammatory compositions and showmanship, Berner has gained a cult following over 134a. Geoff Brennerthe years, especially in Canada and Norway, where he recorded his first live album, Live in Oslo (2004)………” –  Wikipedia entry.

The “show” at Lotus Books was as much a literary event as a musical performance. Although he is labelled as a singer / songwriter, with the publication of his novel Festival Man last October, he has also established his literary credentials. He is a more than a step away from the run-of-the-mill guitar totting songster. His performance, although in no way manic,  lives up to  “a wild combination of menace, madness, and genius… .” – Vue Weekly, Edmonton. His music has been described as “new Jewish drinking songs” or “Klezmer Punk” but despite some Jewish elements in the music I don’t think Klezmer is a good descriptor. Maybe, when people see the accordion they feel the need to apply some sort of ethnic label to give the music a specific dimension. Rather, I think his music is more geocentric than ethnocentric. By that I mean his music  comes specifically out of the politics and geography of his home base, Vancouver. His interpretations of that milieu , while personal, definitely have universal applications.  His The Official Theme Song of the 2010 Winter Olympics  with its somewhat chilling chorus “the dead children were worth it” expresses a sick notion that continues to be played out when ever big sport events displace priorities (and money) away from the public good. The song That’s What Keeps the Rent Down Baby is another edgy piece that could easily be associated with the East Hasting Street area of Vancouver  Youtube version. Something with more of a Jewish overtone would be the Russian song Dalloy Polizei (literal translation “Fuck the Police”) Youtube Version of Dalloy Polizei . Interspersed though out the evening were several readings by Geoff and Ferdy Belland from Geoff’s novel Festival Man.  Ferdy was in his best “Papa” Hemingway mode. Here are some images from the evening. Ferdy Belland Geoff Berner   Ferdy Belland  Geoff Brenner Geoff Berner 200. Geoff Berner   Ferdy Belland   Geoff Berner

This was a more than pleasant evening spent in the intimate confines of The Lotus Book Store listening to a unique performance . Thanks should got to Geoff Berner for his unique brand of music and satire and his low keyed accordion playing. Also, of course, thanks to Ferdy and Erin for bringing Geoff to the bookshop. Please also note that the novel Festival Man is available from the Lotus Bookshop.


The Rosie Brown Band at BJ’s Creekside Pub

New Menu + New Band = Packed House, The Rosie Brown Band at BJ’s Creekside Pub, Saturday June 22, 2013, 7:30pm.

The Rosie Brown BandThis was a much anticipated event. Of course it was much anticipated – the band had wetted audience appetites with a couple of preview performances at local coffee houses. This lovely group of ladies are well known musicians on the local scene and their coming together in this unique configuration  was just so, so,  right. The banjo player Paige Lennox had moved to the area a few years back with the burning Paige Lennoxambition to play in a Bluegrass band. That did happen for a while but the whole band thing kind of fell apart. Paige faded from the scene slightly for a while until the flame was re-ignited with the purchase of a new banjo and a trip to the Bluegrass camps at Sorrento (BlueGrass Camp). In fact the Sorrento workshops can be held responsible for moving other Shauna Plantmembers of  the Rosie Brown Band in the same direction. Singer and mandolin player Shauna Plant was a founding member of the well known East Kootenay Band As the Crow Flies. She also has spent time at Sorrento. On the other hand and in another band, Heather Gemmell is best known for her for blues inflected guitar playing as a Heather Gemmellsoloist and with the blues/rock outfit Heather Gemmell and the Peaks. She has recently acquired a dobro and has also spent time in Sorrento honing her bluegrass chops. Cosima Wells is best known for her vocal work with any number of vocal groups around the area.Cosima Wells She also plays guitar and has also spent time at Sorrento. Last, but not least is the anchor of the group, Janice Nicli. Janice plays upright bass in this band but Janice Niclihas been known to play electric funk bass with Billy Jive’s bands. She is also the Jazz bass player in The Little Jazz Orchestra. There you have it. Five fine ladies with a great stack of songs, great vocal harmonies, stage presence and obviously having the time of their lives on stage. So what more could anybody ask?  The pub was packed way before the music started. In fact some patrons showed up at 5:30 to ensure that they could get a table. By 7:30 people were being turned away at the door. From then on, as Cosima would say, the band and the audience were “pumped”. This was not the usual Bluegrass band. The emphasis was on the vocals with some tasty banjo, dobro and mandolin solos sprinkled though out the performance. Manic, testosterone driven instrumental breaks were absent and that was a good thing. The repertoire was also a slight step away from the usual with Michel Shocked Blackberry Blossom, Cosima’s original tune Blood From a Stone, the Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt’s ballad Rough and Rocky, Heather Gemmell’s reworking of An Angel from Montgomery, an acapella version of Coal Warthe Carter Family song Bury me under the Weeping Willow Tree, some Stephen Foster tunes, and Janice Nicli’s  standout rendition of the John Prine comedic masterpiece Let’s Talk Dirty in Hawaiian.The audience refused to let the band go and they were forced to recap their first set. It was an absolutely outstanding night of music and bodes well for the band’s future. If Calgary can weather the current flood situation and get things back on track The Rosie Brown Band  will be performing at this year’s Calgary Stampede Showcase – good luck ladies.  Here are some more images from the evening (click on the images for a larger view).

Janice, Shauna and Heather       Cosima and Janice      Shauna and Heather Downstairs for Dancing       Dobro   Janice Nicli             Shauna and Heather Paige, Cosima and Janice                  Heather Gemmell  Janice Nicli   Dobro Jewelery   Shauna Plant  Rosie Brown Header Janice, Shauna and Heather              Janice Nicli  Heather Gemmell             Shauna and Heather  Shauna and Hather     Cosima WellsPaige Lennox       Heather Gemmell on Dobro      Heather Gemmell



Jake Ian – Songs of Great Clarity

Jake Ian and the Haymakers Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 7:30 pm at BJ’s Creekside Pub.  Lonesome Jim – aka James Neve was scheduled to open the act but because of a cold Ferdy Belland stepped in to open the show.

Over 40 years ago Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell and their contemporaries completely revolutionized the content of popular songs. The “moon, June, spoon” sentiments of that era were replaced with songs of personal statement, content and meaning and for that we can be thankful. Although, at the same time, songs tended to become more oblique and obscure. Almost to the point  where sometimes, even with some head scratching and research, it has become difficult to figure out the meaning of Jake Ianthe song. Clarity often was sacrificed for the pure poetry of the words. So Jake Ian is a pleasant respite from the “fuzzy” songs of recent years. In his craft he returns to songs of narrative, songs that tell stories, songs that reflect the “rolled up sleeves and callused hands” of rural Alberta. Jake is a guitarist/ singer/ songwriter hailing from Warspite, Alberta, a small hamlet of 48 people located 100 km north east of Edmonton. He grew up on a family farm and his Ukrainian cultural heritage stretches back though several generations.  In listening to his songs I was transported back to the the world of the great short story writer W.P. Kinsella. Not to the scenes of Kinsella’s Hobbema  Ermineskin reserve but to a series of stories that he did about Ukrainian communities north of Edmonton (I have been unable to recover the name of the collection but the stories still rattle around in my brain). What Kinsella managed to put into Ferdy Bellandprint Jake manages to put into song. Although some of the evening’s performance included covers of acoustic material by Neill Young (Long May You Run),  and Town Van Zandt (If I Needed You) the strength of the night was in Jake’s original material about life on the farm, people met, people left behind, old cars, and old experiences. Included in the originals were Bunk House Blues, Hide the Guns, The Hired Hand (based on some late 1800’s poetry by dissident Ukrainian Ivan Franks), Down the Drain, White Wagon Blues, Maria, Public Defenders Blues and Be in Fort  Qu’Appelle by Dusk. Jake played a beautiful small bodied Martin 000-15M guitar in a wonderfully clean complementary style and was supported by the bass player Braden Sustrik.  James Neve was scheduled to open for Jake but due to illness he was forced to relinquish the opening role to Ferdy Belland. Ferdy had orchestrated the evening’s event and the choice of James Neve would have been the perfect bookend to Jake’s material. James’s endless supply of original songs from another area of the troubadour tradition Jake Ianwould have been a nice complement to Jake’s songs. Be that as it may, Ferdy rose to the occasion with a wealth of covers that included The Early Morning Rain (Gordon Lightfoot), The Great Compromise (John Prine), Pancho and Lefty (Towns Van Zandt), He’s and Old Hippie (David Bellamy), Aurora Borealis (Neill Young), Chelsea Hotel (Leonard Cohen), The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (Gordon Lightfoot) and Hello in There (John Prine). Once again the evening was testament to the management of BJ’s Creekside Pub (Shannon and Kurt Schiller) and their commitment to live music. It was also a testament to the cultural strength of the land north of “Edmonchuck” (Edmonton).

Braden Sistrik         Jake Ian       Braden Sustrik Jake Ian                       Jake Ian Braden and Jake                       Jake IanJake Ian



Open Mic Session at BJ’s

Bill St.Amand hosting an Open Mic Session , Saturday February 2, 2013, 7:30 pm at BJ’s Creekside Pub, Kimberley.

It says a lot about the number and depth of talent in the area when two open mic sessions, back to back (Friday and Saturday), can attract an almost completely different crew of musicians and an audience to boot. On the first Saturday of every month during the winter  Bill St. AmandBJ’s Creekside pub is the home stage for a open mic session. It was Bill St. Amand’s turn to be the host and it must be remembered that this commitment requires a significant amount of time and energy to haul equipment and round up potential performers. Bill always manages to put together an interesting line-up. He was first out of the gate a selection of his unique blend of chord/melody guitar work and some familiar, but not too familiar, songs and tunes. For original material that is starting to become well known by local audiences it is pretty hard to overlook the work of Tim Ross and the able bass player Ferdy Belland, from the band The Bison Brothers. Since Ferdy got back to town this collaboration of musicians is getting smoother, tighter and so polished in  Tim Rossperformance that they almost shimmer with good vibes. Tim stepped through his originals Work Time, The Lucky Star, My Sister’s Friends, My Baby Won’t ride in My Truck No More, Fish God and added in a few covers that included That’s All Right Mama, Lola (of Kinks fame) and the classic Pancho and Lefty. Daze of Grace (Sharon and Jubal Routley) along with yours truly Rod Wilson, on Irish Whistle and Percussion performed Dougie Maclean’s Ready for the Storm and Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower. BJ’s mellow ambience prompted me to haul out an acoustic 12-string guitar. This instrument does not have a pickup and an attentive audience is always helpful when performing live. I have had the instrument for a couple of years but I rarely play it in public.For this wonderful venue and audience I played a medley of two instrumentals, Paxton’s Parody ( a rip-off of a popular Tom Paxton song) an an original tune called Tomorrow is a Better Day (always the  Garry Jacklinoptimist). The only other piece I performed was a ballad from the Aussie Rock band REDGUM. The song The Dusty Diamentina was written some 20 odd years ago and has managed to slip into the traditional folk music realm. With its classic line “the rain never falls on the Dusty Diamentina” the song had a touch of unintended irony. This week on the news the Diamentina river is in flood as torrential cyclone weather drenches north eastern Queensland. Other performers during the evening included solo performers Garry Jacklin, Bill Renwick (with a little blues harp)  and the duo The Quimby’s (Ferdy Belland and Erin Dalton). Ferdy was everybody’s favorite bass player by joining a number of performers on stage throughout the evening. Once again BJ’s proved it is the venue of choice for discerning musicians and audiences.

Bill St. Amand     Ferdy Belland    Bill Renwick   Tim Ross    Erin Dalton     Ferdy Belland    Bill St.Armand    Garry Jacklin    Erin Dalton


Ferdy Belland


Bocephus King at the Byng

Bocephus King, Slack Pine and the Bison Brothers at the Byng Roadhouse, Cranbrook, Monday January 28, 2013, 8pm.

My wife accuses me of losing my objectivity. After every recent show it seems I have nothing but good to say about the performance. Well, I guess it’s because live music away from the concert platform is always good. It doesn’t matter how many train wrecks, if any,  may occur during the performance the intimacy, vibe and the audience interaction are what makes for great evenings. So, I don’t think I losing my objectivity. How can I lose objectivity when I am having so much fun? Case in point; The recent show at the Byng opened with the new local group Pine Slacks featuring Clayton Parsons (guitar and vocals), Connor Foote (guitar and vocals) and Stu Driedger (stand up bass). The sound system was a little harsh, the lighting less than satisfactory and their bass player was dealing with some serious medical pain. Despite the difficulties they pulled it together and delivered a set that included originals such as Echoes, Know My Name, Time, Coyote, How I Met Your Mom, Stay, Grey Cell Doors, Hold On, Waiting to be Set Free, Ducks and a great thumping version of Hangman. Kudos to Stu for hanging in there despite the pain. Tim Ross (vocals, guitar), Ferdy Belland (vocals and Bass) and Colin Righton (drums) are no strangers on the local scene. When Ferdy recently arrived back in town Ferdy BellandTim Ross re-activate their musical partnership in The Bison Brothers. This is a slick, in the best sense, tight rock solid unit. With Tim’s song writing skills, cowboy/rock star/western persona, Ferdy’s hyperactive bass and backup vocals and Colin Righton’s harnessed heavy metal sensibilities any performance is guaranteed to please. On Monday night at the Byng it was no different. Apart from a few cover tunes Tim’s original material was front and center. Songs include My Sister’s Friends, Fish God, My Baby Won’t Ride in My Car No More, Day After Day, Ghost Town, How Come I Never Have any Money, the rocking (“everyone needs a car song”) Rocket 88 and, my personal favorite The Lucky Star. “Bocephus King at the Byng”doesn’t that have a nice ring to it. Despite having a website Bocephus is a  bit of an enigma. The biography on the web site is a masterpiece of non-information. Who is Bocephus King? Where does he  Bocephus Kingcome from? Apart from working out of Vancouver anything else is pure guess work. No matter his music and his five piece band speaks for its self. The band, featuring Bocephus King on guitar and vocals, Wynston Minckler on short scale bass, Paul Townsend on drums, Charlie Hase  on pedal steel and Skye Wallace on vocals, percussion and Melodica delivered over two hours of non-stop grove based music. There were a few covers in there (Don’t Think Twice, Run Like a Fugative ) but it was mostly roots based, and as near as I could tell, original music with a distinct Caribbean feel.This was a great show with good flow, a good grove, very musical (?? a rock band that’s musical) and lots of space for each musician to shine. Charlie Hase’s pedal steel added that extra melodic voice that is often missing in most bands; Skye Wallace’s vocals, percussion and especially her Melodica playing on the old Dean Martin pop classic Sway was a real surprise and a joy to hear. It was a Monday night, traditionally a dead night in the week but the word must have got out because there was good crowd who are  obviously enjoying the Byng’s Roadhouse’s return to the live music scene. Here are some more images from the evening.

 Clayton Parsons   Connor Foote    Clayton Parsons   Ferdy Belland     Skye Wallace    Stu Driedger  Bocephus King     Connor Foote    Tim Ross  Ferdy Belland     Bocephus King   Skye Wallace  Bocephus King     Skye Wallace   Charlie Hase Charlie Hase   Bocephus King  Skye Wallace  Bocephus King.   Connor Foote     Paul Townsend   Tim Ross    Skye Wallace    Bocephus King Skye Wallace    Wynston Minckler    Bocephus King   Bocephus King   Skye Wallace     Clayton Parsons   Skye Wallace    Skye Wallace      Skye Wallace.

So, just remember THE BYNG ROADHOUSE has live music every Friday and Saturday evening with a jam session every Saturday afternoon.