Category Archives: Music

Oscar Lopez Story

It was disappointing to read about Juno award winning guitarist Oscar Lopez tonight (Oscar Lopez Story) in reference to his struggles to make living. He says he is not alone. Every living soul who has ever downloaded an album of his on Napster for free may want to pay him a visit at his car where he sleeps and chip in for a deposit on his next apartment. He has published 12 albums and is a “lively” performer. He’s become a casualty of the dysfunctional music industry and it’s a shame.

For some reason, you ascribe more value to the UFC and Mr. Beast than to a night on the town gettin’ down with your special someone. If you can get something for free because of an apparent immunity from prosecution…you take it irrespective of the longer term impact. You are hedonist to the detriment of a long term thriving culture. You have little persistence in focus in deriving art’s value due to haphazardness in seeking instant gratification. You lack appreciation for the work and practice deployed in order to present you with a meaningful experience with art. Finally, you lack empathy for the casualties flooding your society in concert (ironic pun) with your indifference.

Sled Island Viability In Calgary

The Calgary Sled Island summer festival is having challenges with cash flow and it may need changes in order to survive. Its sustainability has benefitted from COVID relief funding which has now dried up. It will need to look hard at costs within an environment where disposable income has been reduced because of inflation and consumer debt levels are high. Folks still need to deploy entertainment dollars but they need certainty that they are getting value for money. Should the event decide to continue to recruit acts from outside the city, costs will remain high. If the event refuses to turn down the volume, people will be annoyed and won’t come. Hard decisions are required during tough economic times. Unfortunately, management teams which heed the needs of vendors / artists over the interests of consumer group will fail. 

When attending a strong performance last summer at the United Church downtown, there was a hiccup in the setup and it was lucky they had a seasoned veteran sound man on board in order to facilitate the setup change given a band which showed up in numbers beyond which was expected.

The management team should also be acute to genres out of favour and communicate better with respect to the style and track record of artists anticipated to take the stage. 

Private sponsors may be will to show up and participate with cash but sponsorship must be honoured in such a way that shows benefit other than a company logo on a website.   

Sledding at Church

You go “sledding” at church when you purchase a ticket to experience ethereal sounds from an obscure festival within a cathedral styled place of worship. A revitalized music scene has emerged from the sombreness of the pandemic. Musicians saddled in loneliness from their basements have powered up their skills and are now showcasing. It’s a stopover on Calgary for musicians looking for more of the lime light needing to build a fan base away from the clutter of social media.

On the eve of June 23rd, three acts took to the stage at Calgary’s downtown United Church. Opening was Laura Hickli. The sound man prepared for Laura alone but she brought five compatriots along thereby a delay ensued off the mark. Then it happened. The emotive Laura Hickli jolted us to attention with her intriguing physicality behind her keyboard. There was as much joy in consuming her translation from song to body as there was in interpreting the contrasting melodies. A pointed ballad completed a set filled with dreamy pop soundscapes colored with samples of shoegaze and slide guitar. It was delightfully different in theme with sledding at Sled Island.

Next up was Magella. This powerful singer from Montreal enraptured from the outset with her powerful voice. She introduced herself alone on stage and opened with the accompaniment of a loop. A drummer and guitarist settled in and took their place afterward to pay fill. Literally, these two musicians played accompaniment cognizant of the varying spectral of sound alone emanating from this singer who characterizes her sound as “diasporic blues”. Guitar solos were precise and laden with the charm of some jazz. The songs flowed pleasantly and the finale ensued with the drummer getting his chance to shine with an up tempo song fitting of high energy grunge. During her audience repartee, she made reference to “the project” as if this trio is temporary. Well….evident from last night, this outfit has synergy.   

Closing out the night was “Spelling”. Again….the focal point of the ensemble was the singer. At only 32, Chrystia Cabral has her own Wikipedia page so let’s get that out of the way. Her album “Mazy Fly” released in 2019 was well received universally by music critics and her rise has been unorthodox. She has an unwavering voice complemented by a high energy band. The drummer is so tasteful with dynamics and the chordal sounds oftentimes circulate in the major scale thereby defying alternative trends.

The crowd was delightfully appreciative and the setting was surreal especially in lieu of one particular track in which Laura Hickli represented her departure from religion. This all in context of if being three months to the day since her and her band mates had rolled their touring van down an embankment having struck black ice while on tour. I cast a blessing for all in house atop the highest of pews (photo) and departed the gathering with a warm reconnection with old clients just outside the church door.   

Secret Is Out Cormier Dunning Lauzon

The Nickelodeon folk club hosted these guitarists last night to a sold out show. This is a quaint venue and by all accounts…this act deserves a bigger arena. They are seasoned pros with decades of guitar playing experience with Dave Gunning and J.P. Cormier operating in tandum since the mid nineties. Jake Lauzon has proved to be a travelling companion producing yet more gel to the stage chemistry.

There’s so much material in addition to yet another release titled “Leather and Dust” that fan favourites “Kelly’s Mountain”, “Molly May”, and “Leaving Charlottetown” didn’t make the set list. Not only did they bring the house down but Dave Gunning’s dry humour with his soft spoke voice left some patrons in fits of laughter.

J.P.’s roots started out by winning fiddle and guitar contests in his youth. From there basic training involved acclimatizing to the fast tempo of bluegrass in the southern U.S where mandolin and banjo chops advanced in the company of the Sullivan family. 

Dave Gunning is simply a work horse with melody emanating oftentimes in an octave altered from the lead playing of JP. Dave is ribbed among “String Theory” enthusiasts (weekly guitar talk show hosted by J.P)  for how high he capos the guitar. The personality differential between these two is obviously broad adding to the appeal.

The guitar playing is something to behold. J.P exhibits scale mastery along the neck and utilizes open strings and altered chords for piquing interest. Then there is the dynamics and flow of a song that shows how extremely synchronized these two have become. 

We don’t know Jake well yet but the word is that he’s also a multi-instrumentalist at the ready for whatever flavour needs added to a song. 

The Western Canadian portion of the tour is underway and dates are posted on their web site “”.  

Never Subscribed To Spotify

It’s quite the conundrum for musicians spawned by the era of virtual streaming and Napster’s historic foot hold. As of yet, I’ve never subscribed to Spotify. My reading of Johnny Cash’s autobiography has been inspired by the “Life In Music” series of Canadian bluegrass / folk guitarist J.P. Cormier. It’s been interesting to learn of dysfunction and cronyism behind the recording industry which may have produced my hesitancy in subscribing to Spotify. The Neil Young disconnect with Spotify and Joni Mitchell’s follow on weaves its semantic influence of my perception on the consumption of music. Context is such that my own musicianship has been on the rise of late.

I never understood the Napster appeal. I never understood why folks surmised that they deserved good music for nothing. Convenience is one thing and fair remuneration is another. We are apparently inherently self interested enough to circumvent the financial welfare of those who feed our id. The Spotify membership is affordable for all and this was a business model which obviously generated mass appeal and has consequently led to a monopolistic landscape for music consumption. It’s the reality and what is often the case for the masses generates hesitation by yours truly. The general sentiment for those with some semblance of taste is that music on the radio right now is uninteresting yet somehow the business side of radio has come to learn that this style of music aligns with advertisers. CDs and vinyl are now becoming tougher to access. Musicians are not necessarily adept at the distribution side of their own work. Production runs on vinyl require minimum orders which may exceed demand.

The consumption model for receiving music may be under scrutiny right now. That’s not to say that the Neil Young / Joni Mitchell spat with Spotify has initiated such but the egregiously low streaming royalty rates have not been sitting well with artists for some time. Undoubtedly times are changing and musicians such as blues comer Samantha Fish who seems savvy around business may start becoming the instigators of a modern form of the “label”.