The Rural Alberta Advantage sell out...

...the Phog Lounge.


The Rural Alberta Advantage - Stamp from Saddle Creek on Vimeo.

Show Review: This is it

Poorly attended shows are a guilty pleasure. After a sold-out show the night before at Windsor's Phog Lounge for Yukon Blonde (who always packs them in) and the Paint Movement, the audience stayed away in droves for the Wheat Pool and Les Jupes on Sun., Mar. 13. We'd always rather see robust attendance for the bands' sake (and their bottom line), but can't deny there's something special about a show when it feels as if it's just for you. "Honestly, we'd rather play for a few fans than a room full of people," said Wheat Pool guitarist Glen Erickson (glenroy on the R3 blog), who also runs the band's label, Shameless Records.

The Edmonton-based Wheat Pool--Erickson, brothers Robb and Mike Angus, who ably alternate bass and guitar (including an awesome Norman acoustic) and new drummer Fred Brenton--deliver the tried-and-true extremely well.  Call it "dark country," alt-folk-country-rock (etc. etc.), we call their harmonies, tales of love lost, love found and prairie places, pure simple pleasure.  Coincidentally, the year the original Wheat Pool became Viterra (2007) is the year the band released their full-length debut, Township (Polaris long list- worthy  in our humble opinion).  The band continues to pay homage to similar themes on Hauntario (2009).  Fans will have to keep them on replay; although Erickson says they're working on some new material, there's nothing definite in the works.

Winnipeg is rivaling Regina when it comes to producing great bands; count Les Jupes among them. Michael Petkau Falk is a go-to music producer, founder of indie label Head in the Sand (home to fellow break-out Winnipeg bands the Liptonians and Royal Canoe), and since January, artistic director of the West End Cultural Centre. Now he can add frontman for his own rising group of musicians that includes David Schellenberg on bass, Adam Klassen at the drums and Kelly Beaton on keyboards and vocals. Pop/rock seems way too ordinary to describe Les Jupes' quirky yet serious approach to the genre. Petkau's deep voice has a dire quality to it that gives their songs great import; it's not quite so heavy live. Their debut album, Modern Myths, is available now.

Photos: Russ Gordon

Les Jupes - One Solemn Oath from Lena Franford on Vimeo.

Show Review: Sandman Viper Command.

We don't care what you think of the band's name, we think it is one of the best ever.   "Sandman Viper Command" evokes all kinds of thoughts of a loud, swift and precise assault on something.  In this instance, it would be upon your musical senses.

The Burlington, ON quartet started early as the scheduled opening band never showed up.  Ripping flawlessly through the first few tracks from their 2009 release Everybody See This, guitar and vox man Rob Janson announced that "We're all sick, don't come and talk to us after the show."

For some bands and fans this might mean an anemic performance followed by much sympathy from the crowd.  This never happened as SVC got faster, better and seemed to absorb the crowd's energy into their performance. They played every tune from Everybody See This and two new compositions from their upcoming 7-inch, Rough Love. The spirit never waned; Aaron Harvey's Rickenbacker bass thumped nimbly along with Matt Meyer's animated drumming while axe-master Dan Reardon flat-out rocked. If this is how SVC plays when they're under the weather, we look forward to a show when they're healthy.

Upon completion of their set, the near capacity Phog crowd stood up and demanded more.

SVC: "That's all the songs we have.  We've played them all."
CROWD:  "Play MORE, play covers..."
SVC: "Covers?  We'll be back in ten minutes."
CROWD: *cheers wildly...*

Just before returning to the stage after a short break, Rob said, "Man, this might be the longest set we have ever played."  Our reply: "Play on!"  And they did, in the same form and attitude as they began the evening.  These guys have real insight as to what it takes to be a touring band.  Their age might fool you; their level of commitment will impress you.

Cover songs can be a handful for some bands.  Here we had some amusing and spot on renditions of songs by Thin Lizzy, Elvis Costello, Joel Plaskett, the Beatles, Shotgun Jimmie and the Rolling Stones.  

Photos: Russ Gordon

Show Review: East Meets West

You couldn't see the forest for The Mountains & The Trees and Treelines on Thurs., Mar.10, as East met West at Paddy Flaherty's in Narnia, uh, Sarnia.

Treelines, from Vancouver, BC, and Jon Janes, the man from Corner Brook, NL behind The Mountains & The Trees, recently completed their "Lessons in Geography" cross-Canada tour. Luckily for us, it included the stop in Sarnia, where the Detroit Radio 3 blogger contingent--N2D, Wapuche and jojodillon-- got to meet fellow bloggers cacophonously (of Petrolia, ON) and photographer extraordinaire Christine McAvoy of Vancouver. Word to the YVR3.

This was our first visit to Paddy's, but it definitely won't be our last. Although the stage is a little awkwardly placed (it's set deep enough that the view from the left is disadvantageous), the sound was excellent, the atmosphere authentic and warm (first venue where Yort took her coat off all winter), the food, although a little pricey was satisfying (Guinness poutine, anyone?) and the hard cider (Magner's) delicious. We're looking forward to catching a show there on the patio in the summer-- we were sorry to miss Elliott BROOD there last year.

This was not our first time seeing Jon Janes (here's our post from his show in Aug. 2010 at Windsor's Phog Lounge). We'll never count the times we've seen him because we could never get tired of his gentle, intimate songs and that floral suitcase kick drum. Fortunately, Janes is a songwriting machine: "I just wrote this song a half hour ago," he'll announce, and then play it as if it was an old friend. Expect a new album to complement I Made This For You in the near future.

Treelines-- brothers Matt and Steve Lockhart, Matt Kelly and Grant McKinnon at the kit-- have the look, assurance and sound of a mature band. We had to keep reminding ourselves that they've only been around for less than two years and released one full-length album (self-titled, 2009) and one EP (Young Man, July 2010)

Matt Lockhart, who began the evening with a solo set (and has a solo effort in the works), gets frequent comparisons to Bruce Springsteen. Even playing sans electricity by Paddy's decree ( "Acoustic shows are fun," says Steve, "because they allow us to showcase a different side of our band"), Lockhart and Treelines are less gritty and more green than blue-collar. Instead of a sensibility rooted in a microcosm, their folk-pop-rock speaks to a more national state of mind.                Photos: Russ Gordon

Matt Kelly at the pedal steel.

While Christine McAvoy films...

The Mountains & The Trees (left) and
Matt Lockhart create an on-the-spot
video for a song Janes wrote less than
24 hours before.

Lessons in Geography

When we started this blog last year, the Windsor/Detroit area's three main venues for Canadian indie bands were booking so many shows neither our schedules or budget could keep up with them all.

What a difference a year makes. Of those three venues, only Windsor's Phog Lounge is still consistently showcasing Canadian indie music. Because our passion for this music knows no boundaries, we're enlarging the blog's boundaries. We've already been listing shows at the Ark in Ann Arbor; we'll be adding Sarnia (just over an hour's drive from Detroit) and some significant festivals coming up this summer in London (ON) and Toronto, focusing on bands either from Windsor or who have come through the Windsor/Detroit area. Of course we'll continue to seek out new worlds and boldly go-- oh wait, that's been used. We'll continue to find Canadian indie in Windsor/Detroit and work to bring bands to the area.

Show Alert: Sandman Viper Command

Fri.,  Mar 18
Phog Lounge

Burlington, ON's Sandman Viper Command bring their "most perfect blend of garage pop/guitar fuzz rock" to Windsor's Phog Lounge this coming Friday.  

Pre-order the 7" here, nice package.

Mar. 18 @ The Phog Lounge, WINDSOR
Mar. 19 @ Blackshire Pub, LONDON
Mar. 24 @ Crock's, THUNDER BAY
Mar. 26 @ The Standard, WINNIPEG
Mar. 27 @ Music Trader Free In-store, WINNIPEG
Mar. 31 @ Caffe Sola Backroom, SASKATOON (*Vivefest)
Apr. 1 @ The Palomino, CALGARY
Apr. 5 @ Higher Ground Cafe, CALGARY
Apr. 6 @ Haven Social Club, EDMONTON
Apr. 8 @ The Gateway SAIT, CALGARY
Apr. 10 @ Neptoon Records Free In-store, VANCOUVER
Apr. 10 @ The Railway Club, VANCOUVER
Apr. 11 @ Air Fare Lounge, ABBOTSFORD
May 3 @ Lees Palace, TORONTO (w/ Trail of Dead, Surfer Blood) ]
July 9 @ Downsview Park, TORONTO (*Edgefest) 

We Are The City release High School on March 22

PEAK Performance Project winners We Are The City are getting ready to release High School, a short but worthy collection of songs that will make your ears thank you.

In their own words:  "The High School project initially began as a separate band, which we started during the summer of 2010 as another creative outlet.  We tied T-shirts over our faces and adopted fictional aliases.  Cayne was Lindsey Jone.  Andrew was Matthew Curran.  Later, Blake joined in as Bobby Reynolds.  These characters gave us a chance to explore some shameful memories that we've previously avoided talking about. 

This recording is the first time that we've played the High School songs as We Are The City.  

Their recent Phog Lounge live show review can be seen here.

More tour dates and info HERE.
Photos: Russ Gordon


There are many stories of Sarnia. The first are about to be told.

As you drive through the mountains and the trees, across the prairies and over the bridge you will see it.  There, just past the treelines, it's the magical place known as...

Thursday, March 10  @ Paddy Flaherty's, Sarnia, ON

Vancouver, BC's Treelines and Cornerbrook, NL's The Mountains and The Trees bring an exquisite collaboration of local yokel folk-pop and an acoustic version of ballads, rockers and anthems that can only be described as Canadian indie music at its very best.

Treelines with Indiana Avent - Giants of the Forest - Episode Three from Amazing Factory Productions Inc. on Vimeo.

The Mountains And The Trees video was filmed, produced and directed by Martin Cathrae.
Here's his link.  You may also listen to The Moe and Martin Show here.

Show Review: We Are The City w/ Aidan Knight @ Phog Lounge

March 4. Friday night.  Windsor's Phog Lounge.  He walked up behind us and began setting up his merch table.  "Wow," I said, "I had no idea you were so tall."  A big smile and a handshake later, we were off to a great start to a great evening with Victoria, B.C. native Aidan Knight and Kelowna, B.C.'s We Are The City

Besides being a multi-instrumentalist and having numerous credits on albums for many things, Aidan shared his thoughts on everything from B.C. arts cuts, touring, CBC Radio 3, Versicolour pre-orders to the incorrect label debacle for the translucent yellow vinyl.

While he has performed and recorded  with such notables as Hannah Georgas, David Vertesi and the Zolas, Aidan Knight's vocal maturity belies his age (mid-20s) and is stunning to hear in person.

If you believe that the first time is the charm, not the third, then you may have experienced We Are The City live. Cayne McKenzie (keys and vox), Andy Huculiak (drums, knobs and vox) and sort of new guy Blake Enemark (guitar maniac) left many jaws on the floor as they played a superbly energetic set, mixing songs from 2010's In A Quiet World and the forthcoming High School, available Mar. 22.

Stage banter is an art, and those who can pull it off get an extra gold star from us.  Cayne, the obvious raconteur of the group, described a recent stay-over at a house while on tour.  The hairy details he shared made us see, feel and squirm at the events as they happened.  Cats, allergies and squirrels do make an interesting topic.

Solid albums, solid performance, super guys.  If you have not seen them, you should.

That's It, That's All.

Photos: Russ Gordon

Show review: Independent Day

Toasted tomato sandwiches. Crystals and a chrysalis. Ghost passengers on an otherworldly plane. Exploding birds.* Welcome to an evening at Windsor's Phog Lounge with Wax Mannequin and Jenny Omnichord. Before it was over, we knew we'd seen one of our Top Ten shows of the year.

This is independent music at its best: artists with the valor, ardor and candor to share their original visions with an audience and most of the all, that elusive combination of charisma and talent. It's not just art for the eyes and ears, but the heart, soul and mind.

The now-iconic picture (on his latest release, Saxon) of Wax Mannequin's otherwise handsome visage sandwiched between the soundboard and strings of his classical guitar is just one metaphor for his music and lyrics-- sometimes uncomfortable ("God's Love") yet arresting ("Everything and Everyone"), deeply ingrained and literally in your face. So were the crystals he tossed to the audience-- hard and pretty, something you can't resist picking up ("Pieces of Bird")-- and that giant mysterious body bag/chrysalis that spilled out colorful balloons, fragile illusions he then stomped on.

Jenny Omnichord's songs are less complicated, as playful as the cross-Canada board game that comes with the vinyl package of her latest album, All Our Little Bones, and just as irresistible. Although motherhood inspired not only a children's album (Charlotte or Otis, which features a who's who of Canadian indie musicians) and provided a significant muse for her recent material, all accompanied by the omnipresent omnichord, her music is never monotonous. With subjects ranging from the imaginative ("Ghost Flyers in the Sky", from Cities of Gifts and Ghosts) to gratitude for understanding tour mates ("Pain of Maybes"), how could it be?

Photos: Russ Gordon

*No actual birds were harmed
in the performance of this song.