Smaller shows, better value
by Chris Hibbard
One great thing about being a music lover in Lethbridge is our city’s appeal as a mid-size stopover for the many hard working bands and artists touring across the country. Our smaller size prohibits us from getting the major acts that Calgary or Edmonton get, but our smaller venues attract with huge futures ahead of them.
For instance, just last Sunday – while many people were having turkey dinners with family, I headed on down to The Slice. I had purchased tickets two months earlier for a particular show – a musician named Mark Berube who was coming through town. I was quite excited to hear Berube was coming, as I had picked up one of his albums several years ago and was very impressed.
Berube has toured relentlessly across North America and Europe, sometimes over 100 appearances per year for the last five years. Touring in support of two excellent albums, with a third full-length coming out early next year, he is slowly establishing himself as an international artist to watch. He has been nominated for a Western Canada Music Award, a Canadian Folk Music Award, and has played the Winnipeg Folk Festival. He even opened for The Cranberries in Switzerland a few years ago.
Not being a forward-thinker, I no idea at the time that it happened to be the same date as Thanksgiving. Neither did Mark Berube, who had latched on to an available show slot that jibed with his appearance at this year’s literacy celebration, Wordfest – held in Calgary and Banff. Since he had come all the way here from Montreal, he figured he might as well play a few stopovers while he was here, promoting his newest EP. While his timing couldn’t have been worse – since there were maybe 13 people in attendance (three of which were bar staff), the show couldn’t have been better.
Born in Manitoba, Mark Berube (pronounced Beh-roo-beh) was raised in the Swaziland, Africa. His time there has given his vocal expression and poignant lyrics a truly original vibration. He performs modern folk music that is passionate and full of fire. Many of his songs are character studies; with women who were lost or loved, or men who were wrongly convicted. With a soaring voice a la Nick Drake or Jeff Buckley, he lit up the empty Slice as if it was a Saturday night at the Jubilee Auditorium.
Armed with just an electric piano, a red vintage organ and a brown acoustic, this one man blew his small audience away. It was hard to believe I was sitting with friends at a table, centre stage; but harder that there was no one else there to see it with us. He would play the piano with his left hand, the organ with his right – all while holding huge notes with his voice – the room watching with breathless anticipation.
Each song that he played from his two previous albums (or Tailored to Fit, his new EP) received warm applause — hot applause, really; given the limited amount of hands that were there to clap.
After an inspired performance divided into two sets, Berube ended the night with an incredible accapella vocal performance – an African hymn called Yebo Mama. After polite thanks, Berube got off stage and met everyone in attendance. Sipping on a post-show beverage, he started dismantling his on-stage gear.
Berube put on a truly amazing set with incredible instrumentation – it was hard to believe that all this energy could come from just one person. To those of us who were there, this was a stunning show we won’t soon forget. It cost just 10 bucks and I had front row table seats. I got to meet a musician I have been hoping to see for several years. I got to shake hands with him and share stories, before and after the performance. This was just more reason why I love the Lethbridge live music scene. I witnessed a mind-blowing moment that was unique and special – shared with just a few close friends. While I may have missed out on turkey this year, for a one of a kind event like last Sunday’s, a music lover like me gives many thanks.
Check out Mark Berube – an excellent Canadian songwriter. Listen here.