Forget the bust for a minute — at least the province’s music scene is booming

Listen… didja hear it? No? Well maybe you just weren’t listening in the right places. It’s the sound of the Alberta Boom indie style manifested in the form of a series of limited edition compilations and concerts from the fertile mind of Lethbridge-based bassist Paul K. Lawton. Lawton is a PhD post-grad student single dad and diehard post-punk rocker right down to his lo-fi sneakers and D.I.Y. PJs. He cut his grown-up teeth promoting live shows in Lethbridge’s budding all-ages scene. “A lot of this happened out of a nostalgia for a time in the ’90s where I was involved in the all-ages punk scene in Alberta and there were a lot of bands trading shows” Lawton says. “Kind of like ‘you get us a show here on this day and we’ll get you a show here on this day’ and on and on. I was in bands back then that used to play in Calgary and in Edmonton more often than we did in Lethbridge.”

There are apparently some advantages to Lethbridge living. “Rent is cheaper my money goes farther down here” Lawton is quick to point out. “Because it’s a university town you get an influx of really creative musical people coming in to be a part of it.”

While Calgarians and their Edmontonian rivals sometimes swim in circles with a big fish small pond mentality complacency is simply not an option for those in the smaller centres like Lethbridge and Medicine Hat. Lawton realized that there was little awareness of the south’s musical offerings in the province’s larger cities. “There wasn’t enough overlap between our scene and Calgary’s” he explains. “In my mind having gone to a lot of shows in Calgary I see a lot of bands [in Lethbridge] that are just as good or maybe even better. [The Alberta Boom series is] kind of a way of promoting smaller scenes but at the same time integrating them into the Edmonton scene and the Calgary scene.”

This weekend bands from Calgary Edmonton and Lethbridge will visit all three cities to make some noise kick-starting what Lawton hopes will become a regular event. Though no Edmonton band could make it down for Calgary’s showcase due to a last-minute scheduling conflict the lineup here is rock solid with Thee Thems Lawton’s own Endangered Ape Ostrich offspring The Sharp Ends and the campfire punk of The Pine Tarts. The shows are also represented by a limited edition bright-green cassette compilation featuring six of Alberta’s finest punk bands which will be available only at the gigs or as a digital download from the upcoming Alberta Boom website. Why cassettes?

“They’re cheap and easy to do” Lawton says. “I went and got a whole bunch of cassette decks from thrift stores and [Endangered Ape bandmate] Adam and I just spent the whole day and ran off a hundred copies. All in with covers and everything this project cost me a hundred bucks. You can do it on a CDR but for a lot of people CDRs are just totally disposable and cassettes less so I think.”

A musician first and a promoter by necessity Lawton naturally embodies the punk rock D.I.Y. ethic. “There’s not enough people here making things happen for other people so you kind of just have to do it yourself. I really don’t understand bands that don’t do it themselves” he admits. In this case Lawton hopes his initiative will inspire others. “If you have a decent band that can bring some people out it’s easy to get shows but sometimes it‘s kind of fun to make it more than just a gig. Like let’s do this thing for three days. It’s going to be the first in what I conceive of as a series maybe biannually or quarterly. You do a three-day thing and if you can get that happening more often you build up a kind of name recognition.”

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