First impressions are everything and the first time I ever visited Lethbridge was on a road trip with a moderately embarrassing band I was in as a teenager. The straight drive from my house in B.C. was painfully long so I was incredibly relieved when we finally made it to town and I could hit up a gas station washroom. Closing the door to the tiny cramped area I was greeted by one of the most horrifying things I’ve ever been in close proximity to. Sitting in the sink was a Slurpee cup full of human poo.
For years that was my go-to Lethbridge story and I still have some unfortunate olfactory memory from the experience. More recently however I associate something else with the southern city — the Mammoth Cave Recording Co.
Paul Lawton and Evan Van Reekum started the label together in Lethbridge half a decade ago and they’ve done some pretty remarkable things. Five years isn’t a very long time — I don’t even know if I’ve replaced my toothbrush in that time. For these two however it’s been enough to establish themselves as a serious force in Canadian independent music releasing over 30 albums EPs and compilations in the process.
There are so many noteworthy things to mention. Most impressive perhaps is their batch of Bloodstains compilations which packed upwards of 10 terse songs on region-specific 7-inch compilations ( Bloodstains Across Alberta B loodstains Across British Columbia Bloodstains Across the Prairies ).
Speaking of 7-inches they’ve repped Alberta hard dropping short-players from the likes of The Famines Sharp Ends Krang The Moby Dicks Myelin Sheaths The Gooeys Topless Mongos Gold Feel Alright and many many others (for the sake of full disclosure they have also released music from my band Grown-Ups).
Their foray into long-players has also been impressive. Vancouver punkers Needles//Pins released a stone-cold classic on the label with 12:34 while instrumental garage noodlers Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet have been enjoying a fancy reissue campaign. Eternal comedic rock star B. A. Johnston might have found immortality — or at least a place to keep dropping albums — through the label’s support and local power-pop fancy boys The Mandates proudly bear the label’s logo on their back panel. Lawton’s psych punk combo The Ketamines have dropped two LPs on the imprint while Lab Coast even released a CD this year. (They still make CDs?)
With Lawton living in Toronto and Van Reekum in Calgary the two have spread their mammoth wings a little. But they still continue to rep Alberta hard — The Ketamines’ current lineup is packed with Calgary expats including former Fast Forward Weekly word-maker-upper Jesse Locke. And with upcoming releases planned from Teledrome Tough Age and The Allovers they won’t stop promoting Western Canada any time soon.
All of this is a long way to say you should salute a half-decade of Mammoth Cave with their Calgary anniversary party on Sunday November 17 at The Palomino including performances from Oakland garage guy Nobunny alongside locals The Soft Option and The Slabs .
And thanks for the memories Mammoth Cave! Five more years and I’ll have hopefully forgotten about that Lethbridge poo cup for good.