Review: Block Heater starts smooth in a bumpy year

The sixth annual Block Heater Festival, presented by the Calgary Folk Music Festival, began auspiciously Tuesday night with Richard Flohil’s War Stories, a panel hosted by the veteran Toronto promotor and publicist. About 70 to 80 people Zoomed in at various times for the event, which was part of the ATB Stage series.

Flohil was joined by Treaty 8 electronic cellist and composer Chris Derksen, who now lives in Toronto, Edmonton singer/songwriter Lucette, Peter Stone from the band 100 Mile House (partner and bandmate Denise McKay was putting their son London to bed, thus unavailable) and Calgary’s Lorrie Matheson. Flohil asked a variety of questions from worst gig (for Matheson it was playing sets that sandwiched a bull riding event at the Roundup Centre with his not-so-country band National Dust while the audience sat on their butts and hands; Stone’s was a gig in which the three people in the audience left, along with the sound person) to their future plans.

The audience also met Lucette’s big, lovely dog Ralph and Derksen’s guinea pig in the now traditional fashion of pets crashing Zoom meetings. While the panel was missing the energy given by a live audience, the chat section lit up at times, especially when the animals appeared and when Matheson made a few of his trademark flip comments, one of them regarding esteemed Canadian band Spirit of the West.

Meanwhile, on the free Festival Hall stream, Lethbridge’s Ryland Moranz, in bowler hat and jacket, seemed a bit overdressed to be playing in his living room, but, then again, he did have more than 100 people crowding into the small, tastefully decorated space via Zoom. Ryland’s upbeat banjo music contrasted songs about dying before his time, and crystal-clear sound augmented Moranz’s simple tunes, including his tribute to Texas legend Blaze Foley.

He was followed by throwback-in-time-with-a-twist songster Calgary’s Robert Adam. Sporting a shiny white cowboy shirt and hat and offering vocals that ran the gamut from rough-hewn to dreamy while soaring above his acoustic guitar, the colourful Adam ramped up the fun-factor and energy as he sang about love, loss and lust.

Wednesday night’s offerings included two streams, with the free Festival Hall Stage setting the tone as fun Calgary’s The Lovebullies showed that separate beds and separate Zoom rooms needn’t dampen chemistry. While there was nary a mini-skirt in sight, the band’s high-spirited, on-brand set was interspersed with fun visual effects, such as pink snow-suited chanteuse Caroline Connolly emerging from a snowy virtual forest to deliver vocals that would have had Dusty Springfield singing along.

The following set by Edmonton’s Ariane Mahrÿke Lemire featured songs in English and en Francais, with band members playing from three separate locations. The melodic, mellow set was a great way to wind down the day and escape from those mid-week blues.

Block Heater continues with two stages nightly until February 20. For information, go to

Mary-Lynn Wardle is a Bragg Creek writer.