Ryan Adams playing with some cool cats in Calgary: gig review @TheRyanAdams @KarenElson_

Ryan Adams performing at Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, Calgary.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Few artists have been as prolific as Ryan Adams in getting out their recordings. The Jacksonville, North Carolina-born singer, songwriter, producer and poet has released 17 albums, starting with Heartbreaker in 2000.

Karen Elson

Up first though was the support act, Karen Elson, from Oldham, Lancashire who played songs, including Wolf, from her recently released album, Double Roses. Her set brought together beautiful arrangements with guitar, violin and some lifting, acoustic Vangelis from the harp player.

Karen Elson supporting the Ryan Adams gig at Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, Calgary.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Clowder and cluster

A quick break, the stage rearranged to reveal a clowder of stuffed cats and a cluster of computers and Ryan Adams kicked off his splendid spectrum of songs with his very first one recorded as a solo artist (that is, if you set aside the banter about Morrissey on the actual first track), To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High). The harmony shared with the keyboard player, Ben Alleman on one of his common themes of rain (Oh, the days the rain would fall your way) was a spine-tingling start for this appreciative Calgary crowd at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium. The performance kept going uphill from there, both with his songs and the entertaining banter about genetic disease, dentists, Michael MacDonald and more.

Monitoring Magnolia

Let it Ride from Cold Roses was played with multiple screens showing a road trip through the desert, leading into Magnolia Mountain, from the same album, cheekily offered up as an early encore that developed through flamboyant wow wow pedal from guitarist Benny Yurco to swirling Hammond organ. Those monitors were put into good use again, displaying volcanic and nuclear eruptions as hard, yet jangling chords introduced Gimme Something Good (from the self-titled 2014 album, Ryan Adams).

Just in time for a slow song

“I love that song,” Ryan said. “It wakes everyone up just in time for a slow song!”, he joked and went, anyway, into the slower paced and gorgeous Alt-Country Two, from Easy Tiger (2007) with its agilely alliterated “It’s leaking from the faucet and I’m fractured from the fall.”

To Be Without You

Ben Alleman’s singing was complemented by Mister Adams who likened it to the voice of Michael MacDonald. He rendered a high-pitched version of how that singer might get up in the morning and sing about flossing his teeth! Segue into Ryan sharing his fear of the dentist and the revelation that he didn’t visit one for ten years. Well, he didn’t have any cavities or so he thought until he paid that visit and had “about 17 cavities to deal with”. The next song, To Be Without You, from the new album, Prisoner, was diggingly dedicated to that dental profession. Maybe that connection comes with the line For everything you lose, some wisdom will find its way out?

Welcome back to Canada!

Under a single spotlight piercing through the accumulating dry ice smoke, Ryan played Doomsday, also from Prisoner, solo with acoustic and harmonica. A perfect stage was set for the next song, When The Stars Go Blue, played under the light of a rotating disco light strung up high in the Jubilee Auditorium. “I’ve always wanted to play that song this way.” he said with clear joy, then someone in the crowd shouted, “Welcome back to Canada”. Ryan was clearly moved. “That’s why Canada’s so fucking awesome!” he responded. (It’s) “the first heckle of the night and you said welcome back to Canada!”

Ryan Adams performing under a disco strobe at Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, Calgary.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Cardinal Songs

A couple of The Cardinals songs from the double album Cold Roses and Jacksonville City Nights were segued together under a criss-cross of magenta lights and a backcloth of a thousand stars on a dark night. The title track, Cold Roses, the best one so far, came with chunky guitar coursing into funky keys and fab jazz chops. The stuffed felines and cool cat dudes were clearly enjoying themselves as the music ventured in and out of what you might hear on the recordings, transitioning into the slow paced Dear John with its cat connections in the lyrics. Oh, the joy of live performance!

Turn Off the Flash

A change of pace once more and the energetic opener from The Prisoner, Do You Still Love Me? On the closing of this song, Ryan opened up about his issues with Ménière’s disease, a condition of the inner ear that leads to vertigo and sickness and is triggered by flashlights. Someone at the front had a red LED light operating with their cell phone and it was causing him some bother. “It’s not your fault, it’s mine, it’s genetic,” he said, handling the situation with aplomb. “It’s like you took a light saber and stuck it right into my brain”, Ryan explained. “I’m going to have a seizure and then they’ll have to take me out like a Mummy.” The audience laughed along but got the point and there was no need to bring in the men/women with the white coats. A 12 string acoustic version of Prisoner that began quietly with 12 string guitar erupted into a feedback-enhanced, wailing electric solo. “I did not nail that solo admitted Ryan, “There was too much sauce!”

Into the Encore

After Haunted House (Prisoner, 2017) there was Peaceful Valley, brilliantly showcasing Ryan’s singing voice and another monster guitar solo, then Stay With Me, after which he acknowledged his Canadian namesake: “That song was legitimately my best Bryan Adams song ever”. A couple more songs, I Just Might and Invisible Riverside led through to the final number that completed the round, going back to Heartbreaker’s Why Do They Leave?

After a long and rich set “It’s not possible that we could do one more song”. Of course, Ryan was kidding and took the band through three encore numbers. First was the much-loved New York, New York, done solo with guitar and harmonica, which he held up for a moment, mid-song, to complain, tongue in cheek, that the audience’s clapping was putting him off his rhythm. Then there was Come Pick Me Up and the Rockabilly Shakedown On 9th Street to send a very contended crowd off into the rainy Calgary night.

The Verdict

An excellent gig from one of the music world’s most prolific songwriters, covering 21 songs his vast collection from 2000 to 2017. My top three picks:

#1: Cold Roses

#2: Come Pick Me Up

#3: New York, New York

The verdict: Great Gig, Ryan Adams. Come back to Calgary soon.

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Milk, Brunch Club and Walrus go Sledding at Nite Owl, Calgary @sledisland @niteowlyyc #YYC

Thom James (guitar/vocals) performing with Milk at Nite Owl, Calgary on the first night of the 2017 Sled Island music and arts festival.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Nite Owl, in Calgary, was one of over 30 venues for musical talents across Canada (and beyond) that got going last night with the annual Sled Island music and arts festival.

Brunch Club

First up was Brunch Club, a trio from Edmonton, featuring Ellen Reade on bass and vocals with Patrick Earles on guitar and new drummer, Owen, laying down a good groove. Their set included songs from the latest Brunch Club EP such as Dandelion Dreams, Pasghetti and Bed Bugs.

Ellen Reade (bass/vocals) performing with Brunch Club at Nite Owl, Calgary on the first night of the 2017 Sled Island music and arts festival.
© J. Ashley Nixon


Walrus, the headlining act from Halifax, NS only just made it to their gig after a 1,400 km long and hot haul up from Idaho’s capital, Boise. They played a good set of songs from Family Hangover (Walrus Music/Madic Records), their debut LP released earlier this month, which the band, categorize as “fuzzed-out electric blanket of soul with unrepentant strands of authentic heaviosity”. A rich literary description for sure, to complement the shelves of books surrounding the stage of the Library downstairs at Nite Owl. Soul was there, and it was heavy, amongst the three guitars, bass and drums although, disappointingly, a 12 string Rickenbacker was not in performance this evening.

Walrus performing at Nite Owl in Calgary on the first night of the 2017 Sled Island music and arts festival.
© J. Ashley Nixon


Milk, performing at Sled Island for the first time, played songs from their Late Bloomer EP. I caught up with front-man Thom James (guitar & vocals) and drummer, Akanée Rose before they went on stage to talk about band names and their music style.

“We used to be together in a band called Water Melon but we decided that we needed a time for a change, and we’re now called Milk.” explained Akanée. Thom James wanted the name change to get away from the label of surf-rock. “There was a big surf rock thing at the time and people would always talk about a Bee Gee-sun-kissed reverb sound”. He no longer uses reverb on his Fender Stratocaster that comes from his Dad who used to work at the famous Tom Lee Music store in Vancouver. “It’s like a country band now, almost”, he added, although, for sure, not the cross between Shaina Twain and Bonnie Rait that he suggested on his website. That was a jovial comment in response to the Sled Island festival guide that described his band as a cross between Jeff Tweedy and Mac Demarco (who James used to play).

In truth, he has tried to avoid genre as much as possible as he finds it pretty limiting. He did, however, concede that he has lately been getting into bands like Steely Dan and the Grateful Dead, what he calls “Dad Rock” He was alluding, I think to guitarists like Walter Becker, with a good pop sensibility but prepared (and very capable) to get into “ridiculously elaborate music” that is “underrated”. James himself, noodled through a short elegant classical piece (was it Erik Satie’s Trois Gymnopedies?) while retuning his guitar on stage.

He was clear about his interest in music where the personality comes to the front, “a single voice where you are communicating with people directly”. Milk did just that last night. Sled Island runs in Calgary until Sunday, June 25, 2017. More information on venues, performers and tickets can be found at Sled Island.

For more photos from Sled Island and other live music events in Calgary, please visit

J. Ashley Nixon Photography.

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Canada fall, but go ahead of USA in U20 World Rugby Trophy qualifier @rugbycanada @USARugby

Action from Canada’s No. 8, Jake Thiel in their U20 World Rugby Trophy qualifier against the USA at Ellerslie Rugby Park, Edmonton.
© J. Ashley Nixon

It was not the result that the Canada U20 team wanted but it was enough to get a win on aggregate points in their double header against USA U20.  Team USA narrowly defeated Canada 27-25 on Saturday at Ellerslie Park, Edmonton. But with their 46-12 overhaul in the first game, the young Canadian team go on to the World Rugby Trophy in Uruguay in August. The winner of that eight-team competition qualifies for next year’s World Rugby U20 Championship, won, in 2017 by New Zealand after beating England 64-17.

Canada scored three tries in the first half of the game. The first came from prop, Cole Keith after 18 minutes. Full-back Aidan McMullan took possession of the ball as it was spun out to the right wing for the second try. The other prop, Dewald Kotze also got on the score sheet with a forward drive to the left of the posts. In the second half, Canada took the lineout ball 10 m out and former Calgary Canucks player, James O’Neill went over from the ruck.

Canadian full-back Aidan McMullan eludes a tackle to score Canada’s second try in their U20 World Cup Trophy qualifier against the USA at Ellerslie Rugby Park, Edmonton.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Tries for the USA came from Christain Dyer,  Peter Howard and two from second row forward, Daemon Torres, including the game stealer with just over a minute to go.

Final score: USA 27-25 Canada.

For more photos from the game, please visit J. Ashley Nixon Photography


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Romania rumbles Canada 25-9 in Edmonton @rugbyromania @rugbycanada

Johannes Van Heerden breaks for the line before passing to Viorel Lucaci (behind) to score Romania’s first try in their game against Canada.
© J. Ashley Nixon

The music stage next to the pitch was bashing out some good rock and roll numbers at sunny Ellerslie Rugby Park in Edmonton ahead of the international rugby test match between Canada and Romania. Alas for Canada, it was the European visitors who picked up the groove with three try-scoring moves to win the game, 25-9.

It looked as though Canada had taken an early lead with a try in the right corner by DTH Vandermerwe,  but on closer scrutiny between the officials and the big screen, he was judged to have put a foot in touch.  Canada took the lead temporarily with a penalty kick then 17 minutes into the game, the Romanian forwards got their sprinting legs into action. Second row Johannes Van Heerden broke through a tackle then loaded off the ball to wing forward Viorel Lucaci who crashed over the line uncontested. With the conversion, it was 7-3 to Romania.

Gordon McCrorie fly kicks from the back of a ruck during the international game between Canada and Romania at Ellerslie Rugby Park, Edmonton.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Both teams then lost players for different reasons. After another lengthy examination of the big screen replay, the referee pulled out the red card for a Romanian forward who could be seen (on the screen) throwing a punch and downing a Canadian away from the play. Canada took three points from the penalty kick but soon after Conor Trainor had to be helped off the pitch, clearly in a lot of pain with a leg injury. Just before half time, Romania’s stand-off, Florian Vlaicu, kicked a huge one from the centre line but the ball landed just underneath the crossbar. Half-time score: Romania 7-6 Canada.

Romania reinforced their lead with another breakout from a ruck on their own 22 line. The ball was spun out right into the hands of centre Fakaosilea Sione who fed winger Fonovai Tangimana to go over in the corner. Vlaicu was successful with the challenging conversion, making it 14-6.

After Canada and Romania both picked up points from penalty kicks it looked as though the home side had a try from Tyler Ardron. His swan dive over the line would have earned a ten in another sport but to his great disappointment, it didn’t even land five. Yet another long conversation between the officials resulted in the score being turned down due to what appeared to be a high tackle infringement on the touchline.

Romania’s Tangimana got his second try of the game after 62 minutes and with a penalty kick ten minutes later it was 25-9. Despite deep efforts by the Canadian pack in the final three minutes of the game, the Romanian defense held strong and sealed the game.

Final score: Romania 25-9 Canada.

For more photographs from the game, please visit J. Ashley Nixon Photography

International rugby action between Canada and Romania at Ellerslie Rugby Park, Edmonton.
© J. Ashley Nixon




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STIX on the ice with Glen Gulutzan @STIXHockey @global_sportaca @NHLFlames

Glen Gulutzan (Head Coach, Calgary Flames) leads the STIX Hockey elite female hockey players through their practice at Norman Bush Arena, Calgary. Global Sport Academy CEO, Mark Maloney looks on.
© J. Ashley Nixon

The girls playing in the Global Sport Academy Group’s STIX Hockey program got a master class last night at Norma Bush Arena, Calgary. Glen Gulutzan, Head Coach of the Calgary Flames was on the ice for a full practice, taking some of Calgary’s elite young female hockey players through some of the drills he uses with his professional players in the National Hockey League (NHL).

Gulutzan played hockey in the Western Hockey League and Mestis League in Finland and went on to coaching assignments with the Dallas Stars and Vancouver Canucks prior to joining the Calgary Flames as Head Coach at the start of the 2016-17 season.

Glen Gulutzan (Head Coach, Calgary Flames) directs a drill with the STIX Hockey elite female hockey players during their practice at Norman Bush Arena, Calgary.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Global Sport Academy, based in Calgary, provides support for a number of sports that puts emphasis on the educational and leadership experiences of student athletes as well as the development of their sports skills. Their refreshing, positive approach includes the STIX Hockey program which finds the time and space on the ice for young men and women to have fun and be willing to take chances and explore their creativity. “Let’s make a lot of mistakes, let’s play with no fear”, says Mark Maloney, CEO and chief hockey coach, who also worked with the coaching team of the AHL Affiliates of the Dallas Stars.

Maloney’s philosophy flips around the conventions often heard from hockey coaches: “You build the person first, then the athlete second and the hockey player third” he told me. “If you develop an environment that is safe, emotionally, physically- it’s fun but it’s challenging, then the development of the player and the person moves in parallel” he added.

Thanks Glen for your time last night, sharing hockey stories offering encouragement and helping in the development of these young female athletes.

For more photographs from the STIX Hockey practice with Glen Gulutzan, please visit

J. Ashley Nixon Photography

Glen Gulutzan (Head Coach, Calgary Flames) on the ice with the STIX Hockey elite female hockey players during their practice at Norman Bush Arena, Calgary.
© J. Ashley Nixon

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Edmonton Gold outshine Calgary Mavericks in the rain

Matt Lepinski in action for Calgary Mavericks versus Edmonton Gold in the U21 curtain raiser match at Calgary Rugby Park.
© J. Ashley Nixon

The bad weather got going just in time to greet the young players coming onto the main pitch at Calgary Rugby Park. The Calgary Mavericks were playing Edmonton Gold in a men’s U21 curtain raiser match ahead of the international contest between Canada and Georgia (see that match report here).

Try for Edmonton Gold in the U21 curtain raiser match against Calgary Mavericks at Calgary Rugby Park.
© J. Ashley Nixon

The temperature plunged to 5 degrees C from its barmy heights earlier on in the week, a situation that is often seen in Calgary. This made for difficult ball handling as hands quickly numbed in the driving rain but Edmonton adapted better, scoring a couple of tries in the first ten minutes. From this great start, the visitors never looked back and the Mavericks were only able to respond with one try.

Final score, Edmonton Gold 42-5 Calgary Mavericks.

For more photographs from this game, please visit J. Ashley Nixon Photography

Anthony Onwordi in action for Calgary Mavericks versus Edmonton Gold in the U21 curtain raiser match at Calgary Rugby Park.
© J. Ashley Nixon

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Georgia tough out a shut-out win against Canada in the wind and rain @CalgaryRugby Park @GeorgianRugby @RugbyCanada

Georgia in action against Canada at Calgary Rugby Park.
© J. Ashley Nixon

A tough, heavy-duty, forwards-dominated game went in favour of Georgia in their international men’s rugby XV against Canada at Calgary Rugby Park today. Ferocious rain and gusting winds coming in from the Rockie Mountains made handling difficult and both sides reverted to frequent up and under kicking to put their opposite defences under pressure.

The Georgia and Canada packs clash in action at Calgary Rugby Park.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Georgia, currently ranked 12th in the world and already qualified for the 2019 World Cup by virtue of their two wins and third place in the pool stage of the 2015 World Cup, took the lead within the first ten minutes of the game with a penalty kick, scored by Merab Kvirkashvili. That was all that separated the teams as they ran, with relish, off the pitch to take comfort and shelter inside the changing rooms. Some of the Georgian fans, of which there were many, moved over to the other wet end of the pitch to continue with their noisy chants of Lelo, lelo, Sakartvelo (Try, try Georgia).

Merab Kvirkashvili, kicks a penalty for Georgia against Canada at Calgary Rugby Park.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Georgia asserted their forward game plan in the second half and pretty much camped out within Canadian quarters. After six minutes a scrum infringement led to another penalty kicked from the left boot of Kvirkashvili to make it 6-0 to the visitors.

Inevitably, the relenting pressure of the Lelos on the Canadian line gave way to a try, scored by and converted by full-back, Kvirkashvili with three minutes to go.

Georgia’s forwards celebrate their try, scored by Merab Kvirkashvili in their 13-0 win over Canada at Calgary Rugby Park.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Final score, Canada 0-13 Georgia.

The fans tough out the wind and rain during the Canada-Georgia rugby international at Calgary Rugby Park.
© J. Ashley Nixon

For more photographs of action from the game and the fans in the rain, please visit

J. Ashley Nixon Photography

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