There’s a provocative question on the information sheet for this gracious and cross-purposing event: “How many cases of food will it take to build a mountain LARGER than Calgary's two biggest musicians?” Having met one of the self-styled larger-than-life artist, I can attest to his massiveness: a goodbye bearhug didn’t allow my hands to meet around his back, or my eyes to see over his shoulders, and I’m 5’9”. Whoa, Kirby Sewell’s a big lad, and the other guy’s taller!
Congratulations, though, Kirby: The Mountain of Food Festival counts as the first music festival of the year in my books, and what a great idea! Sharing some of Calgary’s prosperity with those who are struggling, and promoting local music at the same time. And what a sampling! As Kirby tells me:
“Jocelyn & Lisa are a sultry, soul-induced duo. Highly unique because it’s just bass and voice, which is probably something you’ve never seen before. Lisa does play guitar and add some keys to some songs, but mostly just bass. They’re extremely dedicated to their craft, and there’s a bit of a buzz around them right now, so it’s good to have them along.
“Ari (Neufeld) is a kind of heavenly mix of alternative and folk with a highly melodic intensity: he was playing with Brent Tyler and I was blown away. This guy’s the real deal; I’d heard about him from some other people, but to witness it is something else (more details below).”
I’ll take this opportunity to point out that Sewell is the real deal as well. He mentions that he’s been a little selfish at some points in his life (as we all have, I’d say), but this Food Bank event is not an empty gesture: he and I go down to the Calgary Interfaith Food Bank's main location the week before the Mountain of Food Festival. I show him the ropes, describing the lineups, the identification system used to make the system fair, the organized volunteers that make the system work so well whether you’re 2 people, 6 people, or 1 people. In every case, the Food Bank’s humane and effective system of collecting and distributing the most basic of needs outshines most of our government’s attempts to do the same. And Kirby is a little astonished at the mothers with infants waiting their turn, the story I tell him of the senior (3 months recovered from heart surgery, 1 year out of mourning her deceased husband), and the small grocery cart she has to transport what she can carry home. Sewell’s also surprised by the curiously nice cars parked outside, and the others here who carry up to 50 kilos of food home on the bus.
Yes, Mr. Sewell knows the impact of the food mountains being built at the festival.
Back to music. Who is this guy, the frontman of the Kirby Sewell Band? “We say ‘a modern love affair with the blues’ because the blues influences all those things you’re hearing (in our music), so in essence it’s basically doesn’t have any boundaries.” Kirby and I discuss R & B, swing, 40’s ragtime and country blues, He mentions a particularly significant performance, long ago, of B.B. King’s ‘The Thrill is Gone’, which strikes me as a perfect demonstration of the emotional impact of what the Kirby Sewell Band tries to do: guitars, bass, drums, and perfectly matched vocals for the heart knocking, frequently sardonic songs this band kicks out. But, enough about him: what about the Mountain?
“Brent Tyler is the other part of the Mountain of Food challenge.” I ask if they’re really the Biggest Musicians in Calgary. “I haven’t seen anybody bigger; if somebody comes out they might pass us but I’d say we’re pretty close to being the 2 biggest. He’s 7 feet and pretty big: I’m 6 foot 6 and bigger.
“Musically, (Brent’s) a quiet storm. There’s a purity to his voice that you wouldn’t think would come from a big guy like that. It’s more of a country-folk thing, and it’s pop-y and it’s soulful: people identify with him.
“So you’re going from (Ari) playing Indian percussion with shakers on his feet; then you’ve got two women, with a really hot voice with bass; then this giant where the guitar looks too small on him with a beautiful voice that creates this traditional folk-country; then you’re going to have the 6L6s who are completely electric and completely delta blues.. . . . This old guitar sound.” Reminds me of a band from the old King Eddy days (*sigh* B-( The delta slide and the non-silky vocals.
“Then there’s going to be JK & the Relays after that, which is a ska-infused soul band: hopefully he’ll bring the horns out."
Come to the Webber Academy Performing Arts Centre (1515 - 93rd Street S.W.) this Saturday, January 12th (all ages welcome) from 12:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tickets online @ www.mountainoffood.ca ($20.00 adults/ $10.00 kids 17 and under) and bring a case of food from the nearby Aspen Hills Safeway (or anywhere you want) and help build the Mountain throughout the afternoon.