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A NIGHT AT THE 'ROCK



"Tonight is the quarter-finals of the latest Bandwarz, and Nate's band are playing second, so here we are in the Shamrock Hotel. In all the times I've been here, I've never seen a fight break out, but the 'Rock has it's reputation for a reason. This is a roughneck bar, and fights here don't end friendly. But that just gives the room a strange sort of charm and makes it a place that I personally love to play in."

Jim Martin reflects one night watching The Nate Pike Band at Calgary's Shamrock Hotel.

COPYRIGHT © 2004, 3 A.M. MAGAZINE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

So there I am having a piss in one of the most feared bars in town and all I can think is that I want to write it all down. Not the piss, mind you, the night. And in so doing, I'm going to say thanks to two people who've helped me out as a musician more than most others ever will. But we'll get to them. For now, let me zip up and wash my hands and let the story roll.

Nate Pike has been a buddy of mine for something like a decade. It was he who convinced me to buy a bass and join his band. It was he who helped me realize that I actually needed to be a musician. It was he who forced me to step away from that band and become front man of my own band. He's been to just about every Johnny Incognito show, and has on many occasions been the one who got us the show in the first place.

Roli Mack is a local promoter. He's the guy you go to when you want stage time and all you have as far as credentials is your word that you are in a band. Almost every rock musician in this city knows Roli and has played shows with him. Every band I've been in got their starts with Roli's Bandwarz, a continuous stream of Battle-Of-The-Bands-style shows. After my first gig in front of Roli when I had owned a bass for only a few weeks and sounded terrible, he gave me free lessons out of the goodness of his heart. I have nothing but respect for him, because without the Rolis of this world, the local music scenes would die under the weight of house bands and cover bands.

Tonight is the quarter-finals of the latest Bandwarz, and Nate's band are playing second, so here we are in the Shamrock Hotel. In all the times I've been here, I've never seen a fight break out, but the 'Rock has it's reputation for a reason. This is a roughneck bar, and fights here don't end friendly. But that just gives the room a strange sort of charm and makes it a place that I personally love to play in.

Roli recently had a bit of a health scare, if open heart surgery is what you call a bit o a health scare. The good news is that it's five weeks to the day after his surgery and he's out here promoting a show and having his fun. I grab a moment of his time to see how he's been doing and he tells me all about how he had some sort of massive heart issue while playing a weekend in a nearby town. He managed to get things under control in the local hospital, and even conned them into letting him out early so he could play the last day of the weekend gig. Not a lot of people have that kind of tenacity, but Roli's not the kind of guy to call in sick.

The first band reminds me a lot of what we must have been like ages ago when Nate was the front man for Common Ground and I was his skinny bass player. We were miles from being tight, we were terrified, and every single person in the room knew it. No matter how awful those first gig moments are, they're absolutely necessary to experience and get past. As Nate's band takes the stage, it's stunning to me to think about the changes that we've all been through in the time between. The boys in the band are all talented musicians who play confidently, losing themselves in the music the put out. The crowd takes this kind of thing for granted, but I remember back in those early Common Ground days when we looked like fools and sounded worse. There's something remarkable about watching a band grow like this.

Nate's band plays an amazing set. It's easily the best I've ever seen them play, and I have a stupid grin plastered on my face the entire time. They play an aggressive rock and roll sound that I could easily picture being played on the radio, if local radio stations ever got their heads out of their asses and started supporting local bands. Their set is entirely original songs with exception of a cover of Jimi Hendrix's All Along The Watchtower which they have very much made their own. All in all, it's an amazing set and a Wednesday night well spent.

When the final votes come through, Nate's band wins and moves on to the semi-finals. I'll be there to watch, scream, and enjoy the music, and I know that Roli will be there too. I was worried when I heard he'd had some heart problems. This city and this scene need people like him to give a break to all the bands out there. Without Roli or Nate, I'd be a lot more boring a person, so I and the world thank them for it.




ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jim Martin is a Chief Editor for 3am Magazine, front man for the obscure punk rock band Johnny Incognito, and just a heck of a nice guy.





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