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Rick Estrin and the Nightcats bring the Blues to BC

By Michael Luis

After meeting in 1976 in Berkeley, California, guitarist Charlie Baty and vocalist/harmonica player Rick Estrin formed Little Charlie and the Nightcats. After taking their modern take on Chicago-style blues all over the world for over 30 years, Baty retired in 2008, but Estrin has continued to tour and record with his namesake. The award-winning group is visiting Vancouver’s FanClub on December 8th to play new tunes from their 2013 release “One Wrong Turn,” and to share some favourites from the back catalogue.

Coastal Spectator: Any notable experiences playing in Vancouver in the past?

Rick Estrin: Oh, man. I got lots of memories from playing all over Canada. For Vancouver specifically, we’ve been playing there since the 1980s. We were coming up there regularly in a time when blues had a little resurgence in popularity.

CS: For the past few years you’ve been the bandleader and namesake of the Nightcats. How has this experience compared to years past when it was Little Charlie and the Nightcats?

RE: Part of my job is still the same: writing the songs and fronting the band. But I just have more responsibilities now with taking care of all the parts of it that require feigning adult behavior (laughs). There was somewhat of a learning curve, but I’ve been around it so long. And with Little Charlie, if I ever needed to know anything, he would tell me. I don’t know if I’d call him a control freak, [but] he didn’t really feel comfortable relegating the responsibilities [like] I have.

CS: You guys recently released a record, One Wrong Turn. How did the creative process compare with past releases?

RE: Well, the creative process started the same way. It’s the same thing. I’ll write songs. J., our drummer, he’s always writing songs so that’s not a problem for him. I like to feature him on at least one song. The rest of the process is similar to the way we always did it. I write the song at home on the guitar, and I’m a primitive guitar player so in a way I have a better chance of coming up with something a little different because I don’t know what I’m doing (laughs). So I’ll come up with these things and show them to Kid (guitarist) or show them to the whole band and they would come up with ideas. On this record it seemed that every song they would come up with something that was on the same page— that was what I wanted but even better. They would add things to it that just worked and would make my vision for the song come into focus.

CS: Nice, so it was just naturally organic the way the songs all built up.

RE: Yeah, there was just a synergy in the studio this time. It’s not like I’ve never had that before, but the synergy dial was turned up to 10, man.

CS: You were recently nominated for the B.B. King Entertainer Award at The Blues Awards. Looking at its namesake, B.B. King, he’s still doing it and going strong at his old age, so is that inspiring to see as a fellow blues musician?

RE:(Laughs) Yeah, yeah. The guy that was my role model for that was a guy that actually said he taught B.B. King a lot of stuff on the guitar, Robert Lockwood, Jr. He was even older than B.B. and he was a great guitar player. He was a good friend of mine, and just a role model for me for how to be old. He would show up, and carry in his own amplifier at 90-years-old.

CS: To wrap things up, what keeps you playing the blues after all these years?

RE: It’s my life. It’s all I know. If I didn’t do that, I mean, it’s not like I have hobbies and stuff. That’s my life. I can’t imagine what I’d do without it and it’s been my life for close to 50 years.

CS: Great answer, man. Anything else you’d like to add for your fans in Vancouver or anywhere else who may be reading this?

RE: Anybody who can make the show, anyone within driving range of Vancouver, make it to the show. I guarantee you’ll be happy. I’ll personally give you your money back if you don’t leave there feeling great.

More about Rick Estrin and the Nightcats at www.rickestrin.com.

Michael Luis is a Victoria student, writer, filmmaker, and musician. Check him out at www.michaelacluis.wordpress.com.

Play refuses easy solutions

Armstrong’s War

By Colleen Murphy

Directed by Mindy Parfitt

 Revue Stage,  Arts Club Theatre Company, Vancouver

 (World Premiere, Oct. 17 – Nov. 9/13)

Reviewed by Joy Fisher

When 12-year-old Halley Armstrong comes to the hospital room to read to a convalescing Afghanistan veteran, he tries to send her away. But she won’t take no for an answer. Thus begins an unlikely relationship that eventually enables each of them to reveal hidden secrets.

Halley, brilliantly played by 14-year-old Matreya Scarrwener in her theatrical debut, is determined to earn a community service badge as a Pathfinder. She has picked Michael off the “readers wanted” list because they have the same last name. But Michael, played by Mik Byskov, a recent UVic graduate, just wants to be left to his imaginings about his friend Robbie, with whom he shared a traumatizing war experience.

As it turns out, Halley and Michael have much more in common than just their last names. In different ways, the usual routes to conventional lives have been disrupted for each and they have both become “pathfinders” groping toward an ill-defined future. Halley is in a wheelchair and, when the play opens, Michael is under his hospital bed re-living his war trauma. As they read Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage together, they gradually confront the face-saving narratives they have each invented as a means of survival and admit to each other the truth of what really happened.

Both actors responded to deft direction by Mandy Parfitt, Scarrwener catching perfectly the delicate balance of a 12-year-old between childish fantasy and brave confrontation of real life, and Byskov sending shivers down the spine when he voiced the pleading of a wounded buddy: “Killl meee.”

The play isn’t perfect. Too much time devoted to reading aloud interrupted the dramatic action, and the decision to have Halley read the dialogue of union soldiers with a Southern accent and to depict Michael as a poor reader added to the tedium because the words and meaning were difficult to understand.

The most unsatisfying aspect of this play, however, may be the fault of unrealistic audience expectations. We want transformation, to see the characters rising whole and perfect out of the fires of devastation. But life isn’t like that, and playwright Colleen Murphy won’t let us kid ourselves that it is.

At one point, in a rage, Michael tears a book to pieces. When he gives it back to Halley, it is a patchwork of taped pages. Halley is shocked, but later reports that her teacher has accepted her cover story and assured her that there is a “replacement fund for books,” That may be true for library books, but not for the books of our lives. When our lives are destroyed, Murphy seems to suggest, all we can do is patch them up and move ahead as best we can.

Neither of these characters is transformed; they both cling to whatever they can of the conventional rules of life. By the end of the play, Michael is back in uniform, ready and willing to return to war despite the horrors he has experienced.  Halley is no doubt making plans for acquiring her next community service badge.

“That’s your trouble,” Michael says to Halley toward the end of the play. “You hope too much.” So do we all, and sometimes it leads to disappointment. But Halley has the final rejoinder. She reminds Michael of the family motto she tries to live by: “I remain unvanquished.” May it be so for us all.

Joy Fisher is a Victoria writer.

Fiction, knitting, and purls of wisdom

FictionKNITstas Reading Series
Dede Crane, Gillian Campbell, Nicole Dixon and Stella Harvey
Monday, May 27, 7 pm
Beehive Wool Shop, 1700 Douglas St, Victoria

The FictionKNITstas tour is coming to Victoria for a night of fiction, knitwork, and fun! Expect gripping yarns and purls of wisdom that just may leave you in stitches.

FictionKNITstas is a unique Canada-wide reading series for female writers of literary fiction and their writers, and it’s starting the cross-country tour in Victoria on May 27!

Four fantastic authors— Dede Crane, Gillian Campbell, Nicole Dixon, and Stella Harvey—will read from their new books. And they’ll do so in style: fabulous knitters have custom-created pieces inspired by the books, and these knitwork pieces will be on display. Acclaimed Victoria author Dede Crane will host the evening.

About Dede Crane:

A two-time finalist for Victoria’s Butler Book Prize, Dede Crane is the author of the acclaimed short story collection The Cult of Quick Repair and two YA novels, and was the editor of the collection Great Expectations: Twenty Four True Stories about Childbirth. Her first published story was shortlisted for the CBC Literary Award, and her stories have been published in numerous literary journals. A former professional ballet dancer and choreographer, Dede has studied Buddhist psychology and psychokinetics at Naropa Institute in Colorado and the Body-Mind Institute in Amherst, Massachusetts. She currently calls Victoria, B.C. home. Every Happy Family is Dede’s second publication with Coteau Books.

About Gillian Campbell

Gillian Campbell‘s short fiction has been published in Grain Magazine, Creekstones: Words & Images, The New Quarterly, and The Antigonish Review. She has a BA from the Université de Montréal and a master’s of library science from the University of British Columbia, and for many years she worked as a children’s librarian. Gillian grew up on the West Island of Montreal and now makes her home on the West Coast on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia. The Apple House is her first novel.

About Nicole Dixon

Nicole Dixon has lived in Toronto, Sarnia, Windsor, North Bay and Halifax. Her work has been nominated for the Journey Prize and a CBC Literary Award and appeared in The New Quarterly, GrainThe Fiddlehead, and Canadian Notes and Queries. In 2005 she won the Writers’ Trust of Canada RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for short fiction. Previously a French teacher for young children, Nicole is currently electronic resources librarian at Cape Breton University and divides her time among New Waterford, Cape Breton, and Advocate Harbour, Nova Scotia. High-Water Mark (The Porcupine’s Quill) is her debut book.

About Stella Harvey

Stella Leventoyannis Harvey was born in Cairo, Egypt and moved to Calgary as a child. In 2001, Stella founded the Whistler Writers Group, also known as the Vicious Circle, which each year produces the Whistler Writers Festival under her direction. Stella’s short stories have appeared in The Literary Leanings Anthology, The New Orphic Review, Emerge Magazine and The Dalhousie Review. Her non-fiction has appeared in Pique Newsmagazine, The Question and the Globe and Mail.  She currently lives with her husband in Whistler, but visits her relatives in Greece often, indulging her love of Greek food and culture and honing her fluency in the language. Nicolai’s Daughters is her first published novel.

At the Mike: Ace, Bullock, Stewart and Smallman

At the Mike Reading
Thursday, May 23, 7 pm
Chronicles of Crime
1048 Fort Street, Victoria, BC
Everyone Welcome

Authors Cathy Ace, Chris Bullock, Kay Stewart, and Phyllis Smallman share the thrills, chills, and occasional spills of mystery writing.

Welsh Canadian mystery author CATHY ACE is the creator of the Cait Morgan Mysteries, which includes The Corpse with the Silver Tongue and The Corpse with the Golden Nose. Born, raised, and educated in Wales, Cathy enjoyed a successful career in marketing and training across Europe, before immigrating to Vancouver, Canada, where she taught on MBA and undergraduate marketing programs at various universities. Her eclectic tastes in art, music, food, and drink have been developed during her decades of extensive travel, which she continues whenever possible. Now a full-time author, Cathy’s short stories have appeared in multiple anthologies, as well as on BBC Radio 4. She and her husband are keen gardeners, who enjoy being helped out around their acreage by their green-pawed Labradors. Cathy’s website can be found at www.cathyace.com or follow her on twitter at @AceCathy.

Read about THE CORPSE WITH THE GOLDEN NOSE HERE: http://bit.ly/15Iyblg

CHRIS BULLOCK is co-author of the mystery novels A Deadly Little List (2006) and Unholy Rites (2013), the first and third books in the Danutia Dranchuk series. He taught English at the University of Alberta for thirty years and co-authored a textbook on writing, Essay Writing for Canadian Students. He has published extensively on men’s issues in literature and is currently writing a series of essays on grandparenting. He lives in Victoria, British Columbia.

Read about UNHOLY RITES here: http://bit.ly/15q75iJ

KAY STEWART is co-author of the mystery novel A Deadly Little List (2006), the first in the Danutia Dranchuk series; sole author of the second, Sitting Lady Sutra (2011); and co-author of the third, Unholy Rites (2013). She taught English at the University of Alberta for twenty years and has co-authored two textbooks on writing, Essay Writing for Canadian Students and Forms of Writing. Her creative work has appeared in the periodicals Other Voices and NeWest Review, and in the anthologies Eating Apples and Wrestling with the Angel. She lives in Victoria, British Columbia. Please visit www.kaystewart.ca.

Read about UNHOLY RITES here: http://bit.ly/15q75iJ

After being shortlisted for the Debut Dagger in the UK and the Malice Domestic in the US, PHYLLIS SMALLMAN’s debut mystery won the first Arthur Ellis Unhanged Arthur in 2007. In 2009, Margarita Nights was shortlisted for Best First Novel by the Crime Writer’s of Canada. In 2010, Good Morning America named the Sherri Travis Mysteries one of the six top series for a summer read. Her fourth book, Champagne for Buzzards, was one of three mysteries chosen as a best cottage read by Zoomer Magazine for summer 2011. Phyllis worked in a library and as a potter before turning to a life of crime. Depending on the time of year, she can be found on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, or Manasota Beach, Florida. Highball Exit is the fifth book in the Sherri Travis series. Visit www.phyllissmallman.com

Read about HIGHBALL EXIT here: http://bit.ly/MeZ0OC

Drop by for an evening packed with great stories and conversations. Everyone Welcome. Free admission. Cash or Debit sales only.

For more information, contact Chronicles of Crime at 250-721-2665 or TouchWood Editions at info@touchwoodeditions.com.


Never Shoot a Stampede Queen (at Granville Island)

Never Shoot a Stampede Queen
By Mark Leiren-Young
Directed by TJ Dawe
May 10 to May 25
Granville Island Stage, Vancouver, BC

Based on the award-winning book (2009 Leacock medal for humour), the stage version of Stampede Queen just closed in Kamloops at the Western Canada Theatre where it played to full houses, standing ovations and rave reviews. This version just finished a brief preview run in Duncan–also playing to a couple of packed houses, a standing O and delighted audiences. The show is big fun and 100% Stampede Queen approved (Stampede Queens showed up and approved it).


Island Music Award winners performing this Friday

Spaceport Union, Nicola Linde, Man Made Lake, Photon
9 pm, Friday, May 10
The Cambie, 856 Esquimalt Road, Esquimalt

Photon creates live visuals to accompany the auditory journey of Spaceport Union. Also performing is singer-songwriter Nicola Linde, and award-winning band Man Mad Lake.

Here’s a little taste of the kind of thing Photon will bring to the show:

Challenges and opportunities facing the Haida Nation

The Political and Economic Challenges and Opportunities Facing the Haida Nation
Tuesday, April 30, 1:45-3:30 pm
First Peoples House, UVic

The presentation will be conducted by Peter Lantin, President of the Haida Nation. In attendance:

Trevor Russ, Vice President of the Haida Nation
Guujaaw, Former President of the Haida Nation
Robert Davis, Executive member of the Haida Nation
Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson, White Raven Law Corporation

Moderator: Dr. Brent Mainprize, Gustavson School of Business

WordsThaw: 1st annual spring symposium

Saturday, March 23 2013
10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
UVic, Human and Social Development Building
Room A240

Celebrate the Spring equinox by spending the day and evening of Saturday, March 23rd with The Malahat Review and nineteen of B. C. and Alberta’s finest writers.

The symposium will consist of three daytime panels and a literary reading in the evening.

Zoom In, Zoom Out: Focus on Fiction (10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.)
With John Gould, Yasuko Thanh, and Daniel Griffin. Moderated by Amy Reiswig. Sponsored by Focus magazine.

A Sustainable Feast: The New Food Writing (1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.)
With Rhona McAdam and Kimberley Veness. Moderated by Don Genova.

In Our Names: Writers on Poverty (3:45 p.m. – 5:45 p.m.)
With Patrick Lane, Madeline Sonik, and Sylvia Olsen. Organized by the Victoria Writers Festival.

Words on Ice (8:00 p.m.)
An evening of readings with Marilyn Bowering, C. P. Boyko, Lorna Crozier, Katherin Edwards, Bill Gaston, Lee Henderson, Laura Kraemer, and Pamela Porter.

Full Pass includes three panels and evening reading.

Full pass regular: $40
Full pass student/Friend of The Malahat: $30

All full passes include a one-year subscription to The Malahat Review for yourself or a friend.

Words on Ice tickets (at door):

Regular: $10
Student/Friend of The Malahat: $5

All attendees at Words on Ice will receive a free copy of our current issue, #181 Winter 2012.

To purchase a pass, visit www.malahatreview.ca.