Calgary isn’t exactly known for its arts and music scene, but you only need to scratch the surface to reveal an abundance of local bands that are doing their own thing and turning out some great music in the process.
Calgarian musicians have been busy in the last few years — many bands are out there playing regular shows and releasing their own albums without much attention from the media or a wider audience. With that in mind, here are nine of Calgary’s best bands you’ve probably never even heard of.
For those of you that grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s with your eyes glued to the television screen and a game controller in your hands, Thwomp’s music is sure to activate a keen sense of nostalgia.
A six-member instrumental band that covers video game music from F-Zero to The Legend of Zelda and everything in between, Thwomp says they are “devoted to resurrecting the timeless compositions as heard on classic console gaming systems.”
The Press Gang
The Press Gang’s lead singer, Colin McCulloch, has been involved in Calgary’s punk music scene for a long time. After his well-known band Hail Damage dissolved, he decided he wanted to play harder music that was more in tune with his life and The Press Gang was formed.
McCulloch offered some words of wisdom for aspiring musicians: do whatever feels right to you.
“Everybody’s an armchair critic now, way more than they used to be and it’s draining. Don’t pay attention to anything, especially an armchair critic.”
After a few line-up changes, they seem to have found a winning formula with former members of Sufferance and The Turettes and they continue to set the standard for street punk in Calgary.
Frightenstein is often labelled as a “Native band,” but Native culture isn’t on their list of musical influences, which is much more centered on their collection of horror movies – an estimated 800 DVDs and VHS tapes.
There is, however, one song in Frightenstein’s repertoire that was influenced by aboriginal culture – sort of.
“There’s an old horror movie called ‘Scalps,’ and it’s about Indians rising from the dead, so discovering that movie was like a pride thing,” said lead singer Haunted Corpse. “I kind of felt like it was my duty to write a song about it.”
Truck is another instrumental band, though they focus their efforts on progressive metal — a vague and difficult to define subgenre of metal music. Born from the remnants of Inner Surge, it is comprised of the same members the now defunct long-time Calgary political metal band.
Truck is a three-piece band that sounds like they have twice that many members due to the incredible complexity of their music – and their drummer is frequently likened to Animal from the Muppets.
Black Forest Ham
Comprised of six members, all originally from the East Coast, Black Forest Ham was the result of the members just jamming together and fooling around before eventually deciding to start a band.
Their acoustic hippie rock repertoire includes such gems as “Back in the ‘80s,” a catalogue of all the weird and wonderful things to come out of that decade that inspires even the most curmudgeonly audience member to sing along.
Scorched Banditos can be described as the best pyschobilly band in Calgary because they’re pretty much the only psychobilly band in Calgary. The music is a genre of rock that combines primarily punk rock and rockabilly.
It’s hard to miss their air-brushed visages as front man Hache Bandito can be found crooning out songs about topics ranging from undead brides to monsters in outer space. He may look diminutive on stage, but his howling voice can definitely raise the dead.
Though they were formed in 2000, The Evidence was known by the moniker The Failure until 2008. They are a power trio headed up by Casey Lewis, who might just be Calgary’s only drummer-singer.
The Evidence’s special brand of progressive nerd punk is striking the right chord with fans, as they managed to play last year’s Warp Tour solely because they were voted in by their adoring public. To date, they have released two full-length albums and two music videos.
Sanity In Numbers
You might need a lyrics book to figure out exactly what they’re screaming about, but it’s clear when you see them live that Sanity In Numbers’ front man is passionate on the topics he sings about.
This hardcore punk rock band is one of the most politically focused groups in Calgary, with lyrics vacillating between scathing indictments of modern politics and grim post-apocalyptic predictions for the future.
The Colin Decker Freefall
The Colin Decker Freefall is pretty much the house band for the New Black Centre considering that three of the band’s members co-founded the all-ages music venue.
The musicians are very well established in Calgary’s music scene, with members from three of the biggest punk bands to come out of Calgary in the ‘90s: Downway, Belvedere and Fall Out Frequency.
The band has released their own albums and singer Darren Ollinger, who also hosts radio station X92.9’s Project Punk show, said his advice for self-releasing music is “make sure you’re doing it for the love of it, and not for the business end of it because it’s probably not going to make you rich.”