Tag Archives: Nick Ubels


Track Premiere: “Sean” – Casinos

Casinos are hard not to like. Whether you go for the big melodies or the fuzz-dripping guitars, the rich character studies or the muscular musical chops, there’s something for everyone. Since releasing their self-titled EP in 2014, the Abbotsford pop-rock favourites have kept a low profile, playing a smattering of shows and quietly developing a…

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People on the river are happy to give: Abbotsford bands join forces in fundraiser to replace stolen gear

Call your dads! The songs of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Creedence Clearwater Revival will come back to life at the Abbotsford Rugby Club on March 24, starring Harma White, Blessed, and Loans. Blessed frontman Drew Riekman jokes that the bands seem ripped straight from “a kid in grade eight’s jean vest,” but that’s all…

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New Western Jaguar record coming on Mighty Speck Records in 2017

  Since the early 2015 release of Wayfarer, Western Jaguar has undergone a metamorphosis, from ambient solo project to live rock band. The Mission-based project led by vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter Jeffrey Trainor has its roots in Jeff’s parents’ basement, gradually growing into a dynamic live act featuring AJ Buckley on drums, (Casinos front man)…

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Apocalypse Underground: Cheap High on their turbulent origins, creative evolution, and debut LP

By Nick Ubels If you catch Mission’s Cheap High at one of their six fall shows, you’ll be struck by how well everything locks into place. Justin Goyer’s shimmering guitar lines float between his brother Derek’s bass parts while Carlos Mendonca’s unmistakable growl cuts in like a prowling lion. It helps that he ranges across…

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Counter-Narrative: Brandon Gabriel on becoming a visual storyteller and the power of decolonial art

by Nick Ubels

Brandon Gabriel is an internationally acclaimed mixed-media artist from the Stó:lō Coast Salish community of Kwantlen. His vivid creative work lends a critical eye to colonial processes that have attempted to relegate his culture to history books and museums. At 37, he has already amassed an impressive body of professional work that spans over 20 years and includes photography, painting, drawing, illustration, graphic design, public art installations, and architecture concepts.

“Threshold,” Brandon’s first solo exhibition, wrapped up at Centre 64 in Kimberley this summer. It’s a testament to the political potency for which his work is being recognized that he was invited to exhibit his work to draw attention to the proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort, which threatens a highly sensitive Grizzly Bear migration corridor.

In addition to his work as a sessional instructor at universities throughout the Lower Mainland and other artistic endeavours, Brandon is preparing to co-curate an exhibition at the ACT Gallery in Maple Ridge to coincide with Canada’s 150th anniversary of confederation that will provide “a critical perspective on what this colonial birthday means to indigenous people.”

I had the opportunity to talk to Brandon about his formative experiences as a visual artist and how his work has become more politically and socially engaged as his career has progressed.

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Abbotsford Arts Council bows out of Jubilee Arts Centre: Proposed cultural hub to open without long-planned gallery component

On the heels of this year’s Jam in Jubilee concert series, the community can expect another flurry of activity to soon take over Jubilee Park. The Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA) will be moving their offices into the upstairs floor of the MSA Centennial Library building early this fall, but they will do so without…

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Upending Tradition at Harrison Fest: July 9 – 17

Nestled between lake and mountain 10 kilometres north of Agassiz, the sleepy village of Harrison Hot Springs provides a picturesque setting for more than a week of high-calibre world music every July.

Kicking off its 38th year Saturday, July 9, the Harrison Festival of the Arts occupies a unique position in a crowded field of southern BC summer music festivals. Besides the breathtaking setting, artistic director Andy Hillhouse says the mid-size event, spread out over nine days this year, cultivates a laid-back atmosphere with ample opportunity to absorb and reflect on the art you experience.

“It’s not like a gated festival where you go in for three days and you’ve got sensory overload,” he says. “But I love those festivals too, and they’re all important in their own way.”

Harrison’s mission to connect the local arts community with innovative and talented world music acts — rather than focusing on popular music — also sets it apart. This year’s program features a eclectic slate of musicians from contemporary Hawaiian performer Kaumakaiwa Kanaka’ole to Haitian hip-hop fusion artist Vox Sambou and Québecois traditional, rock, and electro combo Mélisande. The line up goes on and on in this manner, drawing on music from all corners of the globe with surprises at every turn.

As an ethnomusicologist, Hillhouse says he is especially capable of articulating this mandate and how it’s reflected in the program.

“You get a pretty good sense and understanding of the value of music in culture,” he says. Ethnomusicologists examine “how music is used in everything from ritual to concert performance to religion, everything.”

When it comes to the non-profit Harrison Festival of the Arts, Hillhouse looks to strike a balance between challenging global artists and those with a wider appeal.

“We try to draw a broad audience, but at the same time, you’re trying to educate people and expose people to new things, things which have a cultural value.”

A perfect example of this duality on this year’s line-up is Yemen Blues, a unique group that blends traditional Yemenite chants with “funky, African inspired music.” Hillhouse says that the band represents an intriguing cultural blend that translates into “very dancy, very upbeat festival music.”

One of the themes of this year’s program is “re-working tradition,” which returning festival-goers will find contrasts nicely with last year’s emphasis on traditional music passed down through generations.

“We had a musician here last year from Mali who, I don’t know how long his ancestors played for the kings. I knew of some artists who were digging into tradition, but they didn’t necessarily grow up with it. But they’re researching it and re-imagining the tradition in their own way. [This theme] allowed me to bring in some people I was interested in, like Jayme Stone’s Lomax Project.”

Fashioned by virtuoso banjoist Jayme Stone, the Lomax Project re-works many of the original folk recordings collected around the world by anthropologist Alan Lomax with the help of many collaborators from the folk music community.

Harrison’s marketing and administrative manager Bryan Cutler says that he enjoys watching themes emerge as Hillhouse ssembles the program.

“He takes a lot of input and he tours around to different festivals,” Cutler says. “And then he looks at it and he says, ‘here’s what I did here, and here’. Themes come out organically from his programming.”

While this is Cutler’s first year in his new role with the festival, he’s been working behind the scenes on the production side for nine years. That’s rooted his work in the festival’s history while allowing him to branch out in new ways.

“We’re trying to stick with what Ed and Phyllis [Stenson] started and developed, but we’re making slow changes here and there,” he says.

It’s important to maintain a sense of the festival’s identity and place in the Fraser Valley, according to Cutler.

“Where Harrison kind of fits is, we kind of strip it all back, and we go right back to the roots,” Cutler says.

Beyond watching performances, Cutler and Hillhouse have also been looking for to get people to participate.

“I’m always trying to think of ways where we don’t just present music or other forms of art, but we engage people, too,” Hillhouse says. This includes workshops, a literary café, and a daily market of artisan vendors peppering the waterfront.

Hosting a variety of performances and activities near the excellent cafés and restaurants of Harrison Hot Springs contributes to the relaxed and slow-paced vibe. Most days, visitors can take in free music on the beach each afternoon, or browse the market before migrating indoors for ticketed headline performances at the Harrison Memorial Hall.

“Children’s day is completely different,” Cutler says. “That’s sort of a nut-ball kind of day.”

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Harrison Festival of the Arts runs July 9 to 17 in Harrison Hot Springs. You can find tickets online at harrisonfestival.com


“Uncomfortable, messy, and exhilarating” : Art Battle #398 takes over The Reach

Four artists stand, palettes and brushes in hand, staring at the empty canvases before them. The air is electric with pulsing dance music and anticipation. Raw talent ready to shine. One of the artists shouts, “I have no idea what I’m doing!” But it’s too late to turn back: it’s the final round of Art Battle #398 with a trip to the regional finals in Vancouver on the line.

The crowd of roughly 85 people gathered at The Reach on May 13 had been waiting all night for this showdown between previous champions Stephen Chen, Cindy Dohms, and Shannon Thiesen and new challenger Rose Ross.

Soon, the volume from the CIVL DJ booth dipped and MC Aaron Levy began the countdown. As the crowd finished shouting out the final numbers, a flurry of activity took over the floor, paint splashing off canvases as runners were dispatched to fetch beer and wine for the painters racing against the clock to complete their pieces in under 20 minutes.

The audience started circling the painters in what Levy refers to as a “slow-moving tornado,” casting shadows across the canvases, further obscuring the artists’ already compromised light. Passers-by keenly scrutinized the emerging images, considering which painting might win their vote to crown the Art Battle #398 champion.

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“You can’t be a dumbass forever”: In-depth with Blessed’s Drew Riekman

After years spent paying their dues in talented bands stunted by half-hearted commitment and wasted potential, the four members of Abbotsford’s Blessed are ready to make good. Their new EP is four tightly wound tracks of sophisticated and raw post-punk that recalls the muscular intricacy of Television at their Marquee Moon peak. This is especially…

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