Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock’n’Roll – Some Hali-faX

CamHalifax has been on my mind for most of the week. I was worried for a lot of my friends as the monster Nor’easter was baring down on the city yesterday, but, as always, the city persevered.  After the winter that most of the country endured no city deserved to be belted with 40 centimetres of snow and wind blast well above 100 km/h as we stare April in the face and are, at least officially, now in spring.

A year ago yesterday I was out a meeting at The Dominion Tavern when I, in a matter of about five minutes, missed three calls from different folks in Halifax.

Something was terribly wrong.

rock rangerI excused myself and went out to the patio and called one of my friends who just answered with “Jay’s gone”.  I knew immediately he was speaking about Jay Smith, the “Rock Ranger”, one of the most talented and lovely people I have had the chance to know. I had seen him just the week before when he played guitar with Matt Mays at the Indie Awards in Toronto. The band was heading across the country on tour and thankfully Toronto was on the itinerary.  I went backstage before the show and was greeted with a hug from Jay and, as always, we had a couple of dark rums and cokes before he had to hit the stage.  I didn’t get a chance to see him after the show as I had to go to another venue but we chirped on Twitter for the next couple of hours and his last tweet said @CC59 Good to see you bro! #RUM.

Tonight (Thursday) in Halifax there is a very special show at The Carleton Music Bar & Grill “Remembering Jay Smith – A Benefit for the Unison Benevolent Fund”.  The fundraiser was to take place last evening but the storm reared its ugly head and things are pushed back to this evening.  Some of the country’s best musicians will share The Carleton stage and pay tribute to Jay’s music and his life. Donations can be made at

dave-j-henry-3Around the corner from The Carleton is the exquisite The Press Gang and tonight a group of friends will also be getting together to celebrate the life of David J. Henry a/k/a “The King Of Argyle”.  Dave was the one of the owners of The Economy Shoe Shop and no trip to Halifax was complete without seeing his smiling face.  We lost Dave three years ago and many a story will be told, and oysters eaten as the celebration takes place. I wish I could be there for both but my life is richer for having known, and laughed, with both of these fine gentlemen.

My first trip to Halifax was in 1992 when I attended the East Coast Music Awards, and, more importantly, was scouting bands for MCA Records. On February 14th I saw Sloan at The Jay Ferguson, Mike CampbellFlamingo and my love affair with the scene was cemented. I spent time at The Flamingo, the Misty Moon and the epicentre for the burgeoning new scene The Double Deuce Roadhouse. Around the same time my old pal Mike Campbell (seen here with Jay Ferguson) moved his MuchMusic camera from Toronto to Halifax and he started the series “MuchEast”. Every visit to town would inevitably include a visit to his garage, “The Tiki”, and copious amounts of Old Sam rum would be consumed while we swapped rock’n’roll road stories with an ever-expanding group of locals all the while sharing tunes by Mott the Hoople, The Faces or The Replacements.

The ECMA’s would become a regular stop for me on the east coast and The Halifax Pop Explosion is a must for every aspiring person who wants to know about the Canadian music scene.  After taking over from the strong foundations of the likes of Peter Rowan and Waye Mason, Pop Explosion director Jonny Stevens has done an incredible job of running the world renowned festival.

My downtown stop with Mike would always be The Economy Shoe Shop, a funky restaurant, bar, clubhouse that was the hub of social life in the city. Soon  I was a  friend of the owner Victor Syperek and got to know his team which included the aforementioned Dave Henry, gloryhound_groupandcam_03-29-11_brohmanmanager Gordon (Gordo) Lapp, Corby’s rep Rick Hollihan and the Delta Hotel’s Stuart Jolliffe. Gordo introduced me to the folks at Music Nova Scotia and to this day I still help them with their annual CMW Tiki Party. He introduced me to a young band of rockers by the name of Gloryhound and soon I was helping them make their mark on the Canadian music scene. I helped Victor’ s son Jack with his band The Trews and Stuart and Rick have helped me out considerably when I have had bands touring the east coast. Victor also runs The Seahorse Tavern and his booker Troy Arsenault has become another trusted friend and I have spoken about his band Alert the Medic in the past.

Mike McCarty (SOCAN), Cam, Tyler Armes (Down with Webster) Kari CarpenterMy daughter Kari went to Dalhousie and it was good to know that she had five or six solid contacts in the city in case of emergency and her going to school there allowed me more opportunities to visit the city. We would hang out at The Dome, Tribeca or those special Saturday afternoon socials at The Split Crow where all the Toronto kids would hang out for “the power hour”.  It was fun when Kari was there for The Junos and I could take her to the various after parties and she got to spend time with her old high school friends Down with Webster.

To all my friends in Halifax, thanks for being there for me. To all the musicians from the area, keep doing what you do best.

Here is some music that you need to hear.

Joel Plaskett – “Love This Town”

Joel, along with the Emergency (Dave Marsh and Chris Pennell) are everything that Halifax is about. They help out the younger bands and pay respect to the older ones. They sing of their city from coast-to-coast and are the first ones to volunteer to help out with a benefit.

Thrush Hermit – “French Inhale”

Here’s a much younger Joel in 1994. Thrush were pals with Sloan and I saw them both perform a lot back in the early nineties.

Dave Marsh and The True Love Rules – “True Love Rules”

Dave Marsh steps out from behind the “Emergency” skins and fronts his band The True Love Rules along with former Tribeca owner Paul Boudreau. Their great new album was released late last year.

Sloan – “500 Up”

One of my favourite songs from Sloan’s debut album “Smeared”.

Gloryhound – “Electric Dusk”

A little Halifax history as this was shot at the late great Tribeca and the bar tender is former MuchMusic personality Mike Rhodes.

The Stanfields – “The Dirtiest Drunk (In The History of Liquor)”

One of the countries hardest touring bands and one of the best.

Alert The Medic – “The Weatherman (Pt.2)”

Troy’s band and a song that caused a bit of a sensation when it was on “Rookie Blue”. The boys new Mike Turner produced album is coming out next month.

The Trews – “Ready To Go”

I know they are from Antigonish but I knew them when they lived in Halifax and I can play whatever I want. Congrats to John-Angus and Penny on the birth of their son Elliott earlier this week.

Matt Mays – “City of Lakes”

Watch for Matt Mays performing live at the Juno Awards this Sunday night live from Winnipeg. Good luck to the boys and especially my buddy Serge.

Matt Mays with Jay Smith – “Rock Ranger Record – Live”

No better way to finish than my buddy Jay doing what he did best live on stage with the last band he ever played with.  Godspeed.

See you at The Tiki.


Follow Cam on Twitter @CC59

Cam’s column appears every Thursday

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The ABC’s Of Rock’n’Roll are proud to be presented by The Bovine Tiki Bar and The Bovine. There are heaters on the Bovine patio and great bands downstairs at the legendary rock bar. Fill up next store at The Rock Lobster and then get your rocks off at The Bovine. 

DBAWIS ButtonCameron Carpenter has written for The New Music Magazine, Music Express, The Asylum, The Varsity, The Eye Opener, The New Edition, Shades, Bomp!, Driven Magazine, FYI Music News, The Daily XY, New Canadian Music, NXNE Magazine and Don’t Believe A Word I Say.



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