Keep the fire burning Part 1: The Blues Can Survives!

It’s -27°C, and there’s snow everywhere, and the windchill makes it -38°! What in the hell am I doing going to the bus stop at night, in such weather? The Blues Can has a small candle lit at its heart, which they’re trying to protect from the wind and weather: I want to help them Keep The Fire Burning.

Sitting view from a table with another table in background
This view usually has 3 times as many people and a lot of cheering. Photo by Theresa Johnston.

I’ve got a briefcase over my shoulder, a white cane in my hand, and three layers over my head and covering my ears and shoulders in something that isn’t quite enough. My legs already hurt from the cold, and I’m not even at the bus stop yet!

Fortunately, the driver knows where the Blues Can is, probably because he drives past it daily in Inglewood along 9th Avenue at 14th St. He looks longingly at the curved roof with its promise of fresh as live music, and fresh as local beer.

Teena and Greg, and the other angels they have collecting around them in the Blues Can, have been wading upstream against ice flows and falling rocks for the last year: nobody’s having fun in the retail food Industry during this pandemic, and when you add in the fact that these owners normally hire live musicians every single night of the week, you got a need for a remarkable survival drive. But the damned Covid keeps sweeping through Alberta, and our opportunities to gather in mutual spaces changes again! Collecting the fuel to “keep the fire burning, ain’t no easy game,” as Bruce Cockburn once wrote.

Hand Sanitizer, glass and lens cap on a small table
Still Life in Covid Era. Photo by Theresa Johnston.

As usual, a local Inglewood traveller has to help me find the front door, because fresh piles of snow don’t help blind folk get around! Congratulating me on having survived, the waitress Trinity takes my contact tracing information and then helps me find a seat. I can tell there aren’t many people here: there can’t be, of course, but also eating spaces have only been open since yesterday (February 8). And . . . No live music!

Why would I want to come here without live music? It’s the Blues Can: I’m not here because of their international reputation for fine pastries; I’m not here because of the go-go dancers or the luxurious trappings. You’ve got the wrong place, man!

3 men and 1 woman sitting and standing at counter
Teena (in the middle) is the welcoming heart and soul of the Blues Can bar: Greg ain’t so bad either. Photo by Theresa Johnston.

But as Teena has a good brain, and a good soundman, they’ve got recordings of life performances which play continually on a giant screen. They’ve got their extraordinarily hospitable staff (who clearly get their hint from the owners), and they’ve got their love of the blues: that means the music we’ve heard there has NEVER disappointed!

Teena herself shows up to say hello an hour or so later, where TJ (the MUSICAlive! Design Diva) and I are working on our logo set up and website issues at a table near the big screen: Teena mentions that the current music is by Peter and the wolves, and talks about their performance history in The Blues Can. Having seen them there the year before, we can attest to their kick ass musicality, their multi instrument excellence, and the dancing that occurred when Sylvie and I heard them play!

Room with 3 tables, 1 occupied, and an occupied counter
In our efforts to encourage Covid clients, we recommend you bring your work to this quieter music venue. Photo by Theresa Johnston.

There’s no dancing now, until the pandemic settles down at least, but the atmosphere from the music that was performed here before returns slightly (check out their events listing from November last year to see the variety of talent they support), artists like Ralph Boyd Johnson, Tom Phillips, Camie Leard Band, Jay Coda Walker, and many more less and better known musicians giving us a reminder of why we need to cup hands around this flame, keep it from blowing out, and add some kindling! And the cook DOES manage to boost their ‘suicide wings’ to a respectable flavour level: Steam Whistle in a bottle; Village Brewery on tap; other live performers recorded well and thanking the Blues Can for . . . Keeping The Fire Burning: as live as music can be in February 2021.

Grab your laptop, bring your work buddy, and have a beer and some wings while some excellent, often local, rhythm and/or blues stimulates your productivity! We love you Blues Can!

Posted by Allen Thai

Author: Carey Rutherford

Swallowed by the mutual loves of words and music (but far too chicken-shit to perform them with a band), Carey’s writing career started slowly as a freelance writer in 2003, starved him nearly to personal bankruptcy until 2008, and changed directions while writing for FastForward, Beacon Calgary, GayCalgary, and Examiner magazines. With the death of many old-school periodicals, and the explosion of musical diversity in Calgary, the modern approach to writing about live music performance in the Calgary region presented uncluttered landscapes for the focussed passion that Carey’s conversations with musicians, drag queens, festival producers and small animals has uncapped. He was moulded by the brilliance of paper-based periodicals old and new (Life, rolling Stone, Swerve! and Adbusters etc.), and sees the info-verse as needing creative, empathetic, but clear-eyed Agents to communicate these performances.