Kyle Pullan, Tea + Biscuits headline live showcase

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Canmore’s artsPlace is amped up and going live Saturday (March 10) as an all-locals concert hits the Rocky Mountain stage as result of a “community gathering” competition.

Fingerstyle guitarist Kyle Pullan and rock band Tea + Biscuits, the past two winners of Banff’s Battle of the Bands at Tommy’s Pub, headline the four-act concert starting at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15.

Along with Pullan and Tea + Biscuits (Andrew Western, Francois Labelle, Tanya Solvsten and Sean Lloyd), the night’s lineup includes the 2017 Battle of the Bands’ third and fourth place winners, progressive metal duo Human Stain (Nick Christou and Nick Tessier) and alternative rock duo Panic Station (Eli Twoyoungmen and Adam Bronsch).

The second place band, Bighorn Thunder, was unable to make the artsPlace date.

Pullan’s mastery on acoustic guitar propelled the Ontario native to become the first soloist winner last year in the battle’s six-year existence.

After some bugging and nudging from local musicians to Battle of the Bands organizer Garry Gonis, the musician and promoter caved in and allowed solo acts to enter last year’s competition, which awards original content, musicianship and stage presence.

“To me, it’s all about live playing and live music,” said Gonis. “The only reason I do this is the people involved, people and performers. I just want them to play their live music and if they woo the crowd after a song, or the crowd is dancing or grooving, then I feel like I’ve done my job.”

When Pullan signed up and played his first riff in one of the battle’s points rounds, the feeling that a first-ever soloist – who had no band on stage and sang no lyrics – could be crowned in just a few weeks.

“People just stop when they hear (Pullan) play and they go, ‘wow,’ ” said Gonis.

Using a unique fingerstyle technique which Pullan describes as “using the guitar as a percussion instrument and mixing in complicated finger-picking” of the strings, he quickly caught the Tommy’s Neighbourhood Pub audience’s attention and judges’ eyes and ears in the six-week long contest.

“I just want to play music and share music and go into every show wanting the audience to experience the music with me,” said the guitarmeister.

“The Battle of the Bands is a great way to bring the community together, it’s not really a competition. I was never discouraged by not winning (in previous years as part of a band). Going into this past year, it was just for fun and to play music and see my friends.

Along with the battle victory, Pullan released a debut album Into the Wild last October and has toured with local favourite folk band The Raven & The Fox. They played in front of a sold out crowd at artsPlace in November.

“The size (of the crowd) doesn’t matter, it’s the attentiveness of the audience I care about,” Pullan said. “Bars are just loud, so for me personally, with my music being so dynamic and hard to get my songs across properly in bars … I like playing for a listening crowd. No one usually plays soft and quiet and I control my sound in those types of room… it’s my audiences’ favourite shows to watch and listen.”

Pullan has put together four brand new songs he will debut on March 10 in front of the artsPlace crowd. While back in the valley, the guitarist plans on continuing his solo work and touring with The Raven & The Fox.

“I’m really grateful to be part of the music community here and the talent and support is amazing,” he said.

As part of the contest, the top three finalists and last year’s winner are also given the opportunity to headline Banff’s 2018 Harvest Festival.

It’s Gonis’s way of helping with the growth of the local music scene.

“The artsPlace show is not a competition, it’s just an original showcase for all four bands,” said Gonis.

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Rocky Mountain Outlook