By Anna Smith
Under the neon lights of the Bow Theatre, one of the best blues shows in the southeast corner is tucked away for those who know where to find it.
“Blues at the Bow” is a concert series run by a nonprofit society that is volunteer run, as it has been since it was nothing but Stuart Couillard and his friends hosting shows in local halls in the late ‘80s.
“Everything we make goes back into the series and venue. We own, and operate out of the historic Bow Theatre which is over 100 years old. It has three tiers of seating and a notoriously sloped dance floor,” said BATBOW president Jason Riddell. They’ve also, over the course of owning it, converted the lobby into a full bar, to allow for those there for one of their shows to “partake in an adult beverage or two.”
“The house is a down-home club in the tradition of juke joints of old. We have combined the great sound of a concert venue with the social and dance benefits of a bar,” said Riddell.
Crankin’ out rocking live blues, Blues at the Bow has garnered the distinction of being a listener’s venue, as well as a dance-party haven.
The vision has stayed pretty close to the original, said Riddell, bringing top-tier bands to small-town Alberta, and true to “stu’s” love of the blues genre, attracting big names from all over to come play the historic theatre.
The organization relies on a booking committee that works closely with talent buyer Cam Hayden, the director of the Edmonton International Blues Festival and host of Friday Night Blues party on CKUA, to build their season.
“He sends us available acts to review or contacts the agents of bands on our wish list,” said Riddell. “There are always lots of quality bands to choose from. The difficult part is getting dates that work for everyone and staying within our budget.”
The series has been running for 30 years and has been host to Colin James, The Legendary DownChild Blues Band, Fathead, Room Full of Blues, Eddy Shaw, Roy Rogers, Colin Linden, Kim Wilson, Harp Axe, Harrison Kennedy, Eddie the Chief Clearwater, Junior Watson, and Monkey Junk to name a few.
“I personally feel extremely honoured to be helping run a group with this much history and experience. We take pride in putting on world class shows in our unique venue,” said Riddell. “We always strive to bring the best acts we can find for our appreciative audience, and we are going to take it up a notch.”
“We are a unique venue because the closest city of Medicine Hat is 45 minutes away and Lethbridge is an hour and a half away,” said Riddell. “Since 80 per cent of our patrons come from out of town it means everyone in the room has made a special trip to be there which creates an extremely appreciative audience.”
The venue is currently in its 30th season, and has no intention of stopping the music anytime soon.