Categories: Entertainment

New Year’s Eve ready to rock

DUELLING PIANOS – The Spare Keys plan to deliver a good time at the Bourbon Room.

Happy New Year!

Every year the eyes of the world turn to the midnight clock saying goodbye to the old, hello to the new.

It’s our tradition to express joy and hope for the new year with champagne, dancing and kissing loved ones as the clock gongs and confetti drops.

Some revellers celebrate with the glamour and glitz of a masquerade ball. Others check out the more intimate clubs in town.

Whatever your scene, it’s never too late to make great plans for an unforgettable evening. Check out local entertainers listed below and start 2014 surrounded by friends.

The Spare Keys at the Bourbon Room

• #112a 205 Carnegie Dr.
• Tickets are $20 and cover midnight buffet, party favours and champagne.
• Doors open at 3 p.m., entertainment follows at 8:30 p.m.
• Reservations requested; call 780-289-0992.

Rowdy rock ‘n roll, popular country, sorrowful blues, and boppin’ rhythm and blues. The Spare Keys, St. Albert’s only duelling pianos, has it all.

Jared Sowan and Nevada Collins Lee spar off each other and have a wild time getting the room dancing, singing and laughing during their full request show.

“It’s fun, an absolute blast and we do our best to accommodate people. Just imagine a campfire with two grand pianos,” says Sowan.

The two met after Sowan, one of the area’s primary gospel and blues singers, was unable to perform at his regular Friday night slot at Bourbon. Collins Lee, a classically trained soprano new to the bar scene, stepped in as a fill.

“I started off with pop and country as a kid. When I was 18 to 24 I studied classical music and now I’ve gone back to my roots,” says Collins Lee.

Between the two, the duelling duo has a wide repertoire that ranges from Elton John to Miley Cyrus.

“Jared excels at the blues and he has a lot of classic rock under his belt. I take over with top 40 and country. It’s live music and it’s less edgy than some acts. People enjoy the raw experience with nothing attached, and two pianos is not something you see that often.”

Deejay Todd James at the Celtic Knot

• 388 St. Albert Trail.
• Tickets are $40 for a three-course meal 6 to 9 p.m.
• Dance only; free after 8 p.m.
• Party favours and champagne are available at midnight.
• Reservations are requested; call 780-470-5668.

The first thing deejay Todd James tells you is that he is the REAL Todd James – not the K-97 announcer.

“I started my first professional gig when I was 13 at a wedding. That’s almost 33 years, first with vinyl, cassettes and now DVD and video,” says James a 1989 graduate from the Columbia School of Broadcasting.

A City of Edmonton employee in his day job, James’ passion for music is evident in as he praises the ’80s and ’90s retro years – icons such as Billy Joel, Prince and Spice Girls.

“Back then you expressed yourself through music. It was more free. Right now it’s digitized and everything sounds the same. In the ’80s the variety was bigger. There were more fun songs. It was more of a good time.”

Still today, it’s the fun, bubbly songs that pack the dance floor and not the ones about killing a policeman, he adds.

Throughout the evening, James will be running a continuous video stream while spinning CDs.

He performed at last year’s New Year’s Eve event and describes the mood as, “It’s going to be a little crazy. There’s a lot of energy. But it was very comfortable, like your living room. This year it’s going to be the best party in town. It will be everything you want to hear.”

Stu Bendall at the Crown & Tower Pub

• 11 Bellerose Dr.
• A three-course steak and lobster dinner is offered from 6 to 9 p.m. for $39.99.
• Entertainment runs 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.
• Party favours and champagne are available at midnight. Give-away prizes will also be available.
• Reservations are requested; call 780-459-3393.

Last year, Stu Bendall’s kitchen-style party was the perfect mix to kick off the new year and this year he returns with music from some of his biggest rock influences – the Beatles, Coldplay, Oasis, Bon Jovi and Radiohead.

The former Royal Marine picked up the guitar while he was stationed on a desert island in the Indian Ocean. After exiting from the marines, he became a troubadour of sorts playing in Austria, Turkey and Australia. In Oz, he met his Canadian wife and moved north.

Now in the automotive business, Bendall continues to grease the wheels of his live act with 600 songs. The solo gunslinger has played more than a handful of year-end shows and is pumped for a return to St. Albert.

“He’s a good act and we’re happy to have him. He plays the kind of music everybody likes,” says Crown & Tower owner Troy Marchak.

The Jaks at LB’s Pub

• 23 Akins Dr.
• A steak and crab dinner and dance is available for $35, dance only is $20.
• Dinner is at 7 p.m. dance from 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.
• Midnight champagne and party favours available.
• Reservations are requested; call 780-460-9100.

A Stony Plain based band, The Jaks is a five-piece cover band boasting a wide repertoire from the top 40. Stylistically they cover lot of ground from Boz Skaggs and Bruno Mars to Martina McBride and Adele.

The band was launched three years ago from the remnants of Wild Honey, after geographic distance prevented several members from performing.

“We wanted to play parties and bars and have a lot of fun. And we’ve been doing it,” says vocalist Amy Vincent. Rounding out the fivesome are Joe Vincent (guitar), Jim Kwarok (bass), Kirk Swanson (percussion) and Jason Kurley (keys-accordion).

“This is our first new year’s gig. It’s also going to be the last show for Jim, our bass player, so it’s going to be a special night. We’re going to go out and give it everything we’ve got.”

The band is booked for four sets and their song list ranges from Rush’s Spirit of the Radio to Gretchen Wilson’s Red Neck Woman to Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

“We’re here to have a lot of fun. People dance from the first set to the last. We are good and what you get is quality. The sound at LB’s is great and it’s a great atmosphere.”

Jukebox Leigh at the Apex Casino’s Vee Lounge

• 24 Boudreau Rd.
• Three-course plated dinner at 7:30 p.m. Dance at 9 p.m.
• Tickets are $65.
• Reservations requested; call 780-460-8092 for info.

“They call me Jukebox for a good reason,” laughs David ‘Jukebox’ Leigh, a singer with 1,689 tunes in his song catalogue.

“I’m like a human jukebox. I can go from a Vera Lynn to Coco Jones to Neon. At New Year, we provide a broad general offering.”

Jukebox, as fans know him plays a limited half-dozen shows a year. To get more of his originals out there, he’s released No Cash Value, a debut seven-track CD.

But in shifting from a support drummer for country musicians to independent frontman, he’s discovered music marketing is “a tough row to hoe.”

“People are so much more literate these days. It’s so much tougher to satisfy the average cookie. These days there’s so much out there.”

To please audiences, he’s rounded up the best: Sarah Grace Knutson (bass/vocals), Jayme Fritz (guitar), and Joel Purkess, the phenomenal drummer who toured with the Mason Rack Band.

“What Joel brings to the table is incredible showmanship. He’s very expressive with a lot of flourishes.”

And for the new year’s gig, Jukebox has invited sister Alexandra Leigh to play piano.

“Her keyboard is one of those new-fangled ones with every key in the book.”

Although Jukebox enjoys playing his originals, the band’s strength lies in performing familiar, well-known covers.

“We don’t want to invent the circle. But we find brilliance in soloing in what’s already been written. We’ve learned three new songs especially for this show. Brett Kissel’s Started With a Song, Dean Brody’s Bounty and Lady Antebellum’s We Owned the Night. It’s going to be fun. Nobody is going to be bored at our show.”

Deejay A.J. Bruyere at O’Maille’s Irish Pub

• 398 St. Albert Trail.
• Tickets are $35 for a three-course meal from 6 to 9 p.m.
•Dance only $10 at 9 p.m.
• Reservations requested 780-458-5700.

Deejay A.J. Bruyere is back to sing songs and spin a few records in his one-of-a-kind live-techno show.

“My act is so different from anyone else’s. I can go from singing live to DJ mode in a song. I can blend so nicely and cleverly people don’t even know I’m doing it,” says Bruyere.

Back in the late ’70s when the Eagles were supreme rulers of the airwaves, Bruyere was part of an exciting rock band.

“But we broke up at the peak of our careers. It was a very volatile job and I just wanted to rely on myself and up to this point I’ve made a go of it.”

Founder of A.J. Events, the former St. Albert resident has entertained the regions with a mix of top 40 dance tunes from Rihanna to Lady Gaga to Keith Urban.

Last year he played at Telus Field on Canada Day and a month later opened for Charlie Major once again at Telus. But mostly he books corporate gigs.

“I do an interaction party. It’s a sing-along. It’s a dance-along.”

A bit of showman with his electric keyboard, guitar and MP3 laptop, A.J. is set to move with the groove. So get ready to dance. The party is here.

Anna Borowiecki: Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.