Backstage at Rock in the Valley Since 2011

It’s odd, that Swollen Members never felt like more of an anomaly over their career. Here’s a Canadian hip-hop group that’s had a decent string of popular hits. Who can predict what will make it onto Top 40 radio? But in retrospect, they seem like unlikely candidates.

The production from Rob the Viking, who eventually became a full-time member of the group, was pop friendly. The smooth hooks of Moka Only, not a full-time member but strongly associated with the group, were memorable. But Prevail and Mad Child’s flows were hard, relatively uncompromising to what else you could hear on the radio.

Maybe that’s why it makes sense that, now that their popular moment has passed, they’ve kept going. They release records with impressive frequency, with guests like Ghostface Killah, Talib Kweli, Everlast and Saigon. By the time they play Regina on Wednesday, April 3 at the Owl, they’ll have released their 10th album, Beautiful Death Machine.

I still remember seeing them headline a night at Rock in the Valley when that was still a thing. G.O.B. and Theory of a Dead Man were opening, if that gives you any indication of when this was. They seemed perfectly at home in that setting, and still do in their current career. That’s testament to their drive. /James Brotheridge

B.A. Johnston

Friday 22

At the last Sled Island Festival in Calgary, B.A. Johnston hosted his own hot dog cookout. (In fact, if you search Dog Blog, you’ll find a little Q&A John Cameron did with him about it.) Now, you’d think the fact that Hamilton’s favourite son is fond of shooting loogies on stage would make him ill-suited for food handling jobs. But everything else about him –– plain dude with a great sense of humour and an inability to take himself seriously –– makes him a perfect choice to host a day of music while cooking hot dogs for the crowd.

Those qualities make his music great, too. He’s eager to please and willing to go for any gag that will please the crowd, including jumping off the stage and stomping on tables. Given that O’Hanlon’s has become his regular stop in Regina, you might think, “Well, that stage is too high for anyone to jump off of.” Apparently, it isn’t if you’re B.A. Johnston.

Opening for Johnston is Fist City, a Lethbridge, Alberta four-piece sure to bring some rockin’ before Johnston shakes the house down.

Express and Company

Creative City Centre
Sunday 31

I’ve never felt too romantic about Ontario. Not even wistful, really. Not so for Dylan Ireland, singer, songwriter and lead man behind Express and Company. Their recently released debut record is named after the province, as is a track on the album. Its nine songs hit all the folk and alt-country buttons well, bringing in fiddle and accordion without losing Ireland’s melodic sense.