Hodge: Cruzeros singer’s birthday bash a magical concert

…the crowd was spellbound by the musical magic coming from the tiny stage.

Canadian folk singing icon Valdy once scribed on the back of an album cover, “Music is a vehicle in which one drives around a feeling.”

While that expression has bounced around in my head for some three decades, it never hit home as much as last Thursday.

Motivated by a last minute invite to a buddy’s birthday party, Tez and I boldly left our quaint little house and four kittens and trundled out into the night.

House hermits by nature, we rarely venture forth into the great unknown. However, the allure of some potentially fine music mixed in with fine friends was more than even we could resist.

What a great decision.

The venue was the small but thoroughly funky Grateful Fed pub and restaurant downtown, and the excuse was the birthday bash of lifelong friend Barry Mathers.

Many of you will know him as the lead vocalist of the popular Canadian roots/country band The Cruzeros. He now flaunts his talents with the group Dirt Road Opera.

The Fed is a tiny pub in every sense with seating for less than 70 people and barely enough room for more than one person to change their mind at the same time.

The walls are adorned with album covers and posters of bands from the 1960’s, ‘70s and ‘80s, the service is friendly, and the grub is great (especially the soups).

Owners Ryan and Kamel Abougoush have had a lifelong commitment to supporting local or Canadian music.

While there is no permanent stage in The Fed, Ryan regularly pulls aside a table or two and a makeshift (albeit cramped) stage is created.

Mathers invited some close friends and a few musical pals to join him on stage for his birthday party. What an evening.

I have long suggested that Mathers is one of Canada’s finest song writers, and a singer with a unique and hauntingly amazing voice.

He was in his vocal glory that evening singing many of his tremendous original songs as well as numerous roots or country covers.

To the thrill of the small but thankful crowd gathered, Mathers also sang a number of The Eagles’ tunes in tribute to the recently fallen group co-founder Glenn Frey.

Adding to the fabulous night was the stunning Rachel Matkin, who like Mathers, has wowed North American audiences for years with her superb singing.

Matkin sang harmonies with Mathers on all three award winning albums The Cruzeros produced.

When the two sing together, the result is heaven-sent harmonies.

Several times during the evening the crowd was spellbound by the musical magic coming from the tiny stage.

Also performing were the talented Gidd and Betty-Anne Hampton, Chris Stanford, and Donna Mathers.

The over-the-top contribution came when  former original Cruzeros band member, Curtis Tulman, joined Mathers on stage. During their 25 years together as band mates, the duo of Mathers and Tulman turned many musical heads.

Tulman has also been named the Canadian Country Music Association’s Special Instrumentalist of the Year three times for his outstanding harmonica and saxophone playing.

We were reminded why that evening.

Like wine, Tulman and Mathers simply seem to improve with age. What an honour to be among the friends/fans that night. I have taken in a lot of concert performances over the years, and without question some of the best have evolved from quiet, intimate, spontaneous events such as this one.

Full tip of the hat to Ryan and music event partner Andre Wetjen who organize the live music nights at the Fed each week.

Tulman fans will have an opportunity to hear his guitar, harmonica, sax and vocal skills again next Thursday, Feb.4, back at The Fed.

Tulman will be joined on stage by another Cruzeros bandmate and long-time musical pal Gary Smyth. A tremendous guitarist, Smyth has recently released his own CD of original songs and continues to play guitar with other acts.

I can guarantee another great evening of music with those two on stage together.


I have received a number of comments from people wondering why I have not responded to some nasty shots written last week by Daily Courier scribe Ron Seymour regarding myself and other city councillors.

While serving on council, Kelowna Capital News managing editor Barry Gerding has asked me to not write about council issues in my column because it is unfair to the other council members who don’t have the same platform to express their opinions.

But for the record, while I really don’t give a rat’s behind what Seymour thinks or writes about me, I do believe he was over the top in his mean-spirited comments regarding fellow councillor and Kelowna Capital News columnist Maxine DeHart.


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