River City Magic casts a spell on Zack’s

Zack’s coffee house is making a name for itself as a venue for the local music scene.

A double shot of Kamloops talent, The Caspians and River City Magic, filled Zack’s coffee house with original music on Feb. 7.

(Kim Anderson/The Omega)

(Kim Anderson/The Omega)

The Caspians are a young band that just radiates coolness. They played a mix of original tunes like “I drank the wine,” which is a song about getting wine drunk at a house party (I can’t express how much I relate to this song).

There are certain bands that are near impossible to cover properly. Whether it’s karaoke night or friends rehearsing in a basement, if you choose to attempt a Red Hot Chili Peppers song, you’d best know what you’re doing and you better do it right. The Caspians, however, absolutely nailed it. Keep an eye and ear out for big things from this young group.

River City Magic took the stage after The Caspians and rocked out with all original songs. As with many bands, it’s tough to fit them neatly into one genre.

“We have influences from rhythm and blues, country, western and old rock ‘n’ roll and try to make it somehow relevant now. It’s not a derivative,” guitar-wielding frontman JP Lancaster told me. “You’ll never do those old genres better than they did, so you have to find ways to be influenced by them and make it modern.”

A respect for the genres and artists who have come before them fuels the group’s earned sound. An array of musical tastes and talents have come together and united them for a common cause: to rock.

River City Magic is at an interesting point in its life as a group. Each of the band members has an established career and is pursuing music solely out of passion and commitment.

(Kim Anderson/The Omega)

(Kim Anderson/The Omega)

“We all have career jobs now. I’m 31, so the likelihood of us doing this full time at this stage in our lives is pretty minimal,” Lancaster said. “But, I love playing music. I want it to be in my life whether I’m 31, 51, 61, right?”

The love of the craft is evident from the get-go with this group. River City Magic has been playing together with its current lineup for about two years, but their chemistry suggests a longer relationship. Throughout their set, they were perfectly in sync and seamlessly on pace with one another.

Despite the tight space, they managed to get the crowd dancing and jamming along with them. A small pack of fans gathered in front of them, fearlessly rocking out. Their contagious tunes spilled out onto the street, and several pedestrians stopped, filmed them for a while, danced, applauded and head-banged on the sidewalk.

The low-key venue provided fans an opportunity to stand feet from the band and get as close as they wanted. Lancaster is grateful for Zack’s and the opportunities the venue provides for local artists.

“Venues are a bit of a challenge. It’s awesome to have a space like Zack’s. The owner, Andrew, is very knowledgeable of music. Outside of a place like this or the Grind, Kamloops is sorely lacking a good venue. The people are there, the community is there, we just need a few more places [to play],” he said.

With no shortage of homegrown talent in Kamloops, local artists are in need of more venues to accommodate them. There is a sharp divide between smaller, intimate shows and the step up to the larger venues in town.

Exposure is often the most challenging aspect of playing in a local band. At- tempting to reach as many ears as possible is not easy without a label. Recording, promotion, management – all tasks are divided among the group.

(Kim Anderson/The Omega)

(Kim Anderson/The Omega)

Local shows, like this one that feature admission by donation, no alcohol sales, small merch tables (with stuff you can actually afford to buy), and people who make the journey out purely for the love of music, are a far cry from the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, spilled drinks, rowdy fans and bank-breaking expenses that generally are attached to big-name talent and large venues.

There is something fascinating about being able to stand just feet from a performer and watch them do their thing. It’s rewarding and charming to visit with and shake a musician’s hand following a show and express a genuine appreciation for their work. Live music fans in Kamloops should take advantage of these smaller scale shows and embrace the growing community that is the local music scene.

As long as River City Magic continues to play their own brand of high-energy, upbeat and groovy jams, they should have no problem keeping up and building their fan base here in Kamloops.