Les Finnigan’s 13th Annual West Coast Guitar Night at the Cultch

It’s 1:00am, I’ve armed myself with a hot plate of shepherd’s pie and a pint of Irish lager. An odd sort of meal to have at this time of night I’m sure, but in my defense it was in the fridge, it’s fall, and I greatly needed the sustenance after forgoing a proper meal to secure a ticket to Vancouver’s premier showcase of talented acoustic guitarists – West Coast Guitar Night.

West Coast Guitar Night is an annual event, the brainchild of innovative Vancouver based acoustic guitarist Les Finnigan. If you haven’t attended and you appreciate solo guitar work, at the risk of not getting a ticket next year, I’m still encouraging you to go to this great event. This West Coast Guitar night like many before it was hosted at the Vancouver East Cultural Center (The Cultch) a great venue for an intimate performance. What a treat it was to be in the balcony as the lighting dimmed and the first ethereal notes began to fill the theatre.  Here is how the evening went down.

13th Annual West Coast Guitar Night Programme (art by Valeria)

13th Annual West Coast Guitar Night Programme (art by Valeria)


The first guitarist to take the stage after Les’s warm welcome was Kent Hillman – Kent played a mix of jazz standards on nylon string guitar in his own unique style. A very fine introduction to the evening.

Next up was Hanh Nguyen who played beautiful classical guitar that nearly brought me to tears. Hanh dedicated her performance to her mother who was a day away from celebrating her 86th birthday. I briefly chatted with Hanh after the show and learned she also did stained glass art and that one of her pieces was on display at the Lees olde fashioned chocolate shop which I used to stop in on occasionally for their delicious chocolate mint bars.

The last performer leading up to the intermission was Les Finnigan. I served coffee to Les for a few years and got to know him and his lovely wife Valeria. I’m a big fan of Les’s work – so much so I asked him to play at my wedding. Even though I know him I’m still a little starstruck talking to him after a performance. Les delivered a great set of his more  rhythmical pieces.  Les also announced he has been hard at work notating his compositions and many of them are now available for purchase.  So if you’ve been puzzled using only your ears – here’s the help you need – I’ve seen him play up close and I still definitely need the sheet music!

After the intermission, Edgar Avelino took the stage. Edgar is a man who professed to be working on album #0. I really enjoyed how he spoke of song history and his rendition of a composition from the Philippines a place where he spend his much of his childhood. Although not a ‘working’ musician he certainly has dedicated much of his time to attain the skill of one.

Simon Fox took the stage next. I was first made aware of Simon’s excellent guitar works by podcaster friend Rich Wielgosz (Bloodthirsty Vegetarians) and when I saw that Simon had relocated to Vancouver from Australia, I was excited to get a chance to see him play live. Simon’s effortless work on the fretboard and his gentle comedy won me over instantly. I’m not the type of person to hang out after the gig and chat with the performers – I’m usually to shy for that sort of thing but Rich said he’d kick my ass if I didn’t get a picture for him with Simon in it, I had to man up. I told this to Simon who immediately smiled at the mention of Rich and his podcast and obliged for the photo and left me with his 3 cd set which provided excellent company for my 1 hour drive back home. Look for review of these CD’s in a future post.

Finally, ending off the night was the double axe attack of flamenco/jazz/metal guitarists John Gilliat & Benjamin Woods. Their percussive rasgueados and lightning fast runs up and down the neck were impressive. I’d also nominate them for most comedic song choice of the evening by covering Yngwie Malmsteen’s I am a Viking.

And so after the hall emptied and the chatter with the artists came to a close, it was time to head for home. I hopped in the car with new musical inspirations and an annual event to add to my calendar. See you all next year at the 14th Annual West Coast Guitar Night. 🙂

Oh – and here’s one of my souvenirs from the evening.  Thanks Simon and Les for being good sports – you rock my world.

Les Finnigan, Me and Simon Fox

Les Finnigan, Me and Simon Fox