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Iconic Canadian band Northern Pikes Sunday at the Krossing


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There was a time when the Northern Pikes were one of the hottest bands in the country. It was a time of Blue Rodeo and Grapes of Wrath.  The Pikes are all Saskatoon lads who formed in 1984. After 4 years of relentless bars, clubs and demos, they rose to stardom across North America with the release of 1987’s Big Blue Sky.  Hit singles like “Teenland”, “Things I Do For Money” and “Dancing In A Danceclub” brought the band’s music to a whole new audience as they became regulars on Much Music and MTV.

I met Jay Semko when in 1987 I moved to Saskatoon to launch a brand new TV station; what is now Global television. Personable, humble, polite, and quiet; he didn’t seem like a typical rockstar. I was already a fan of the band and meeting Jay cemented my interest.  I was further hooked the moment I heard Crystal Taliefero of John Mellencamp fame wail at the 1:12 mark of the song “Girl With a Problem”. When I saw the band in concert, I was blown away by their energy and musicianship. They epitomized the hope and promise that the prairies have always held for me. They can do it. So can all of us!

The Northern Pikes have been part of musical fabric in this country for more than 3 decades. In that time, they’ve toured the world, pursued solo projects, notably Jay Semko who in the early 90’s wrote the theme song for what would become Canada’s most successful internationally syndicated TV series, “Due South”.  The series was the first Canadian-made drama to debut and air on a major network in the USA (CBS-TV). More than 65 episodes were made from 1993-98.

Jay has 10 solo releases and has recorded with such music luminaries as Garth Hudson (The Band), John Sebastian (Lovin’ Spoonful), Crystal Taliefero (known for her work with John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen, etc), Margo Timmins (Cowboy Junkies), Melanie Doane, Ashley MacIsaac, Ken Greer (of Red Rider and the Road Hammers), Bob Egan (of Wilco and Blue Rodeo fame), Serena Ryder, Patricia Conroy, Matt Andersen and Greg Godovitz (Goddo), and worked in the studio with Grammy-winning engineers/producers/mixers Bob Clearmountain, Hugh Padgham, Ed Stasium, and Bob Ludwig.

The Pikes bring their special 30th anniversary edition of their debut album, Big Blue Sky to The Krossing. I know that I, for one, will be right there in the front soaking up some of the most iconic songs Canada produced in the late part of the last century, performed by a band with energy and enthusiasm that is surpassed only by their longevity.


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President Todayville Inc., Honorary Colonel 41 Signal Regiment, Board Member Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Award Foundation, Director Canadian Forces Liaison Council (Alberta) musician, photographer, former VP/GM CTV Edmonton.

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CRTC renews CBC licensing for another five years, tweaks its mandate

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By Sarah Ritchie in Ottawa

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission said Wednesday that it is renewing CBC’s licensing, with tweaks to its mandate that will make it spend money on programming produced by people with disabilities, Indigenous and racialized people and the LGBTQ community.

It’s also clarifying that it “expects the CBC to maintain local, regional and national news broadcasts in a crisis or emergency on all of its audiovisual and audio services.”

That’s in response to the broadcaster’s decision to replace local supper-hour and late newscasts across the country with its national programming in the early days of the pandemic.

CBC said at the time that it was dealing with staffing issues as some workers were off sick with COVID-19 and others were in isolation. The CRTC noted in its decision that the pandemic has increased demand for news, and “Canadians expect the CBC to disseminate and make available information in the event of an emergency.”

The CRTC is dropping the requirement for CBC to maintain minimum thresholds of local programming in urban markets where Canadians have multiple options, but it’s maintaining those thresholds in rural parts of the country.

The CBC asked to reduce the number of hours of local TV programming it needs to air per week in its English markets across the board, and to make that up in digital content.

The CRTC noted that actual hours of local programming on English TV stations dropped between 2014 and 2020, although they still meet the minimum requirements.

It said there is a higher risk that less local news would be broadcast in non-metropolitan markets if those requirements are dropped, naming “difficult access to high-speed internet” and “the lack of news bureaus in non-metropolitan areas” as reasons.

The commission says there has been a great deal of change in the media landscape since 2013, the last time the licence was renewed, and it’s making changes to the CBC mandate to align with that.

It’s setting out new rules to ensure the difference between news and information programming and “branded content” or advertising is clearly distinguished.

CBC will need to submit new reports to the CRTC on a range of topics including workforce diversity, privacy issues and perception and consultation.

The CRTC decision also noted the CBC’s digital streaming services for audio and video didn’t exist, or didn’t exist in their current form, when the last licensing agreement was made.

“As part of its proposal, the CBC requested that it be able to count hours of content exhibited on some of its (digital media broadcasting undertakings) toward meeting its overall content exhibition requirements,” the decision said.

However, the commission is instead including that digital content in the broadcaster’s spending requirements on Canadian programming, giving the CBC the flexibility to count the cost of online content toward those quotas.

CBC and Radio-Canada’s president and CEO said the broadcaster welcomes the CRTC announcement.

“We’re pleased that the CRTC has, for the first time ever, recognized the significant contribution of our digital streaming services … to the Canadian content ecosystem,” Catherine Tait said in a statement on Wednesday.

The main outcomes covered by the mandate include programming for Indigenous Peoples and diverse Canadians; creating and supporting access to Canadian content; ensuring access to local, regional and national news and information; accessibility of content; and accountability and transparency to the public.

Licences for radio, TV and multiplatform content in both English and French are valid until August 2027.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 22, 2022.

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Cineplex introduces $1.50 booking fee for online ticket purchases

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TORONTO — Moviegoers could be paying a little extra for a seat at a Cineplex theatre this summer.

Canada’s largest film exhibitor says it has introduced a new $1.50 booking fee that applies to each ticket purchased through its mobile app and website.

The move comes as Cineplex representative Sarah Van Lange says the company looks to “further invest and evolve our digital infrastructure,” including website upgrades.

However, not everyone will have to pay the new service charge.

Cineplex Inc. says purchases made in-person at the box office, ticket kiosks, or concession stands will not be subject to the fee, while members of the Scene Plus rewards program will pay a reduced $1 per ticket.

Members of CineClub, the company’s monthly subscription program, will have the fee waived.

Service charges are a long-standing practice in the entertainment industry where concerts, live theatre and sporting events all add some form of a “convenience fee” to collect more revenue.

When Cineplex first introduced online ticket sales years ago, it charged a similar processing fee for each ticket. Eventually it eliminated the charge around the same time it began encouraging moviegoers to buy tickets in advance instead of waiting in line at the box office.

More recently, Cineplex has dabbled in other upcharge experiments that included charging an extra $2 for “prime seats” at a few of its busier theatres. It also tacked on an extra $1 to reserve seats at showings of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” in 2017.

In the United States, most of the largest theatre chains already charge a fee for online ticket purchases.

Earlier this year U.S. chain AMC Theatres went a step further when it began testing “variable pricing” for tickets to the anticipated DC Comics movie “The Batman.” The new cost added around US$1.50 to each ticket in some cities.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 21, 2022.

David Friend, The Canadian Press

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