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MUSIC NOTES: Vote for Surrey’s Stevens in Top of the Country contest; ‘Bomb’ at Bully’s

Music views and news for Surrey and Metro Vancouver
Tony Stevens in the video for his new song “Days Like This.” (Photo:

Voting has started in SiriusXM’s sixth annual Top of the Country contest, involving Surrey’s Tony Stevens among the eight semifinalists.

Voting done on will give Stevens a chance to win $25,000, a songwriting trip to Nashville and other prizes. A contest winner will be crowned in September.

The contest website showcases Stevens’ catchy, power chord-crunching song, “Days Like This,” and video of him performing with a band.

• RELATED: Near-death accident in his wake, Surrey musician aims for Top of Country crown.

Stevens, 39, is one of two B.C. contestants in SiriusXM’s contest, along with Vernon resident Zach McPhee. The other six semifinalists are from Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba. They’ve all recorded an original track to be shared with the public, in hopes of collecting enough online votes to advance to the next round of the contest.

If he wins, Stevens would follow in the footsteps of fellow Surrey musician Tyler Joe Miller, who won the 2021 SiriusXM Top of the Country contest.

Calm Like a Bomb guitarist Johnny Peralta raises a fist at Bully’s studio in New Westminster on April 13, 2024. (Photo: Tom Zillich)


Talk about a blast from the past.

Local band Calm Like a Bomb explodes with the ’90s sounds of Rage Against the Machine, featuring Niko Condonopolous on the mic, Johnny Peralta on guitar, Mike Greene, bass, and Victor Escoto, drums. The quartet rocked April 6 at Bully’s rehearsal studio and performance space in New Westminster as openers for the good grunge of Nirvana tribute Seafoam Shame (the band name is an obscure lyric from “All Apologies”).

Rob Leishman’s evolving, renovated studio is a great space for such gigs. Several others are on the calendar this month including original music (April 23 featuring Vampires and Leeches, Blackmarket Fossible, Growlix and Knox) and more tributes (Our Name is Mud, playing bass-driven Primus on April 25). Check out the latest on

• RELATED: Morello memories: Surrey musician’s story about autographed guitar is all the Rage.

Calm Like a Bomb’s T-shirt. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

Appropriately, Calm Like a Bomb’s cool baseball T-shirts feature a photo of Che Guevara. Surrey’s Peralta designed the price tag like only he could, in the Costco style. The “product number” is 110392, a clever nod to the release date of Rage Against the Machine’s killer debut album back on Nov. 3, 1992 (with “Killing in the Name,” etc.).


On the rainy, miserable Monday night of April 8, we drove all the way to Mission to catch a Van Halen “experience” called Jump, and hell yeah, it was worth the hour-long drive.

Rob Warwick’s Rock.It Boy Entertainment booked the Toledo, Ohio-based foursome at the 702-seat Clarke Theatre, located in a school (not unlike Surrey’s Bell Performing Arts Centre).

Jump’s singer screams David Lee Roth circa 1984, with all the high kicks, leaps off the drum riser, sword play and yelps aplenty. At age 30 he’s the oldest in a band of players, youngest among them a 19-year-old drummer. They’re touring the world, having a blast and making Van Halen fans happy to hear the ol’ classics in concert. Gotta love it.

C’mon Rob, give us a break and book Jump at a Surrey-area venue soon.

Cover of Chris Wong’s new book.


Boasting 605 pages, Chris Wong’s weighty new book “Journeys To The Bandstand” chronicles 30 jazz lives in Vancouver, including Surrey-raised musicians Jodi Proznick and Amanda Tosoff, who united in 2022 to form The Ostara Project as a showcase for top female jazzers. Both were schooled at Semiahmoo Secondary and are from incredibly musical families.

Wong’s book, self-published with Friesen Press, features stories of jazz musicians both known and not so. Among others I was drawn to the adventures of sax legend Ornette Coleman (“the man with the plastic saxophone”) and “angry man” bassist Charles Mingus, who confronted a few B.C. Lions football players at the original Cellar jazz club on a cold night in 1961.

Also look for chapters about Hugh Fraser, Langley-raised Brad Turner, Kate Hammett-Vaughan, Cory Weeds (“the hardest working man in jazz business,” in two chapters), Dr. Lonnie Smith and many others.

Writes Wong, self-described “lifelong music nerd,” in the book’s intro: “What I didn’t know (when starting to research and write the book): I would become full-on, hopelessly obsessed with finding out every arcane detail about the artists gathered in these pages, whether they are living or long gone. Those myriad facts are puzzle pieces that — even though some pieces are missing — form portraits of extraordinary people with a hunger for jazz and other creative artforms, a determination to overcome struggles, and a deep joy for creating profound expression.”

Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news stories for the Surrey Now-Leader, where I've worked for more than half of my 30-plus years in the newspaper business.
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