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YEAR IN REVIEW: Record low note, tour of rapper Merkules’ old Surrey house among entertaining stories

It was also fun to dig into the Cloverdale-area history of ‘Hot Rod,’ the lovably goofy 2007 comedy starring Andy Samberg
Surrey-raised rapper Merkules outside the Green Timbers-area house where he grew up. (File photo: Tom Zillich)

Despite pandemic-triggered gathering restrictions and some closed venues during the year, there were some memorable moments on the Surrey entertainment beat in 2021.

• Surrey’s Sounds of Summer music series was hot – so hot, all five of the outdoor concerts sold out before the first note was played on a Thursday evening in August. All 500 of the free tickets – 100 per performance – were snapped up by those who pre-booked them online. The series launched with a performance by Top City at Clovedale’s Museum of Surrey. Meantime, Surrey’s Summer POP! series of “performances outdoors in parks” continued until mid-September at Glades Garden, Bear Creek Park, Darts Hill Gardens and other sites.

A global hit song, “Umbrella,” performed by Indian singer/actor Diljit Dosanjh, had several Surrey connections, including lyricist Chani Nattan, musician Intense and video production company HzDz Visuals. Surrey sites and people also have prominent roles in “Honsla Rakh,” a Punjabi-language comedy (“be patient” in English) that stars Dosanjh as a divorced father looking for love while raising his son on his own.

• Cloverdale teen Dylan Kingwell filmed close to home as Teenage Clark in scenes for The CW’s “Superman & Lois” TV drama, on the “Smallville” town backlot built on Cloverdale Fairgrounds, on 64th Avenue near 177B Street. Over the past decade-plus, Dylan played hockey in the nearby arena. He filmed a couple of episodes of “Superman & Lois,” including the pilot that debuted in February.

Singer Joy Chapman became a world-record holder after hitting a very deep 33.57-hertz C1 note. In a video, Chapman introduces herself as a 52-year-old Surrey resident who works as a singer, songwriter and tribute artist, and her world record is one way for Chapman to get noticed in the music world. “About a year ago, I was just doing scales and vocal training, and through the years I noticed different vocal coaches kind of freaking out as I’m going down the vocal scale, that it was creeping them out,” Chapman recalled with a laugh.

• It was fun to dig into the Cloverdale-area history of “Hot Rod,” the lovably goofy 2007 comedy movie that stars Andy Samberg as amateur stuntman Rod Kimble, who jumps his sputtering moped from home-built ramps. One memorable scene saw hundreds of people march in Cloverdale’s town centre before a riot breaks out. In her mid-teens at the time, Brittany Tiplady’s single scene was filmed near her home. She plays Maggie, the girl who offers beverages to the gang just as Rod is submerged in a backyard pool, as a test of his lung capacity.

• Surrey Civic Theatres’ virtual staging of “1 Hour Photo” represented a homecoming of sorts for Tetsuro Shigematsu, who wrote and stars in the Governor General’s Award-nominated drama. A pre-recorded film of the solo show hit the city’s Digital Stage in April, as part of a series designed “to help people staying home connect with the performing arts” during the pandemic. “You know, I’m just this Japanese kid who grew up in Whalley,” Shigematsu said, “and to be able to go all over the world with these shows is significant. But to come back to my hometown like this, my old stomping grounds, yeah, that really feels like coming full-circle, something I had never anticipated doing. That’s really cool for me.”

• I was fortunate to meet up with Merkules (born Cole Stevenson) at the rapper’s old house on 90A Avenue, in Green Timbers, before the place was demolished. “This is where I wrote my first raps, recorded my first song on a PlayStation mic, where my parents took all my friends in as their own children,” he posted to his 1.1 million followers on Facebook. “So much history here. It’s the end of an era. RIP to the old crib in Green Timbers.” The house is where Merkules honed his rapping skills during a period of isolation there, following a brutal attack he suffered at age 16, while walking home from a New Year’s Eve party.

(Story continues below video of Merkules at former Surrey home)

• At an age when some artists put down their brushes and retire, Jim Adams is earning new appreciation for his acrylic paintings. “It’s taken awhile for my work to gain traction,” agreed the White Rock resident, who turned 78 in October. Closing Jan. 3 at Vancouver Art Gallery, the “Vancouver Special: Disorientations and Echo” group exhibit features several paintings by Adams among the 30-plus featured artists.

Surrey’s Tyler Joe Miller won $25,000 as top performer in SiriusXM’s Top of the Country contest. In November, he performed at London Music Hall in Ontario, capping a two-year contest journey that began with submissions from musicians across Canada. He won by accumulating audience votes and impressing a panel of judges.

• A Surrey City Orchestra-made video featured a hard-working bee, a violin/piano duo and the look of a retro Disney-style cartoon. “The Bee” clip buzzes with 83 seconds of animation by Kenny Hawksworth and Francois Schubert’s music, performed by Ellen Farrugia and Linda Szentes. The video saluted World Food Safety Day in June. “For this bee, it’s been a rough day,” says a post on Youtube. “Rain, pesticides and angry onlookers won’t stop him from pollinating the plants we love and depend on.”

• At the end of June, a “public goodbye event” was held at Surrey Little Theatre after the company merged with Langley Players drama club to become Langley Little Theatre. The new company’s home stage is the 80-seat Langley Playhouse, renovated with cash from the sale of Surrey Little Theatre’s building and land, on 184th Street in the Clayton area. Merger talks between the two volunteer-run companies began in early 2020, and continued as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down live-theatre productions locally.

• Surrey’s Ashvin Dayal added his name to the growing list of “fan-made” filmmakers. The Queen Elizabeth Secondary graduate, 21, focused on the Batman character to write and direct “Rise of the Bat,” an 18-minute movie posted to Youtube in March.

• Known as Babylung since he started smoking pot at a young age, musician Joash Almeda mixed R&B, hip-hop and gospel on To Live And Die In Surrey, an album he created during the pandemic. Years earlier, the former Holy Cross High School-er was concussed while playing football. “It happened during a game when I was playing against Chase Claypool,” he said, referring to the Abbotsford-raised receiver now playing with the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers. “I remember hitting him and not feeling right, and then I was involved in another tackle, and that was it.” Circa 2016, the brain injury prompted him to retreat from sports and begin creating music.

• A film that offers rare insight and voice for parents of gay and lesbian South Asians is the debut feature-length documentary made by its Surrey-based director. November was busy for Vinay Giridhar and his “Emergence: Out of the Shadows,” screened at local festivals including Surrey’s Vancouver International South Asian Film Festival. Filmed in and around Surrey, the compelling, brave movie sheds light on three South Asian adults (Kayden, Jag and Amar) and their stories of growing up gay.

• Newton’s popular “House of Horrors” began operating under a new name. The month-long Halloween event at Potter’s garden centre was renamed Cougar Creek’s House of Horrors, following the sale of the business to some longtime employees. In December, a new “Xmas of Chaos” attraction offered a “twisted take on Christmas,” for teens and adults.

• Last spring at a Panorama Ridge-area studio/office, filmmakers Gigi Saul Guerrero and Raynor Shima put the finishing touches on “Bingo Hell,” a feature movie for streaming – and screaming – on Amazon Prime Video. The “Welcome to the Blumhouse” series debuted their horror flick on Oct. 1.

• For the first time in 22 years, Cloverdale’s Bose Corn Maze didn’t operate in August/September. The family’s 25-acre cornfield labyrinth, first opened in 1999, was shelved due to COVID-related uncertainties. In July, Mike Bose said it costs $6,000 “just to open the gates,” for extra fertilizer, design costs and maintenance. “And if everything gets shut down again and we end up not being able to open, or we’re restricted to a certain number of people like we were last year, it doesn’t make sense financially. It’s a lot of work for us that would go to waste, too.”

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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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