Bill’s Best Bets: Danish keyboardist Johannes Bjerregaard returns to Cactus after cancer battle

Johannes Bjerregaard returns to Cactus

Despite their musical consistency, it’s not often one of the rock ’n’ roll tribute concerts downtown at the Cactus Theater, 1812 Buddy Holly Ave., might lead off our Best Bets.

This weekend, however, there is a spirit-lifting reason to check out a live concert tribute to the music of Fleetwood Mac, Whitesnake and Foreigner at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Those enjoying two hours of 1970s and ’80s grooves will enjoy vocals by Jason Fellers, Dustin Garrett, Avery Guyear, Jeff McCreight and Haley Simpson. Reserved seats are $20, plus service charge, or $40 (includes concessions) in the balcony box.

Important: The backing Caldwell Collective Band this week finds Danish keyboardist Johannes Bjerregaard (pronounced Bee-ah-go-ah) rejoining, for the first time in six months, fellow band members: Don Caldwell, saxophone; Tony Garcia, drums; Garrett, lead guitar; Ryan Garza, percussion, Mark Morgan, guitar and Ross Raedeke, bass guitar,

Bjerregard left his native Denmark and returned to the United States, Lubbock and his family on April 3. He had packed, as he put it, “my last week of chemo pills in my luggage.”

He had labored as pianist and band leader for Don Caldwell-produced concerts at the Cactus Theater and elsewhere. Just prior to the fall of 2018, however, a mass was removed from an area near his colon. Half of the 14 lymph nodes examined were cancerous. Diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer and lacking medical insurance, he was compelled to leave his family and return to Denmark for treatment.

“In Denmark, you need only prove citizenship and medical treatment is provided,” he explained.

The past six months in Denmark, Bjerregaard told Lubbock Lights this week, involved primarily supplemental medical treatment to minimize the risk of cancer’s reappearance. “Doctors in Denmark are very focused on avoiding permanent side effects from chemo treatments which, if you read the data sheets, can be quite scary,” he said.

Johannes said his family – wife Amber and their two children – depended on “generous donations from Lubbockites and good people from all over the world to keep a roof over our heads while I was away.”

The Cactus Theater became a second home in Lubbock, but Bjerregaard told Lubbock Lights, “These past six months have taught me to appreciate life, and live not only for the special days, but to treasure every moment. I reconnected fondly with my family in Denmark, and had time to live slowly and learn new skills. I am feeling recharged and ready to get to work.”

Caldwell’s reaction?

“Johannes coming back to the Cactus is a blessing for all of us who have grown to love and respect him as a man and an artist. He is in great shape and feeling great. For sure, there will be magic on stage Saturday night. Johannes is one of the finest musicians to ever call Lubbock home. We all love him.”

Free screening of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”

Among the most jaw-dropping surprises on the morning of Jan. 22, when Academy Award nominations were announced, was the total absence of two strong feature-length documentaries: “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” and “Three Identical Strangers.”

Of the two, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” had been considered a lock to win. Instead, it was not even nominated.

This documentary tells the story of childhood icon Fred Rogers, i.e. the star of PBS television program “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.”  For more than 30 years, American children grew up with Fred Rogers providing a calm and stable presence, tackling life’s weightiest issues for them in a simple and direct manner. The film was directed by former documentary Oscar winner Morgan Neville, and it already had become the highest grossing film among all documentary contenders.

The film focuses on Fred Rogers’ legacy of kindness, and the profound influence his on-camera decisions had on millions of children.

Thus, another of this weekend’s Best Bet is the free – that’s right, free! – screening of the movie “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, on the Firehouse Theatre screen at LHUCA, 511 Ave. K. The screening is open to the general public. It is part of the KTTZ Indie Lens Screening series.

Texas Tech Mariachi Ensemble Concert

Admittedly, I tried, but had no luck tracking down the faculty member in charge, the names of Mariachi Ensemble members or even the program for the concert.

That said, mariachi music is fun and Tech’s Mariachi Ensemble will perform in concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Hemmle Recital Hall at the Texas Tech School of Music, 2624 W. 18th St. on campus.

The concert is open to the general public, all ages, at no charge.

The Vandoliers

Look for Metroplex-based alternative country recording act The Vandoliers to headline at 11 p.m. Friday at Blue Light Live, 1806 Buddy Holly Ave. Cory Branan will open the show at 10 p.m., with doors opening at 9 p.m. Tickets are $12 at the door, with the show limited to fans age 21 and older. Call 762-1185 for more details.

The band was formed in 2015 by Joshua “Fireball” Fleming, lead vocalist and acoustic guitarist, after breaking up his Fort Worth-based punk trio The Phuss and recovering from an eye infection that left him close to blind for two months. Helped by producer John Pedigo, Fleming, having accepted similarities between country and punk, put together a Metroplex supergroup by hiring musicians from respected folk and metal groups Whiskey Folk Ramblers, Vinyl, Revolution Nine and Armadillo Creek.

The Vandoliers recorded two studio albums for State Fair Records, then recently finished a third for Bloodshot Records. The six-piece band has toured with the likes of Reverend Horton Heat and Old 97s.

Texas Tech softball and baseball games

Mind you, this weekend includes Easter Sunday, so expect no games on campus Sunday afternoon. All the more reason to rush out and buy available tickets for Friday and Saturday contests.

The Tech Tech Lady Raiders softball team is 33-8 overall, with a 12-5 home record before Thursday’s game. However, they struck for 28 runs while sweeping all three games at Baylor last weekend, playing exciting softball. This weekend’s softball games pit the Lady Raiders vs. Kansas, with games at 6 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday at Rocky Johnson Field, 1002 Cancer Center Drive. Call 742-8324 for ticket details.

Meanwhile, at Dan Law Field at Rip Griffin Park, 2901 Drive of Champions, the Tech Red Raiders baseball team will work to improve its already impressive home record with games at 6:30 p.m. Friday, and again at 2 p.m. Saturday, against the Baylor Bears. The Red Raiders sport a 23-12 season mark and, prior to Thursday’s Baylor opener, enjoyed a 15-5 record on their home field. Again, ticket details are available by calling 742-8324.