Report from a musical weekend in Fredericton
by Lorne Miller
Fredericton, home to the Harvest Jazz and Bluesfest, has now added the ECMAs to their festival successes. There were no empty seats and barely standing room at most venues playing host to the 20th Anniversary music extravaganza Feb 710. From the downtown bars and hotel lobbies to the Playhouse Theatre and the Aitken Centre arena, it was all music of all styles, all night, all weekend long.
Nova Scotia’s Joel Plaskett & Emergency may have walked away with the most awards (won 6 ECMAs), but PEI left its mark with 23 artists showcasing pop, rock, folk, celtic, bluegrass, country, blues, jazz, hip-hop, and grunge. At the Music PEI stages, held in a downtown club called Nicky Zees Music PEI president Rob Oakie commented “I heard around town that Nicky Zees is the place to be” and it was. Some of the artists taking the stage over two nights at Nicky Zees included up-and-comer Trinity Bradshaw, well-known fiddler Cynthia MacLeod, electric blues band The Blueprints, Eric Broadbent & Dead Airwaves, ECMA Nominees Chucky Danger, Tim Chaisson and Battery Point, first time ECMA Winner Two Hours Traffic (Pop Recording for Little Jabs), the very young band Boxer the Horse and Annapilla who were introduced as “swampy, grungy, and dirty” if not loud. Two Hours Traffic also performed at the Industry Awards Show at the Aikten Centre.
Despite being a beautiful, sunny and spring-like day, an afternoon “Songs & Writers” Stage soon saw Nicky Zees filled to capacity to hear newcomer Meaghan Blanchard, singer songwriter John Connolly, ECMA Bluegrass Recording winner Saddle River String Band, the country swing sounds of Nudie & The Turks, Catherine MacLellan and this year’s winner of Alternative Recording, Nathan Wiley, for The City Destroyed Me. Nathan also performed at the Awards Gala.
Faded Blue, a Halifax-based rock band with PEI’s Nick Gauthier and PEI’s Fugato, a diverse rock fusion band were just two of the acts at the 12-hour Discovery Stage at Sweetwaters. Fugato also rocked the stage at Nicky Zees. Many musicians were showcased at a variety of venues and could be seen packing down, setting up and hauling their equipment from hotel to bar stages and back. Some, like The Turks, at a moment’s notice, changed their clothes, grabbed their instruments and joined Nudie on stage during the afternoon Songs & Writers stage.
A highlight of the weekend was the sold-out Sunday Songwriters’ Circle hosted by multiple-award winner Lennie Gallant at the Playhouse. Musicians joining Lennie included New Brunswick’s “Kit” Gougeon, PEI’s Jenn Grant (2 ECMA nominations for Folk Recording and Female Solo Recording for Orchestra for the Moon), Newfoundland bluesman Roger Howse and SOCAN special guest, Martha Wainwright. Jenn said she is currently on the “can I actually do this and survive tour” and she “really didn’t want to be on an airplane anymore; she just wants to be on PEI dancing in the wind”. If you see the concrete sculptures along Highway 1 near the bridge, you will know what inspired Lennie’s hit “47 Angels on Her Front Lawn”. To the delightful surprise of the crowd, the crew of Barenaked East Coast Music! borrowed the audience to film Ron Hynes and Dave Gunning playing together. Watch also for Jenn Grant on the upcoming special about the 2008 ECMAs to be broadcast on CBC TV on March 2 with host Steven Page of Barenaked Ladies.
The Rising Star Showcase invited PEI’s unique word artist Tanya Davis, and Tim Chaisson (ECMA nominee for Pop Recording of the Year for Even) to play the stage at the Crowne Plaza. Definitely two young PEI rising stars.
Doug Gallant, ECMA winner for Media Person of the Year, was seen around town at many of the venues, including the PEI Music Stages.
Vishten took home the honours (and a $5,000 cheque) for Francophone Rising Star and Rose Cousins beat out 4 others including Jenn Grant, and won Female Solo Recording of the Year for If You Were For Me. The Tremtones, formed in 1957, were honoured with the Stompin’ Tom Connors Award, representing PEI.
Cornerbrook, Newfoundland has a hard act to follow as 2009 ECMA host city, but we’re looking forward to it already.