By Keith Sharp
At a time when major festivals like Pemberton are going bankrupt, the weak Canadian dollar is preventing an influx of U.S artists and the number of events set to be staged in honour of Canada’s 150th birthday is seriously diluting the domestic talent pool, Peterborough Musicfest continues to roll out it’s free twice weekly concert series which this year runs from July 1st to August 26th.
Ever since local rancher, Fred Anderson initiated the first free festival in 1986, Peterborough has maintained it’s legacy, operating free shows on Wednesday and Saturday during the summer at scenic Del Crary Park.
“This will be the 31st year of continuing Fred Anderson’s legacy,” noted General Manager Tracey Randall, who heads up a team which not only books the talent but cultivates the corporate sponsors who fund the 17-date schedule. “Over the years we have built up a consistent audience and our on-going challenge is to keep everyone happy. We do know that we don’t usually attract that 28-38 year demographic but if we started catering to a young audience then we’d lose the regulars.”
Which means Randall stays focused on classic rock artists like Kim Mitchell and Tom Cochrane, Country artists like Vancouver’s Washboard Union and Jason McCoy (from the Road Hammers) and tribute bands such as Elton Rohn, Absolute Journey and Abbamania/Night Fever. “Our crowd loves to sing along to tribute bands,” notes Randall.
Yet in her efforts to freshen up each year’s line-up, Randall continues to try different things, this year bringing in World Music guitarist Jesse Cook and two a cappella groups; Country music’s Home Free and pop music group EH440. “So we will have a musician who doesn’t sing and two vocal groups who don’t play any musical instruments, should be interesting,” she cracks.
Randall has added a new wrinkle in the appearance of Peterborough’s Symphony Orchestra, a younger crowd will be interested in the likes of Saskatoon’s Sheepdogs, The Philosopher Kings and The Rheostatics and she feels the biggest draw will be an appearance by Edmonton’s Ruth B. who is now residing in Nashville.
“When we had Serena Ryder and Carly Rae Jepson we pulled 16,000 people into our festival and I am hoping that Ruth B. will have the same impact,” noted Randall. “By the time she plays the park, she will have three new singles and a new album out, so people here should know who she is”.
Randall explained that she had to wait on a radius ruling from Orillia’s Mariposa Festival before knowing if she could book Ruth B. and says that those same radius restrictions have cost her other bookings. “Because we are a free festival, other festivals charging $200-$300 a ticket won’t release bands, it’s a problem we continue to face as new festivals continue to spring up in this region.”
Previous festival guests have included Blue Rodeo, Colin James, Gowan, Platinum Blonde, The Box, Tegan and Sara and Cold Creek County to name a few, but most of these bands are now out of her budget range. “Serena Ryder grew up around here, she packed the park but we couldn’t possibly afford her now,” Randall bemoaned. “Still we have a loyal audience, we have a great location and facility and it’s a pretty special place for artists to perform, we just have to be creative each year to keep our lineup fresh and interesting.”
Peterborough Music Fest 2017 Lineup:
Saturday July 1st Kim Mitchell
Wednesday July 5th Jesse Cook
Saturday July 8th Tom Cochrane & Red Rider
Wednesday July 12th Ruth B
Saturday July 15th Peterborough Symphony Orchestra
Wednesday July 19th Stephen Stanley Band/The Kents
Saturday July 22nd Absolute Journey
Wednesday July 26th Home Free
Saturday July 29th Elton Rohn
Wednesday August 2nd TBA
Saturday August 5th EH440
Wednesday August 9th Washboard Union
Saturday August 12th The Philosopher Kings
Wednesday August 16th The Sheepdogs
Saturday August 19th Abbamania/Night Fever
Wednesday August 23rd The Rheostatics
Saturday August 26th Jason McCoy