Maritime music festivals may be defined by the crowd-pulling Cavendish Beach Music Festival staged every July at this scenic Prince Edward Island venue (this year July 5-7 featuring the likes of Carrie Underwood, Eric Church, Russell Dickenson and Co) but even as Cavendish takes aim at 2020, there’s still a number of key festivals to be staged in the coming days and weeks.
With it’s challenged economy and routing difficulties from mainstream Ontario, Quebec and Western Canadian festivals, organizing an event in the Maritimes comes with its own unique challenges. And although a number of key events have come and gone, there are a number of organizers have stuck to their guns and continued to stage top-notch events which brings tourism and an economic boost to these communities.
Of prime interest is the Rock The Hub event to be staged August 23-25 at the newly refurbished Civic Square at downtown Truro to be preceded by a two-day Country Rocks The Hub on August 16-17. Then there’s New Glasgow’s three-day Riverfront Jubilee on August 2-4, sandwiched in between, a one day Rock The Boat rock festival at Tyne Valley PEI August 3rd, the Harvest Jazz And Blues Festival in Fredericton, New Brunswick, about to celebrate it’s 29th year and two festivals in Newfoundland, the famous George Street Festival, going into its 35th year August 1-7 featuring the likes of The Trews, Sam Roberts, Randy Bachman, James Barker Band and City And Colour while the Iceberg Alley Festival runs nightly from September 11 until September 21 at their Quidi Vidi Lake location featuring top acts like Loverboy, Glorious Sons, Metric, The Waterboys, Alan Doyle, Tim Hicks and Poison’s Brent Michaels.
And then there’s Fredericton New Brunswick’s Harvest Jazz And Blues Festival, September 10th to the 15th, this year featuring former Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant and his Sensational Space Shifters appearing Friday, September 13th and an impressive lineup of established and up and coming Blues talent.
When the Dutch Mason Blues Festival ceased to exist after it’s 2014 event, Derek Forsyth owner of Truro-based Salty Dog Brewery, was aware of the economic impact that event had made to the region and vowed that he would replace the festival with his own event.
“The Dutch Mason event was a huge event in this area and when it went dark, it was on my radar to replace it,” noted Forsyth. “Initially I made the gigantic mistake of not doing my due diligence during the first year (2017), we just threw the event together and it flopped drastically because of 100 different reasons, but mostly because we didn’t know how to do it.”
“But I learned from that experience and decided to try one more time and if it doesn’t work out, let’s not think about it again,” he continued. “I learned that when it’s my money involved, I have to be ruthless and stick to pre-determined budgets and to book bands like Big Wreck, Sloan, Finger Eleven and I Mother Earth that I could afford. The second-year was a great success which sets us up for this year.”
Although Truro is a relatively small city of some 60,000 population, it has the ability to draw from the Halifax-Moncton areas which represent about three-quarters of a million people. This year’s three-day lineup features the likes of The Sheepdogs, Monster Truck, The Trews, The Glorious Sons, The Beaches plus a selection of top local acts (Cameron, Andre Pettipas, The Town Heroes).
Forsyth is also extending his activities to run an inaugural Country Rocks The Boat with a two-day event featuring Tim Hicks Brett Kissel, Charlie Major and The Reklaws plus a couple of regional bands like JD Clarke and Witchitaw.
The size of the Cavendish event has deterred other organizers from staging Country Music festivals and Adam McLennan, organizer of the one-day Rock The Boat Festival (August 3rd) located at PEI’s Tyne Valley location, stays well away from Country preferring a heritage rock lineup which this year features Hamilton’s Road Hammers, Honeymoon Suite, Big Wreck and local favourites, Haywire.
Entering its 6th year as an add-on edition to the region’s prestigious Oyster Festival which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, McLennan notes it is always a challenge to attract major bands to a one-day festival in PEI. “A lot of bands we are targeting are playing in other festivals in Ontario and Western Canada so to get them to come to this location is a little inconvenient for them” he explained. “We do try to work with the Riverside Festival in New Glasgow (which runs a three-day festival over the same weekend featuring the likes of Kim Mitchell, Big Wreck, Sass Jordan, Trooper and Ria Mae), it makes sense to work with neighbouring festivals. Our big drawing card is that we have such a scenic location that there’s always a strong word of mouth from bands to endorse our festival.”
Jeff Richardson’s phone has been literally ringing off its hook after the Harvest Jazz And Blues Festival announced that Plant and his Sensational Space Shifters would be headlining the Friday, September 13th date in Fredericton.
“Our Director of Programming Brent Staeben has been involved in the festival for all 29 years and he’s been chipping away with Robert for many years, keeping the conversation alive and finally through dogged determination and good timing, we were able to secure him for this year’s festival.”
Understanding the unique festival setting, four main tents plus a soft-seater theatre and a number of small venues all located in downtown Fredericton, Richardson enthuses that Plant’s band will be performing at the Blues Tent before an intimate setting of just 3,000 spectators. “You can image the ticket demand for this performance, it’s been crazy.”
Even though a lot of other major Blues festivals are filling their lineups with non-traditional blues acts, Richardson and Staeven continue to strive to attract mainstream and up-and-coming blues artist. A series of theme tents provide music for specific genres; Blues, Hoodoo, Mojo and Barracks venue all cater to specific tastes plus the soft seater Playhouse Theatre will stage performances by the likes of Kathleen Edwards, Charlie Musselwhite and Morgan Davis.
“Spectators can buy passes to all the events or purchase passes for specific tents,” noted Richardson. “This way they can customize their own festival.”
To contact specific lineups and ticket information for all the above festivals, please link to the following sites.