Summer Concerts Come In All Shapes and Sizes

Major concert productions like Pemberton’s Music Festival, Quebec City’s Festival d’ete de Quebec,  Ottawa’s Bluesfest or even the newly-relocated Boots And Hearts country music festival near Orillia may draw all the national publicity and some of the world’s greatest entertainers. Yet there is still room on the calendar for those smaller boutique festivals which continue to thrive by appealing to specific musical demographics while catering to fans in some scenically spectacular locations.

From Newfoundland’s Rock to the spectacular Elora Gorge on Ontario’s Grand River, from the tidal vista of Shediac,  New Brunswick’s Parlee Beach, to the funky Come Rock And Roar festival on Lake Huron’s North Shore, from an Agricultural Fair at Ottawa suburb Navan or a new music festival at Parry Sound, there’s lots of unique festival events, created by hard-working promoters striving to bring a little bit of musical magic to some of these more obscure locations.

Tim Wile revives Parlee Beach Fest
Tim Wile revives Parlee Beach Fest

Upset that the annual Parlee Beach festival  had been  jettisoned due to public pressure by cottage and landowners located near a scenic stretch of beach located at Shediac New Brunswick,  Tim Wile decided that his Centre For Speed Speedway  venue would make an ideal concert location so he decided to launch an ambitious three-day festival July 31 –August 2,.under the event’s former banner.

“It’s not quite Parlee Beach but then again, the Cavendish Beach Festival isn’t held at Cavendish Beach, it’s staged at Hunter River so we’ll run a couple of shuttles down to the beach for the people that want to go there,” informs Wile. “The key thing is to execute the festival yet keep the locals around Parlee Beach happy.”

A devout fan of classic rock, Wile has brought together a line-up that balances the likes of Platinum Blonde, The Trews, Helix, Honeymoon Suite and Five Man Electrical Band balanced off by hot new bands like Gloryhound and One Bad Son, Wylie is also showcasing local talent like Loaded Dice and the Matt Landry Band.

 One band he is personally excited about is a reunion concert by Maritime greats, Sam Moon and Matt Minglewood who are celebrating their first tour together in 40 years by headlining a special Friday Blues Night also featuring the Mike Biggar Band and Kickin Krotch. “Of all the bands on the bill, I am probably more excited about the Minglewood-Moon reunion, those guys are legends,” noted Wile

With plenty of nearby camping available and an advance ticket for the three-day event going for $64.50, Wile is hoping to rekindle a  concert tradition in Southern New Brunswick.

Perched on the edge of a spectacular gorge, nestling along the banks of the Grand and Irvine Rivers just north of Guelph Ontario, the picturesque village of Elora is normally home to a couple of hundred hardy residents. But come August 14-15 and 16, upwards of 20,000 concert goers will converge on this scenic locale  to participate in the Elora Riverfest.

Launched originally in 2009 as a backyard event by former Mariposa Festival organizer, Marilyn Koop, the gauntlet was picked up by the trio of Jon Ralston (Director), Shawn Watters  (Director) and Spencer Shewen (Festival Manager) when Koop passed away three years later.

“We formalized it a bit more when we took over,” explained Ralston. “Because there is no official board of directors, just Shawn, Spencer and I, we have the flexibility to be creative with the festival’s musical direction.

Ralston feels the recipe for the festival’s success is a synergy between the performing talent. “We don’t want bands that perform to be in conflict with the band that has just performed, there needs to be some kind of flow between the artists. When it comes to selecting  major talent, the three of us are looking for a vibe with our headliners and then we’ll ask agents, friends or other contacts for their recommendation for secondary artists.”

That vibe in question will be carried by headliners Metric, Sam Roberts and Bruce Cockburn with support from indie favourites The New Pornographers and the Tokyo Police Club ,  Sarah Harmer, classic R&B band Lighthouse, Great Big Sea’s Alan Doyle plus a pastiche of other musical flavours such as funk/soul revivalists, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, country is represented by Shakey Graves, rapper/television interviewer Shad  and there’s even jazz from Bruce Cassidy’s Hotfoot Orchestra.

“There is no particular festival we are trying to emulate, We are trying to create our own atmosphere.” noted Ralston. “We are trying to develop a loyalty with our audience by setting ourselves apart and creating a lineup that is interesting and may be a little eclectic.”

A three-day pass to the Bissell Park venue is $140.00 with single day passes going for $60 on Friday, $80 on Saturday and $60 on Sunday.  There are camping options in nearby campsites and a shuttle bus service from centres such as Fergus and Guelph, the Grand River Raceway and Elora Gorge Campground.

Out on The Rock, St John’s Newfoundland, to be precise, regional concert promoter Peter Quinton is preparing to bring a major event to the provincial capital with his Confederation Hill Music Festival set to go Saturday July 11th. With a line-up starring Rod Stewart, Goo-Goo Dolls, Blue Rodeo, Sass Jordan plus two local bands; The Navigators and Timber, Quinton is  laying a marker that success for this Saturday’s event will open the door for a more ambitious two-day festival in 2016.

“It’s always an interesting challenge dealing with producing concerts in Newfoundland,” acknowledged Quinton. “You are dealing with unpredictable weather conditions like fog which cancels air flights and any major band has to take four days out of their schedule to play here.”

Still Quinton believes the locals will support a major concert and are getting a little tired of having to travel to Las Vegas or Toronto to see a major show. “If I couldn’t get a major act here,  I wouldn’t put on the show,” noted Quinton. “I’d rather wait a year and do it right but nothing is saying I have to do a show if the circumstances aren’t right.”

 "Riverfest Elora's Talented Trio Spencer Shewen, Jon Ralston and Shawn Watters
“Riverfest Elora’s Talented Trio Spencer Shewen, Jon Ralston and Shawn Watters

Persistence paid off in Quinton’s pursuit of Stewart but the announcement of the July 11th date drew criticism from the rival organizers of Grand Falls’ Salmon Fest which is set to go on the same date.. “You don’t tell someone of Rod Stewart’s stature when to come, his people tell you when he’s coming,” noted Quinton. “I had already booked Stewart before the Grand Falls people announced their date. To take a kick at me for booking my date, they are out of their minds.”

Quinton, who also works on the city’s George Street Festival concert series agrees it would be more cost efficient to execute a two-day festival and notes that Saturday’s event is a “test pilot” for a future extended concert next year. “If the city and province give me the green light, I will stage a postmortem on this year’s event and start planning for next year. We are already on to some good leads and I am sure we can pull another major act out of the hat”.

Tickets for Saturday’s event cost $119.89 with 3,500 special VIP tickets available for $199.89 and are available online at ETIXNOW or call 1-877-ETIX-NOW.

August 14th and 15th sees the sixth annual staging of the Come Rock And Roar festival at the scenic Four Season’s Waterfront Complex at Spanish Ontario on the northern shore of Lake Huron, midway between Sudbury and Sault Ste Marie.

Ron Stolar, a Sudbury miner who doubled as the volunteer recreation director in Spanish, was aware that many of his colleagues had lost their jobs when the Uranium Mines closed in Elliot Lake and had moved on to other mining outposts in Saskatechewan and Northern Ontario. Thinking of a way, to bring these people back into the area for like a home-coming event, Stolar decided that a two-day rock festival might be the ticket.

“I really didn’t know what I was doing when I staged the first one,” noted Stolar. “But the end result was so overwhelmingly positive that I just kept on staging them.”

Rod Stewart invades The Rock
Rod Stewart invades The Rock

Now set to stage his sixth concert at the same site, Stolar takes pride in naming many of Canada’s top classic performers such as April Wine, Loverboy, Kim Mitchell, Streetheart, Lee Aaron and the Stampeders who have graced the Four Seasons stage with a 2015 lineup that includes Platinum Blonde, Saga, 54:40, Brighton Rock, Sass Jordan and Carole Pope.

A trademark of the Rock And Roar event has been the inclusion of local talent with the top three finalists in a regional talent contest getting to take the same stage as the headliners. Sudbury’s Conflicted Minds is the 2015 winner followed by another Sudbury band, Forget The Circus and Blind River’s Drive claimed third place. Spanish band, Horned Ace has also been added to the line up.

Stolar is aware that the demographic which patronizes his festival are solidly into 80’s classic rock bands and that it is getting to be a challenge to find fresh talent each year without repeating previous lineups. He also suffered a bit of a let down in 2014 when inclement weather affected his two-day turnout despite having a lineup which boasted the likes of Randy Bachman, Trooper and Helix.

“Because of what happened last year, we had a reduced budget to work from this year which presented us with a real challenge,” noted Stolar. “But I think we’ve come up with a balanced lineup that includes a bit of everything for everybody.”

Cost of a weekend pass is $95, daily passes  go for $65 and there is camping and parking available at the site at an additional cost.

Zane Smith promotes Indie Spotlight
Zane Smith promotes Indie Spotlight

When you operate an agricultural fair running into its 68th year, you have to be a little inventive to keep the customers flocking through the turnstiles. This is the job entrusted to Luc Bergeron, 2nd Vice President and head of booking entertainment for the Ottawa area Navan Fair which runs from August 6-9.

Organized by the Cumberland Township Agricultural Society, this annual event has all the trappings of a typical  annual agricultural fair including livestock displays and contests, tractor pulls, food sales and even special events like Lumberjack displays, softball games and even a Birds of Prey display. But what Bergeron felt the fair needed was live entertainment, and to boost attendance he started booking major talent to the venue.

Heavy on country music artists, to reflect the fair’s demographic, Bergeron has lined up four nights of entertainment featuring the likes of Carroll Baker,  Brett Kissel and local favourites Sterling with the big none-country act being classic rock band, Trooper  who headlines the Friday concert.

“You have to remember this is an agricultural demographic and not necessarily a music festival crowd so you have to present artists who fit this demographic,” explained Bergeron.”So artists like Carroll Baker and Brett Kissel are a good fit and obviously Trooper are very popular.”

Bergeron is also keen on supporting local talent with artists like Bacon Tree, Brea Lawrenson and Blackwell all providing support for the headliners.  Tickets are inexpensive at $25 for adult and $10 for children 4-12 for the four days and $10 adult and $3 children 4-12 for daily passes.

Country music may be in vogue at Navan but in Parry Sound, promoter Zane Smith switched to an indie-alternative music format for his Turtle Music Festival  to run August 1st and 2nd at the Kinsman Park after a two-year period running Country music festivals.

“We broke away from Country because it seems like there’s about 100 other Country music festivals going on right now and we just didn’t want to compete against them,” noted Smith. “Guys like Dallas Smith, Brett Kissel and Tim Hicks seem to be playing every where, I think the whole scene is getting a little too congested.”

So Smith has elected to go with an established rock act to headline each night with Our Lady Peace and I Mother Earth but also layered in a number of top indie bands like Limblifter, The Mohrs and the Great Lake Swimmers as well as a whole raft of new bands many concert goers might not be familiar with such as Brothers Of North,  Common Deep and Medicine Hat just to name a few.

With donations going to the Georgian Bay Biosphere Project, there’s a definite environmental infusion into the concert   and Smith himself wants to point his festival in a new direction. “I want the festival to be fresh and I want to give the people something that’s different,” enthused Smith. “But at the same time, provide them with something they are familiar with.”

Ticket prices are $75 for a weekend pass, $65 for a Friday pass and $55 for a Saturday pass. There is no camping available on site but plenty available at nearby Provincial Park and local camping sites.

For information from any of the above mentioned festivals. Please consult the following links:

Parlee Beach Music Festival –

Riverfest Elora –

Confederation Hill Music Festival –

Come Rock N Roar –

Navan Fair –

Turtle Music Festival –

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