By Keith Sharp
The region of Newfoundland/Labrador is known for its scenic beauty and its friendly people (see Come From Away)…but music events are not so much.
But then Steeles Hotel chain President John Steele had this revelation when seeing a huge entertainment tent resurrected in London, England and felt the same concept would work back in his native St John’s, Newfoundland.
So, in September 2017, a huge 36,000 sq foot blue tent was erected on the shores of Quidi Vidi Lake near the centre of St John’s, and the Iceberg Alley Performance Tent – Multi-Day Festival was initiated. Named after a local phenomenon of Icebergs flowing down the East Coast of the Island Province, The Iceberg Alley Festival has established itself as a key tourism draw featuring 10 consecutive nights of entertainment.
Unlike many festivals which have been negatively affected by the COVID pandemic, the Iceberg Festival only lost one year (2022). It was able to be staged last year with mask-wearing mandatory.
“We were lucky because COVID wasn’t a really big factor in this region,” reported Steele as his production crew prepared for the festival’s 2023 lineup set to go June 14-24, which again will combine top regional and national talent with several established U.S artists. “Naturally, we lean towards classic rock bands due to our older demographic, but it’s also great to showcase local and regional talent.”
This year’s lineup features a blast from the past in the form of a U.S. hair band’s night featuring Great White, Quiet Riot, and Slaughter, with other U.S. acts like Sugar Ray, Collective Soul, and Soul Asylum booked. But a strong Canadian presence is also scheduled with the likes of Walk Off The Earth, 54:40, and the Arkells set to play along with a Canadian Classic Rock Night featuring Honeymoon Suite, Lee Aaron and Streetheart. Regional talent also gets their night in the spotlight with local favourites Shanneyganock headlining a bill featuring The Celtic Connection, Missionary Men, The Aviators and The Flummies.
Considering the venue’s geographical location, importing talent is an annual challenge for Steele, who admits that he must fly most artists into St John’s for the festival. “Yes, it is an expensive proposition,” he admits. “It’s also a challenge to book new talent every year as it’s hard to find ‘new’ classic rock bands.”
And then there’s the region’s unpredictable weather conditions. Steele’s 2021 event on September 10th was hit by Hurricane Larry, which wrecked his tent and forced Alan Doyle, Matt Mays and The Five Lads to cancel. “Fortunately, the mayor came through and allowed us to relocate to Mile One Arena, and our crew was amazing in fixing the damage; we only lost one night.”
But the incident convinced Steele to change the date of his festival from September to June to avoid future hurricane incidents, “and it also falls in better with the Iceberg alley theme with icebergs flowing at around the same time as the festival,” he notes.
For the complete concert lineup plus ticket information, please link to www.icebergalleyconcerts.com.