Wed, Sep 26, 2012.
Leading up to Music New Brunswick week, happening October 11th to the 14th in Moncton, I'm featuring some of the folks who are nominated for awards. This is the third year for the awards, and I'll tell ya, what a big difference it has made to the music community here. These gatherings allow the musicians to attend workshops, interact with each other, check out what the other groups are doing, and they get some well-deserved recognition and exposure too. And for the fans, it's a fun-filled four days of lots of shows and events. Everybody can go to everything, the prices are very good. The awards, for instance, are only 25 bucks, and there will be about ten groups or so playing, plus lots of bad jokes, usually from me. Also appearing in showcases this year is Julie Doiron, who has just this summer moved back to Sackville after a few years away. You have Les Hay Babies, Shaun LeBlanc, Sleepy Driver, Penny Blacks, Grand Theft Bus, The Motor League, Samantha Robichaud, the Divorcees and the Backyard Devils, just to name a few. The first three years of the event have been in Moncton, largely because that's where Music NB is headquartered, and the plan has always been to move it around after getting the thing on solid ground. I think that's been a sensible plan, but I do look forward to other places getting some more attention, because it does help strengthen local music in the clubs, and let the communities know about these acts.
It was at one of these showcases that I got quite a shock last year, certainly my big surprise of the weekend. I had seen St. Andrews' Kendra Gale a few times over the years, starting back when she was in high school. At the time, she seemed like an earnest songwriter, acoustic and folkie, sitting in her bedroom and playing. That was my impression, anyway. But around a year ago, she started introducing the next stage of her career. It wasn't just Kendra anymore, it was the Kendra Gale Band, or KGB. The acoustic was gone, and now she was playing electric. There was bass and drums, too. Soft singing was out, full-throated vocals were in. It was bluesy rock, modern, loud, with riffs and rhythms. It was still her words, but Gale had toughened up big-time. It was night-and-day really.
KGB have been gigging around the past year, and recording too. The band's debut disc, self-titled, came out in August. Kendra herself has a couple of discs from before, but you'd never know they were from the same person. Gale has obviously found the electric band empowering, as her songs have a swagger and intensity, and some emotional openness in the lyrics. She's calling out some jerks on a couple of songs here. There's good fuzzy distortion on the guitar, and the songs certainly work live, where she's now in the same vein as Carmen Townsend and Grace Potter.
Gale must be happy with her Music NB nominations. KGB is up for Rock Recording of the Year for the debut disc, which means people get it, this is a band now, one that rocks. And the second nomination is a cool one, she's in the running for Musician of the Year, which means she's now known for her guitar playing, not just her singing and songwriting. Oh, you have to add another instrument in there though. The last time I saw her, she switched places with the drummer right in the middle of a song, and neither missed a beat or a note.
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Bob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).