Sun, Oct 14, 2012.
Tonight's the night for music folks in the province. The annual Music New Brunswick awards will be handed out at a gala in Moncton. This comes at the end of a highly successful four-day event in the Hub City, seeing many of the best musicians in the province in town for performances, workshops and pointers from top-name pros. The showcases, held in various downtown Moncton venues, were very well attended, with crowds growing each of the nights. Saturday saw both Plan B and The Tide and Boar clubs bursting at the seams.
Earlier in the evening, the quieter showcase at the Empress Theatre was also viewed by a strong crowd, with all seats taken and the overflow lined up along the back wall. Saint John's Babette Hayward chose to focus on new songs, that will probably make her next album in 2013. To my ears, Hayward just keeps getting better. Since she was a teen, her lyrics have been surprisingly sophisticated, and now she's among the strongest writers in the region. Her stage confidence is now strong, she's at ease, and her guitar skills are certainly far above the typical solo strummer. Hayward finds notes and melodies that are surprising, not at all what you think is coming next. She claimed to have just gotten over a cold, but it seems even her voice has developed a more lonesome, mature tone.
Dominique Dupuis followed, with her high-energy fiddle music and solid electric band. Only in Acadie would you find this combination of Celtic fiddle and Acadian rock. Dupuis has had a lot of success of late in Britainny, France, with a big interest in her exotic sounds, an all-instrumental blend also featuring guitar and banjo.
Last up at The Empress was the Joe Grass Band. Grass is a Moncton native now a fixture on the Montreal scene. I've truly never seen anything like his quartet, with Grass on guitar, plus violin, a crazed drummer, and a bass saxophone adding the bottom end and much colour. His unique music features jazz eclecticism, atmospheric passages, and way-out sounds. Fantastic!
Stay tuned for the MNB winners in my next post...
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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).