Strong Shows Kick Off Music NB Weekend

Music New Brunswick week is off to a booming start with strong crowds and great entertainment. Even though Thursday was a school night, and the temperature dropped to near zero in Moncton, the three venues played host to lots of music fans, and a music community excited to be part of the annual get-together.

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One of the highlights of any music conference is getting introduced to new artists, or at least those you're not familiar with. I camped out at Plan B, one of the host clubs for the event, as three of the four acts were new to me. Kicking off the night was a singer-songwriter from St. Andrews, who has only played a handful of gigs so far, but already has his debut album out. Chambers McLean has a fascinating back story. A former varsity football player at St. Francis Xavier, after graduation McLean found himself introduced and drawn to the St. Andrews area, where he eventually set himself up as an organic farmer. But he'd always been interested in music as well, and with time in the winter, he was able to develop his songwriting skills. Deeply influenced by his new surroundings, you'll find lots of references to nature and the influence it has on our lives on his debut disc, What The Sunlight Brings. He's a different kind of singer-songwriter, playing a keyboard as his main instrument, but also doing the odd banjo tune. His surroundings can be felt in numbers such as House By The Sea, and the life there provides a lot of time for deep thinking. He tackles topics such as the cyclical nature of death, as brought by the late fall, something a farmer knows is just a part of the greater picture.

Triple P is a trio fronted by guitar whiz Pierre Pitre, a Moncton vet recently back in the game. Pitre is a flashy, fiery player with a love of classic 70's prog rock, but updated with high-energy playing that several people said reminded them of Steve Vai. In his trio are Moncton vets John Maher, having a ball pounding on drums, and Robin Anne Ettles, sporting bass-ic black. It was a refreshing, wide-ranging set that took in touches of surf, metal, blues, but most of all, great trio playing. All instrumental, it's a sound you don't hear often, and showed that there's life in the good old rock band sound.

Andre Picard has been playing in the Edmundston area for a bit, but this was his first real foray into the rest of the province, and his set was a fine introduction. The acoustic player was back by keys and a solid drum-box beat, and has a good mix of pop and songwriter material. My favourite description was "he sounds like Jack Johnson mixed with Lenny Kravitz", a nod to his smooth vocals. With some extra time at the end of the night, the trio was given an encore, and they put in a surprising and well-received, faithful take on the classic medley from side 2 of Abbey Road.

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The one act I did know was another St. Andrews favourite, The Kendra Gale Band, who I featured a few days ago. Gale's electric playing keeps getting better and better, and the guitar-drums duo has no trouble putting out a full band sound, her funky rock sound sounding great as usual.

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Friday afternoon saw a delegates-only showcase for bookers, some of the province's best getting to show off a couple of tunes each for festival buyers. Moncton's Backyard Devils had some great news to pass along; they've been chosen, along with Saint John's Jessica Rhaye, to travel to England next month, along with delegate groups from the other Maritime provinces, to showcase their stuff for British clubs and festivals.

And some more cool Music NB news: There's going to be a special mash-up performance at the Gala on Sunday night. Moncton's Divorcees are going to be joined by the Saint John String Quartet, for a one-time only performance of their nominated song The Crows. The MNB Awards Gala will be taking place on Sunday, October 14 at 8 PM at the Crowne Plaza. Tickets are on sale at $25 in advance (www.ticketpro.ca) and $35 at the door.

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About Bob Mersereau

Rockin' BobBob 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).

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