Wed, Apr 10, 2013.
Some people wait for the crocuses to poke up out of the ground. Others keep an eye out for the first robins. Me, I know spring is here when I get the first festival line-ups. That's when I can anticipate the warm weather, crowds of people outdoors, and of course, the good vibes around the music. And the first festival of the season in New Brunswick happens in St. Andrews, where for the past 18 years, they've been hold Paddlefest in May. What started as a weekend get-together for some friends to do a little canoeing and such, had music added to it, and eventually evolved into this happening weekend, featuring several venues, lots of bands, and it still retains the organized outdoor stuff, from kayaking to rock climbing, if you're into that. If not, there's still lots of music to check out on the Victoria Day weekend in May.
That's the perfect time to head to St. Andrews, although it's always a favourite place of mine to visit. With winter behind it, the town is starting to welcome the annual tourist trade back. Shops are opening, and opening longer, summer residents are arriving, and the seasonal jobs are starting, so it's busier and bustling with folks. Paddlefest has becom over the years the kick-off to the tourist season. You have the more sportier stuff in the day, as well as a chance to check out special art exhibits and all the usual wonderful little galleries there, and if the weather's cooperative, enjoy a patio meal. Then at night, the clubs open up, as well as the big tent right downtown featuring the headliners. Paddlefest is one of the festivals that knows its audience well, and that they want to see their favourite local musicians as much as those from outside the region. It's specialized in presenting a strong Maritime lineup each year that has no trouble pleasing the crowd. This year's no different.
Here's a partial list of the acts headed to St. Andrews: You have Fredericton's Grand Theft Bus, always a happy jam for tent crowds. From the blues side comes the popular duo of Keith Hallet and Garrett Mason, lots of young guitar talent there. Thom Swift is launching his fine new album these days, and he'll be there along with his crack band the El Caminos. Ross Neilsen's new one will be out by then, so he'll be ready to rawk. Brent Mason brings the singer-songwriter side as well, dropping in from Saint John. And the fine folks from St. Andrews always show off their own to any visitors to town, this year with locals Kendra Gale, Ryan LeBlanc, Adam Olmstead, Chambers McLean and Owen Steel among the performers. All of those folks have New Brunswick somewhere in their bios, but the welcome goes around the Maritimes too, with such artists as PEI's Paper Lions, and Halifax singers Gianna Lauren and Morgan MacDonald coming in.
And to spice things up, there's also a handful of Upper Canadians taking part. A singer-songwriter from the Yukon, Gordie Tentrees has a strong roots following. Then there's the old-time revivalists Sheesham & Lotus & Son, that I've been hearing good things about. The Kingston, Ontario group do 1920's-styled fiddle and banjo tunes. And Montreal indie folk act Folly & the Hunter have a new disc coming out next Tuesday, called Tragic Care. I've been listening to this warm, dreamy album the past few weeks, and really enjoying it. The group has a soft and subtle sound that builds into big, sweeping soundscapes, with lovely vocals on top.
Paddlefest is happening in St. Andrews from May 16th to the 19th, and you can get all the information on tickets, and the many outdoor activites at the website, which is www.paddlefestnb.ca
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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).