Wed, Apr 24, 2013.
Get ready for another exciting festival this week music fans! This time it's in Moncton, the annual Frye Festival. ... and I can hear the music festival fans putting their pup tents and glow sticks away... grumbling about books and stuff. But wait, there's lots of music at that noted literary festival, enough to keep any local fans happy. That's because a couple of years back, the Frye folks got to thinking, and realized there's a big connection between the written word and the performed ones, plus it's a great way to liven up the evenings, bring in a party atmosphere, and be very different from the normal bookish event. There are even performances that mix and match the two sides, putting writers up on stage with musicians.
The festival doesn't just pick a bunch of bands and stick them on stage. Like any music festival, they go to great lengths to program the artists, those with something to say or unique talents they can present in new settings. And, they take special interest in local performers as well, just like they do with the writers. The book part of the week has already started, and now the music section is getting ready to roll.
First up is the annual Soirée Frye, which is grand evening event Thursday at the Capitol Theatre. This is one where we get both writing and music, a kind of cabaret-style night. What I like about it is how well the show flows, going from one piece to the next, readers separated by music acts, a real variety. And of course, as Canada's biggest bilingual literary festival, the music is both French and English as well. Taking the stage for Soirée Frye will be two of the province's best and favourites. Les Hay Babies have quickly become a huge favourite in Moncton, with their sweet harmonies and acoustic instruments, performing indie-folk music in both languages. And Fredericton's Olympic Symphonium are all about the atmosphere, a blanket of beautiful sounds and dreamy melodies. Another part of the festival is the late-night shows, where you get to relax and hang out in a club setting, and Thursday gives you a double-feature from the headliners, as both Les Hay Babies and Olympic Symphonium will move upstairs to the Empress stage of the theatre, to do extended sets.
The late nights continue Friday, back at the Empress. This time, it's the After-Party, running from 10 until 2 AM, with a very different show. This is a group made up of local musicians trying on something new. Science Friction is a band aimed at your senses. It's dance music, and they're playing with your ears and eyes. There's a visual projection show with it, as well as loops of sound and beats. It's basically, a big dance party as well as lots of room to hang and watch and chat, plus it's free to all.
Saturday is another traditional, the Frye Jam. This annual treat is a signature event, something that could only be handled by the talented group that plays each year. Moncton jazz favourites Les Paiens as the musical hosts, the house band. They back up everybody, whether its writers or singers, a jam session. So you get some of the fine authors on stage, and while they read, the very smart group improvises a suitable backing. The authors love it, the audience too. As well, there are a few more musicians invited along. Two of the rising stars of the Moncton area are Caroline Savoie and John Jerome. And the headliner for the night is a new voice from Montreal. His name is Leif Vollebekk, and he's just released a critically-acclaimed album called North Americana. This is one of those impressive programming moves by the Frye Festival, bringing him in for the first time. Vollebekk has old-school singer-songwriter leanings, but at the same time there's more experimental sounds thickening up his music. He's a literary guy, too, with the first verse of the first song name-checking William Blake, so he fits in. A rich story-teller, you can hear the Dylan in him, from the Tangled Up In Blue school, but the vocals and music go further out, perhaps in the Jeff Buckley area. So, get the best of both worlds from the Frye Festival, words and music.
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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).