Wed, Jun 19, 2013.
What's this? Another music festival? Another East Coast music festival? Another New Brunswick music festival? It seems all I've written the last few weeks are articles about the latest lineup announcement for the raft of festivals this summer. Think I'm exaggerating? Here's a PARTIAL run-down of music events happening in New Brunswick: Follyfest, at the end of the month in Gagetown. Paddlefest, happened last month in St. Andrews. Larlee Creek Hullaballoo, August in Perth-Andover. Whoa Canada!, downtown Moncton on Canada Day. Dooryard Festival, August in Woodstock. Messtival in Anagance, in August. Then there's the long-running ones, such as the New Brunswick Summer Music Festival, the Foire Brayonne, Miramichi Folksong Festival, Harvest Jazz and Blues, plus FredRock in Fredericton, we just had the HamJam in Belleisle Bay, Summer's End is coming up for Grand Manan, and I could go on.
And now we get the brand new Codiac Music Festival, which just announced its lineup today. This one is for downtown Moncton from August 2 to 4, to tie in with the New Brunswick Day long weekend. It's happening indoors and out, some shows in clubs, the others on outdoor stages, with a grand finale at the Farmer's Market. The emphasis is on local and regional artists, so there's a good mix, both English and Acadian, featuring Old Man Luedecke, Thom Swift, Joseph Edgar, Danger Cat, The Motorleague, Chris Colepaugh, Phil Flowers and more.
The organizers say this event came about because of a Facebook post, one that asked, "Should Moncton have its own music festival?" Well, I guess so, but it wasn't like there was any lack of them in the vicinity. It begs a bigger question; are there too many music festivals? They are now bumping into each other on the same weekends, and if you add in all the PEI and Nova Scotia ones within a short drive, you can pretty much do nothing else all summer but hit the festival circuit. I'm going to argue that yes, it's fine to have this many, and here's why. It's really the way most people are seeing live music these days. Bars are still what they've long been, the places for the younger crowd. There are tons of shows in clubs still, but I'd say the bulk of them have a younger audience, are on late in the evening, with start times of 11 or 12 PM for the headliners, and feature music for that age group.
Now look at the festival circuit. We're talking daytime and evening shows, often open air, so it's not so crowded, lots of folk, country, blues, bluegrass, and names people will recognize. And the old festival style has changed dramatically in the past decade. It used to be a local version of Woodstock, with tents and fields and mud. You camped and took your chances. I don't like that. Bugs. Port-a-potties. Sketchy food. You can still camp at some of these, but usually, like the Hullaballoo, it's a great, professional campground, with family-friendly rules. And other festivals are city-based, so really you're going home, or to hotels or friends' places, and eating in restaurants. This is tourism as much as it is a music event.
As for the musicians, they'll tell you where they meet their audiences. When you can play a club show for a hundred, or a festival stage for a thousand or more, there's no comparison. Too many festivals? No, not yet, so welcome newcomer Codiac Music Festival, and good luck. But we may be getting close to the limit. I think there's a weekend in November when I'm free.
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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).