Fri, Jul 5, 2013.
The worst thing on the St. John River in the spring is the ice jam. The best thing on the St. John in summer is the River Jam. For the past 13 years, the festival has been a low-key, lots of fun way to spend a summer's weekend, relaxing with music and friends in venues along the river. It has its signature outdoor stage, on the patio at the Delta Fredericton, and has grown over the years to now include three more stages, and 21 different acts over the three days, starting today (July 5) and wrapping up Sunday.
There's also a big difference between this festival and almost any other; the bands and the fans are all in it for the same cause, raising funds for community groups. All the groups donate their time, completely free, as do the staff. Venues and sponsors join in, so that almost all the ticket profits made can go directly to music-related community projects, everything from the Boys and Girls Club to the Fredericton Music Festival.
There's no attempt to hype the festival with big outside names. The idea has always been to celebrate the great music that has long been a tradition of the river valley, and to present those folks on the stages. This year there are 14 returning acts, local favourites, and a further 7 that are new to the jam. Among the returnees are popular performers such as Mark Roberts, Kathleen Gorey-McSorley and the Jaclyn Reinhart Band, and what Fredericton event could possibly be held without the venerable Downtown Blues Band. Many Fredericton fixtures got their first exposure at River Jam, and that tradition continues, with seven groups making their first appearance at the festival, including Julio's Garage, playing Friday night at 7:30 in the Governor's Ballroom of the Delta. Julio's Garage is a classic rock band big on Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Skynyrd and Hendrix, and absolutely against anything post-1979. Warning: May include a close relative of this author.
The full schedule for River jam is available on the Facebook site, facebook.com/RiverJamFredericton, and watch out for the special performance each night, the late night jam session.
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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).