Wed, Aug 21, 2013.
What I've discovered in my travels to music festivals across the province is that each one has a life of its own. Every one you go to is different, and I've checked out a lot of them. That's part of the enjoyment for sure. Some are more rural, taking place outside a city or town, basically in a field. Others take advantage of what the host municipality offers, from clubs and bars and theatres, to playing on the city streets themselves. Some are exciting, with big crowds having a blast, lots of noise, and others are peaceful and even quiet. It all depends on the locale as much as the type of music offered.
Since most of these events happen on a weekend, you can pretty much look at them as a mini-vacation, and pick the type of experience you want. I don't know about you, but I've had a busy summer, music-wise, with a pretty exciting experience last weekend at the Larlee Creek Hullabaloo, watching Matt Andersen, The Backyard Devils and more tear it up. I feel like something a little calmer, but with high-quality music, still. Something to enjoy on one of the last summer weekends, and to get away from it all. And where better to find peace and quiet, in a natural surrounding, than Grand Manan? The somewhat isolated island, with its 90-minute ferry crossing, takes a bit of time to get to, but once you're there, you leave things behind, and pick up the Island pace. It has its scenic charms, and a culture all to itself.
It also has the Summer's End Folk Festival, where I'm heading to M.C. this weekend. Summer's End was started in 2010 by musician Carly Maicher, an on-again, off-again Island resident, more on that off these days. Her career has seen her travel the young folk paths of the country, friends with lots of great musicians of today, and she figured they'd love to come to this beautiful, somewhat secret spot to hang out and play. And she thought the Island residents and tourists too would enjoy it. It's a modest event, two days in a field behind a restaurant and motel, just down from the ferry terminal, with a few hundred folk checking it out over the weekend. That's fine, that's the point, small and laid-back, with excellent sounds. Bring lawn chairs, get as close as you want to the stage, watch the sun go down on the Bay of Fundy, you get the picture, and it is picture-perfect.
Many local festivals pride themselves on presenting the best East Coast music, as they should, and to the delight of many fans. But there's also room to see others, and this is one of them that makes room for both. So on Saturday, you can bliss out to the music of Catherine MacLellan and Old Man Luedecke, two of the favourites of our scene, as well as the hot new Halifax bluegrass group The Modern Grass, Friday night features more Upper Canadian folks. There's Michael Feuerstack, the Montreal guy once known as Snailhouse, now doing his solo work under his own name, who delivers beautiful and thoughtful singer-songwriter material with an edge. The Weather Station is the project of Toronto's Tamara Lindeman, alternative folk built around her banjo and guitar. Then there's New Country Rehab, one of the country's hottest new bands, in the roots school. They have a strong live act, with big drums and stand-up bass backing fiddle and guitar, with modern melodies and lyrics, are festival favourites across the land, and it's great to have a local one bringing them in.
So figure out that ferry schedule, grab the tent or however you like to get away, and don't forget to buy some dulse, it's Grand Manan after all.
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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).