Wed, Aug 13, 2014.
The Larlee Creek Hullabaloo in Perth-Andover is this weekend, and you know it's going to be fun. I'll be there, the third straight year I've had the pleasure of being an MC for the event, something that barely qualifies as work. Let's see, I get to watch some of Atlantic Canada's very best musicians, from 5 metres away, and hang out backstage with them. Oh, the hardships.
One of the toughest, okay the only tough part of the job is each year, I have to explain to people who haven't been to the festival what a Hullabaloo is. The dictionary defines it as "a very noisy and confused situation", as in, "That announcement caused a lot of hullabaloo." Uproar or fuss are other synonyms, and in New Brunswick, it's also been a favourite word for partying. That's better than the definition, because the Larlee Creek Hullabaloo is certainly not noisy or confused, it's very lively but well-organized, with great sounds that are far from noisy, very pleasing in fact. But there's more to the name. The hullabaloo is also a big part of the performance. There are two of them, the Little Hullabaloo and the Big Hullabaloo. These are special events, held on the Saturday each year, the little one at the end of the afternoon, and the big one to close off the evening.
The Little Hullabaloo is more of a traditional song circle. Several of the performers from earlier in the festival, or those who are still to come, take the stage armed with their acoustic instruments. A leader is chosen, and they'll start the proceedings with a number and then choose the running order. It might just be one artist after the other, it might be a duet. Sometimes one person on stage will start and one or more others will spontaneously join in. There's no announcement ahead of time of who will be taking part, that's part of the fun, although the musicians start talking about it from the stage as early as Friday night. I've heard from usually-reliable sources that Stephen Fearing of headliners Blackie and the Rodeo Kings could be this year's leader.
The Big Hullabaloo, well, that's a bit crazier. By that time, it's after midnight, and you have just witnessed the entire Saturday night mainstage excitement. Now at other festivals, you'd get an encore at this point, the headliner doing the same encore songs they play at every concert, nice but not unique. In Perth-Andover, backstage the excitement is brewing. Many of the big artists of the day have been arriving, huddling together, discussing potential songs. A rough running order is being worked out, and some are volunteering their services on other tunes. After a short break, I go onto the stage, and announce the Big Hullabaloo. It's half-jam, half-organized, this time electric instead of acoustic, electric in every sense of the word. Again, there won't be an announcement about who is in the Big Hullabaloo, it will just come together throughout the day, but musicians know a fun thing when they hear about it, and there's never a problem getting the big guns out there. Saturday's acts include Thom Swift, Ashley Condon, Jim Dorie, Ria Mae, The Modern Grass, Sherman Downey and the Ambiguous Case, Dave Gunning and Allie Bennett, and The Navgators.
The festival is held on a big, wide-open field, lots of room, never an issue with sight lines or line-ups or access, there's lots of camping spots, as it's right beside a campground, several motels with rooms still available nearby too. Come to Perth-Andover this weekend, and you too can make a Hullabaloo.
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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).