New Brunswick

Festivals large and small celebrate return to 'normal' in-person events

For festival organizers, the past two years have been an unavoidable series of disappointments but 2022 is shaping up to be the rebound they've been hoping for.

After 2 years of scaled back, online & cancelled events, New Brunswick festival organizers ready for return

Festival organizers say judging by ticket sales, audiences are ready to return to shows. This photo shows appreciative fans at at recent K-Man & The 45s show. The band plays as part of the Living Roots Music Festival in Fredericton on June 2. (Living Roots Music Festival/Facebook)

For festival organizers, the past two years have been an unavoidable series of disappointments but 2022 is shaping up to be the rebound they've been hoping for.

Ciaron Lewis, organizer of the N.B. Punk Fest coming up on July 1 and 2 in Fredericton, said it was starting to feel as though the punk music festivals he loves had "gone by the wayside."

The pandemic meant the closure of venues and the cancellation of a much-anticipated tour by Canadian punk band legends, Dayglo Abortions and Citizen Rage.

"You could just feel the disappointment in the scene after so many years of cancelled festivals and cancelled concerts so I took it upon myself … and said, 'Let's make lemonade here, and let's put on a show with you guys.'"

N.B. Punk Fest organizer Ciaron Lewis hopes the two-day event will reinvigorate the scene he loves and give fans a chance to reconnect after more than two years. (N.B. Punk Fest/Facebook)

With the return to a new "normal," the bands will headline what has turned into a two day event with three shows, including an all ages show Lewis hopes will bring new fans who had no way to connect with the scene during the pandemic.

"It's important … that you have those opportunities for the younger generation to come in and be able to enjoy shows in safe spaces. And encourage the younger generation to maybe pick up a guitar or bass or drums and start up a band of their own."

Living Roots fest returns to 'normal'

In 2021, the Living Roots Music Festival had three stages around Fredericton with about 15 acts.

Organizer Eddie Young said this wasn't bad, but he is looking forward to "a normal year" in 2022, with 11 stages and more than 60 acts.

The festival runs from June 2 to 5 and, for the first time since the pandemic began, will include artists from around the world.

"I'm really excited," Young said. "We're able to bring touring acts in again, so we've got people from all over Canada and a couple of international acts coming in as well."

Eddie Young can't wait for a return to normal at the annual Living Roots Music Festival in Fredericton which runs from June 2 to 5. (Gary Moore/CBC)

Like the N.B. Punk Fest, the Living Roots Music Festival will host bands that have cancelled two years running. Young can't wait to welcome Apollo Suns from Winnipeg, a seven-piece instrumental jam band.

"It's kind of been three years in the making for those guys to come."

Young is also looking forward to welcoming musician Anna Smirk of Australia to the province. For him, a big part of what the festival does is feature artists in multiple shows over multiple days, which builds lasting relationships — something that has suffered during COVID.

"You'll get multiple chances to see some of the acts over the course of the four days — it's a big part of the festival to have the acts in town for a few days to get to know Fredericton and make some connections with artists and fans."

Judging by ticket sales and online comments, Young is convinced people are ready to return to live, in-person shows.

Festivals celebrate art, music & disco rides

The end of restrictions is also allowing Festival Inspire to return in a big way, said organizer Lisa Griffin.

This year the public arts festival, which is known for its murals, is travelling to communities across the province, including Woodstock.

Between Tuesday and Sunday, artists will be painting permanent, contemporary murals in the town, and holding some of its "signature events" such as a disco bike ride, artist talks and a film screening. It is all being done in partnership with the Dooryard Arts Festival

Festival Inspire organizer Lisa Griffin says after two years of 'cocooning,' people are ready to get out and take part in events. The public arts festival is touring the province, partnering with local groups. (Festival Inspire/Facebook)

"We do as much as we can to engage the local community as much as possible — what actually happens with the vibe is up to the community," Griffin said.

"Coming out of COVID — out of this cocooning, liminal time and space — we are hoping to engage those smaller festivals as much as possible and help give them a boost and inspire them."

Katie Hamill shares those goals of connection and inspiration.

As an organizer of the Flourish Festival, which runs in Fredericton from June 15 to 19, she can't wait to give artists from all disciplines the opportunity to showcase their work.

Hamill describes Flourish as "a DIY festival" in every sense with participants expected from across Canada and the United States.

"This year we're looking to make it big again," she said. "A lot of the art installation pieces will be little pop-ups in unexpected places, so even if you're not aware if the festival, you might see something that's part of the festival."

Flourish Festival organizer Katie Hamill looks forward to returning to a big event where artists and audiences can connect. (Flourish Festival/Facebook)

Flourish also offers local residents the opportunity to billet visiting artists in exchange for a free pass, something she sees as a chance to reconnect after a long pandemic drought.

"It could be a band or maybe it's an artist who is presenting an installation and is looking for a sidekick to hang out with during the festival."

with files from Information Morning Fredericton

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