Quality Block Party vies for status as 'destination festival'

Quality Block Party, the Saint John-based music festival, is expanding its horizons this August with a lineup of musicians from across the country.

For festival's August instalment, organizers bring acts from across Canada into city's small venues

Abigail Smith and Peter Rowan are two of the organizers of Saint John music festival Quality Block Party. (Ben Silcox/CBC)

Quality Block Party, the Saint John-based music festival, is expanding its horizons.

The festival runs Aug. 10 to 13, and while the acts from its last instalment were all from New Brunswick, this summer the organizers have eyed musicians from out of province.

"What we really want is to be a destination festival, in the same way Sappyfest or Halifax Pop Explosion are," said Abigail Smith, one of the festival's organizers.

Festivals have kind of cropped up and fizzled out.-  Abigail Smith, Quality Block Party

Among this August's acts are Halifax's Like a Motorcycle, Ottawa's Catriona Sturton and Polaris Prize shortlister Julie Doiron. 

Smith said organizers are looking to other provinces for acts but also want to structure the festival in a sustainable way.

Started by a group of four promoters and musicians, the festival got its start last Apri as a "complement" to the East Coast Music Awards being held in the city.

"Festivals have kind of cropped up and fizzled out, like Saltyjam and other festivals like that," Smith said. "A big part of what we're doing is connecting with other business and community events."

The local businesses that will act as venues include bars but also uptown restaurant Taco Pica, coffee shop Locavore and Boyd Gallery. 

Smith said the organizers are also trying to define their roles better, so in the future, their jobs can be passed to new people. 

Making noise

The Quality Block Party ended with an all-day, all-ages concert that drew complaints from a neighbour who lived in an apartment nearby. 

Smith said noise-related bylaws in Saint John are vague, but the festival doesn't want residents to be uncomfortable with the event.

"We are not trying to be actual disrupters, we're not trying to keep anyone up," she said, "But if you're in uptown Saint John, you're in the pulse of the city, and that makes some noise."

Donna Reardon, city councillor for the ward that includes uptown, said noise has been an increasing issue for events and bars as more residents flock to Saint John's core.

The Quality Block Party music festival takes its name from the old Quality Block on Germain Street in Saint John. (CBC)

"People that live in the neighbourhood, they want to have things going on and that's what brings vibrancy to the neighbourhood and why a lot of people are moving here," Reardon said. "On the other hand, those same people want to get their sleep at night."

Smith said the Quality Block Party will keep the past complaints in mind, but the party will go on.

"What we're trying to do with this is just be respectful and listen and understand that this is a residential area now," she said.

"But it is first and foremost commercial and entertainment, arts and culture. But those things don't need to butt heads."

The lineup

This year's confirmed acts for Quality Block Party are: Like a Motorcycle, Three Sheet, Monoxides, Construction & Destruction, Shrimp Ring, Julie Doiron, Bonnett House, Catriona Sturton, Laps, Tortue, Oldie Junior, Killdevils, Tooth & the Fang, Russell Louder, Reagan's Rayguns, Usse, Wrote, Bad People, Little You Little Me,the Trick, the Hypochondriacs, Chips, Right Shitty, Young Satan in Love, Denmother, T. Thomason, Womb to Tomb, That Hell Kite, Tasty Wangs, Janowskii, Jaguar Knight, and Jerry Faye.