New Brunswick

Return of live music plants 'seeds of hope,' says fan at Fredericton festival

Music lovers in Fredericton say a new festival that's happening throughout the weekend is a sign that life is getting back to normal.

'You're starting to think about people ... not just happy about being out, but comfortable and relaxed'

Taryn Deane said Sweltering Songs festival is a hopeful sign of things going back to normal. (Gary Moore/CBC)

Music lovers in Fredericton say a new festival that's happening throughout the weekend is a sign that life is getting back to normal.

Sweltering Songs is a new summer festival that's a play on words of the popular winter festival, Shivering Songs, which was cancelled in January because of a COVID-19 outbreak in the province. 

A large white tent is set up in the city's downtown core and underneath the canopy are happy concertgoers and musicians doing what they love. For many, these are things they haven't been able to do since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Taryn Deane said seeing bands performing live again surrounded by friends is what people have been waiting for since the pandemic started.

"It's kinda planting seeds of hope, you're thinking ahead, you're starting to think about Harvest [Jazz and Blues Festival], you're starting to think about people actually being, not just happy about being out, but comfortable and relaxed," she said Saturday at the festival.

Alan Jeffries and Friends performed at Sweltering Songs festival in Fredericton on Saturday afternoon. (Gary Moore/CBC)

And it's not the only music festival happening in the province this weekend. Area 506 launched its Waterfront Concert Series.

Cam Villamizar said he's managed to see some live music throughout the pandemic, but Sweltering Songs is the largest show he's attended since before the pandemic.

Zach Atkinson is an organizer of Sweltering Songs. (Gary Moore/CBC)

"I couldn't be happier," he said. "I think for myself and a lot of my friends this is the reason we were just trying to get this situation resolved quickly, so we could be back into this."

Sweltering Songs is a smaller festival than what organizer Zach Atkinson is used to putting on pre-pandemic. 

He said to accommodate COVID restrictions, the capacity is about 120 people in the tent.

He said the idea for Sweltering Songs was to create a folk-like festival, and have people bring lawn chairs to sit on inside the tent.

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Sods for pods

And following the idea of sitting people in pods at similar concerts, he had small patches of artificial sods for people to sit together in small groups.

Atkinson said the festival was organized in a month and he started planning it once the borders started to open. He was confident it wouldn't get cancelled over another potential COVID-19 outbreak.

To create a folk festival vibe, organizers used artificial sods as pods for people to set up a lawn chair to watch the show. (Gary Moore/CBC)

"I wasn't prepared to invest that time to know that it's not going to happen, so we did it quick," he said. 

Atkinson has been organizing small shows throughout the pandemic when restrictions have allowed for events, but said he's proud to bring Sweltering Songs to light following a tough stretch for the industry.

"There's a lack of work for artists, there's a lack of work for industry, and there's a lack of opportunity for music fans to go and see things." 

The three-day festival wraps up Sunday evening.


Gary Moore

CBC News

Gary Moore is a video journalist based in Fredericton.