The Once first act for this year's Indian River Festival

St. John's band The Once will kick off this year's Indian River Festival will a show featuring the Atlantic String Machine on Sunday.

St. Mary's Church show June 19, followed by Cavendish on July 2

The Once will perform with the Atlantic String Machine at the first concert in this year's Island River Festival on Sunday. (Chris Ledrew)

St. John's band The Once are about to play shows on P.E.I. not once, but twice in the next few days, and they couldn't be at more different venues.

On Sunday they will be on hand to kick off the Indian River Festival in St. Mary's Church, and then they are part of the big concert July 2 at the Cavendish Beach Events Centre.

They will be two very different shows as well, as at Indian River the group will be joined by the Atlantic String Machine, and the Cavendish show will be a big outdoor party.

Speaking with Kerry Campbell on CBC Radio's Mainstreet, lead singer Geraldine Hollett said she loves being able to play both kinds of shows.

Geraldine Hollett, lead singer of The Once, says she loves being able to play to both intimate audiences and huge outdoor crowds, as she'll be doing in the next few days on P.E.I. (YouTube)
"Sometimes we play rooms of 50 people in foreign countries, or a couple of hundred, or even more intimate," she said. "We're so fortunate, we're so blessed, to get to do this in front of a small audience or a big audience, and get to feel the intimacy of the small, up to the biggest, and try to make a big thing a small gathering."

There's a trick to winning over the outdoor crowds, she said. "When its a big stage like that, what we want to do is go, 'Alright guys, let's still pretend we're all in the kitchen, and we're all still hanging out.'"

Hollett couldn't hide her excitement about Sunday's Indian River show, for both the venue and the guests.

Playing with a string ensemble is something she loves, after getting to do a show with the Atlantic String Quartet last year, the results of which just went online, a new live video called Everything Else.

She'd love to do more shows with strings, as she feels it fits so well with their updated take on roots and traditional music.

"It would be nice, you know what, this is number two, accidentally number two, so ya, if people in other churches have, all across the country want to, or elsewhere in the world, we're in," she laughed. "Because it adds such a beautiful element to what we do, it just lifts it right off the ground, you know what I mean? It's just so gorgeous when you hear the strings. The first time it happened, I just cried."

Special show

Although she didn't come right out and say it, it was pretty obvious she wanted to advise fans to take in this particular show.

"It so special. It's something we're only going to do every blue moon. We did that song last year, we're doing this this year, it's an opportunity that rarely comes up."

Hollett, who explained she doesn't read music, said how impressed she is by ensembles like the Atlantic String Machine, who have to learn all the group's material for the show on their own.

"We'll get together with the Machine this weekend, and we'll have a couple of rehearsals, and it will sound like we had a billion," she said. "They just play this so beautifully, and they've only practiced it in their own homes or whatever, it's just like, 'What?'

"I feel like, to me, that doesn't make any sense, so they're all geniuses. It does not make a lick of sense to me how they do it, it's magic is what it is."

New album coming

Hollett had some more news for fans, word that they have a new album almost ready.

"There is, but it won't be this time, we'll have to come back in the fall with that, or in the winter," she said. "Now, this is me saying, and I'm sure management will come back to me, or the label, and say, 'Well, you know ...', but I would like, if we could get it out by October, November, that would be the best thing in the world."

The Once will be at the Indian River Festival at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 19, in the historic St. Mary's Church in Indian River.

From the CBC Mainstreet interview