Celebration of the East Coast was abounding during East Coast Music Week in Saint John, New Brunswick this past weekend. We are lucky enough to live in a part of the world where we are rich with musical talent, and I was lucky enough to be in attendance to a number of shows that showcased it. The city had a buzz around it, with industry professionals, musicians, and music fans around every corner. The downtown core of “Saint Awesome” (as it has recently been dubbed) was electric. It was an easy festival to navigate as all of the venues were within a few blocks of each other, and some even in the same buildings. No music bled from stage to stage, and each had its own fans and feel surrounding it. From a walk from the stages upstairs at the Delta to the Main Hall in Market Square you could catch acts that varied from folk, jazz, rap, and metal to pop. There was something for everyone, and I wish I could have soaked more of it in, or there were nine of me to be at all of the stages, at all times. I could go through all the shows I saw, but nobody wants to read that book. I’ll keep it short and sweet and hit you with my top 5 favourite shows of ECMA weekend.
Though I had only heard their most recent single (“Fais Faillite”) previous to this weekend, I was intrigued. Thursday night I tuned in late to the ECMA awards and caught the last 30 seconds of their set previous to the show starting and knew I had to see these Group Recording & Francophone Recording Artists of the Year Winners. Saturday afternoon at the Electric Showcase at the Delta, the French Frank Zappa-esque rockers took the stage. Their burly singer Serge Brideau was in a summery blue dress, donned for both style and comfort. The band ripped through their half hour set full of raw energy and talented jams. Their set wasn’t enough…I needed more. They were a band so nice, I saw them twice…in the same day. They closed at the Rock Stage in the main hall. Here is where they absolutely stole the weekend. Serge in his nicest black polka-dot dress, and the band in their white on white ensemble, absolutely tore the roof off the place. They explained a lot of their songs since they sang in French, and knew most of the audience didn’t. Stories of how the guitarist was born (“East Bound and Down”), and the French and English needing to come together in the country (“Super Chiac Baby”) had the crowd dancing, rocking, laughing, and gazing in awe of the talent on stage. They drew long jams out of songs similar to Phish or the Grateful Dead, to the point that you forgot what the song was, or that it was the same song the entire time. Every member of the band could have been the most talented in any other band they were in, but we’re all lucky enough to see them as an ensemble.
Even if you don’t speak French, check these guys out. Put their album on in the background and watch how many times you catch yourself saying, “Holy Fuck, these guys are awesome.” Talent knows no language barriers, and these guys prove it.
This Caper has been writing with some of the bigger names on the East Coast (Neon Dreams, Port Cities), but on Friday night at CLUB Rewind he showed that he could perform too. I’ve seen Dave a number of times as a solo act, and his voice and guitar playing can easily entertain a room. His lyrics induce laughing, crying, and dancing, and his growly yet sweet voice can make anyone swoon. This time he decided to bring a band with him, which put things well over the edge. The crowd quickly filed to the front of the stage as Dave and his band walked on to perform. He greeted the crowd quickly and wasted no time kicking up a ruckus. One of my favourite parts about seeing Dave perform is the joy that you can tell he gets out of playing. He has fun every second of being on stage, and sharing it with friends. He jams, smiles, and hollers while his buddies take solos. He engages with the crowd like they’re all best friends. Before playing his biggest single “No Pressure, No Diamonds” (the hook to ECMA Song of the Year “No Pressure” – Classified), Dave told his great story about how the single came to be, and his shock when he found out Snoop Dog (whose CD was thrown out by Dave’s dad in his youth) was going to be on it. He tore through a honky tonk version of it, and left the crowd wanting more.
A number of ECMA nominations for these PEI pop gems had them reeling on the weekend. It seemed as though half of the island was there in support of them, and they knew almost every word that came out of singer John MacPhee’s mouth. Decked out in a wonderful flowered blazer, MacPhee danced around the stage to nearly every song. Even when slowing it down for more solemn numbers, he couldn’t keep still, and would mosey over to check on his band mates to ensure they were enjoying themselves as much as he was. The crowd danced along to tracks from a career-spanning set, with it heavily decked with their most recent Full Colour. Their Maroon 5-ey/OK GO pop-punk-dance sound couldn’t be contained to the stage as MacPhee made his way into the crowd to show appreciation and dole out some high fives late into the set. All in all, these were some of the best pop anthems of Friday night, and the entirety of the weekend.
With a major social media presence leading up to their debut album “Distractions,” I’d be lying to say I wasn’t highly anticipating this show. It took exactly three seconds for the rock and roll to be turned up to 11. Bochoff’s nearly falsetto but most definitely punk-tinged voice rang through the bar, only to be broken up by killer guitar licks and heavy duty head banging. Piano notes from Stephen Hare gave a melodic contrast to the punk-ness of the sound. Bochoff enticed the crowd, that seemed to need a breather after Dave Sampson’s set, to wander back up to the front. They were not disappointed in what they got. Songs like “Summer of ’96” and “Bad Company” had feet tapping, and heads banging. From a sound that seems too heavy to be pretty, it somehow found the perfect medley of both. Closing his set with the single “Sons of America,” Bochoff got to really show off his vocal chops, and had jaws on the floor of those who haven’t heard him before. I had heard him previous to this, and yet my jaw was still on the floor. You wouldn’t expect such perfection from album to stage, yet it accomplished…and exceeded.
“Yeah Mitch, we fucking get it. You’re a fan of LAM, shut up already”- Probably anyone who reads stuff I write, or listens to the podcast.
Well, here we go again. These girls (and Hot Dave) are insane. They put a spin on punk rock that can make it more accessible for some that don’t think they like punk, and for those who do like punk…well, they already had you. Their stage show is second to none. Michelle holds a tight ship on the skins, and has deadly and powerful vocals to match. KT, Kim, and Dave aren’t attached to the mics so they get to act like monkeys who got the keys to the zoo up front. I feel masochistic watching the way they treat their instruments. They shred heavy licks, and booming bass lines. Guitar battle breakdowns and near broken noses while kicks, jumps, and chaos ensue on stage. A few new tracks were sprinkled into their set that was loaded up with songs from their album “High Hopes.” Get out and see these Rising Star Award Winners. NOW. Or soon, since I’m assuming most of you are reading this killing time at work.
ECMA weekend was an utter success in my humble opinion. The biggest of congrats to all of the nominees and winners! Maybe us folks here at Hafilax might see y’all at the awards next year…