East Coast Music Awards

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The East Coast Music Awards (ECMAs) are such a highly anticipated event in the Maritimes…they always take place in February and they always come with an entire festival. I always watch them on T.V. because I am such a big fan of the local music here, but I have never actually attended them before. This year I was very excited to hear they were being held in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

The ECMAs are nothing like any other music festival I have attended before. First off, they take place in mid-winter. Most music festivals happen in the summer when you can camp out in a field and all the hippies don’t shower and you accidentally get second-hand high from all the pot-smoking. After my weekend, I have to wonder why no one thought of this before! What a novel idea to host a 4-day festival in the dead of winter. Sure you have to compete with the natural elements, but no one has anything better to do anyway. Plus no heat stroke which is a bonus.

I wish I could have attended the entire thing, but alas I only went for one day. The line-up of musician was phenomenal and every pub, bar, and event centre in town was packed full of live music and crazy fans. Unfortunately I could only be in one place at a time so with my two other friends I saw about 10 different bands in about 10 hours!

Our first stop was Dolan’s pub to hear Wintersleep in the afternoon. These guys are fantastic so check them out if you have a chance. The pub was packed and we arrived just in time. The band played our two favorite songs, The Infinite Yes and Weighty Ghost, just as we cramped our bodies in between a bunch of strangers. Do to the extreme discomfort of the situation we stayed only to hear a few songs and then broke free into the fresh air. We then walked about 30 feet to another pub called Nicky Zees which was hosting the Music PEI stage. They were doing an acoustic afternoon set with various artist and we found a spot to squat and watched Catherine MacLellan and Nathan Wiley perform. Although i’ve heard them both before they still blew me away. Nathan had an amazing percussionist playing with him (Keith something or other) and Catherine wowed the crowed with her confident new-bluegrass sound. It definitely made me proud to be an Islander.

After the PEI showcase we headed to the Back Nine across the street where the highly anticipated Music Nova Scotia night was happening. We thought we should go early to get a good spot, but were saddened to find the doors didn’t open until a half an hour before the event. This meant that we had to wait in line for an hour and half just to get in (i would say there were 600-800 people in line…i couldn’t see the end of it behind us). Thankfully we snagged some seats and made friends with the sound booth guys. The line up for the event went like this:

Ruby Jean and the Thoughful Bees-kind of an urban-techno sound that was more about the mixing than the musicians

Jill Barber –I love this girl. She is folk meets jazz with a little country thrown in…like Norah Jones mixed with Jewel (she was nominated for Entertainer of the Year and up for a Juno). The only problem was the intensity and noise of a crowd ready to party, listening to a lounge and theatre musician. She desperately attempted to quiet the group to play her romantic ballads but it wasn’t happening and that just sucks. The truth is some people come to hear the bands and some come to party. It’s unfortunate for the former group having to mix with the latter group.

Jordan Croucher–Hip Hop artist from Halifax. I will never understand how a rapper from Halifax has the same accent as one from L.A. This was actually a surprise for me because I ended up really liking this group.

The Sleepless Nights–too much screaming for me. Why do people want to scream into microphones? i will never understand that. I think they were the most non-conventional rock/punk group i have ever seen. very funny…all the guys had mullets with molestashes (creepy mustaches) and trucker hats on.

The Joel Plaskett Emergency–Perhaps the most anticipated band of the night and they did not disappoint. I love this band. Joel Plaskett’s songwriting causes me to bow down, along with his high energy, interactive performance. He cleaned up at the ECMAs taking home 6 awards altogether. I admit I was a little star struck as I’ve been wanting to see these guys play for a long time now.

The Trews–o.k…confession time. We actually left before they went on. The truth was that the three of us were so exhausted and the place was very crowded. By this time we had been in this one pub for 5 hours and were very hungry. PLUS the washrooms were impossible to get to (unless you crowd surfed there) and two out of four stalls were broken. But, I have seen the Trews play before and our leaving is in no way discrediting their awesomeness. They are such a great band, amazing performers, and a fantastic pick for the headliners that night. I guess I am just getting old…

In the end I didn’t get home until 4 a.m. but it was worth it (this has largely to do with an hour-long wait in the MacDonald’s drive through–no exaggeration). The whole day had me thinking about a lot of things. First off, how much PHENOMENAL talent we have in the East Coast. There are still about a million artists I would have loved to have seen but didn’t get the chance like: the Chucky Danger Band, Damhnai Doyle, Tim Chaisson, Jessica Rhaye, Two Hours Traffic, Jon Matthews, Saddle River String Band, Adam Olmstead, Chelsea Nisbett, etc…I could got on and on. What I am saying is that for a small region we have a lot of talent.

Secondly, the truth about musicians is that they are really just popularized geeks. If they weren’t on stage holding a guitar then would anyone look twice? I am not saying they are over-rated. In fact, I am pleased that people appreciate good tunes when they hear them, but let’s call a spade a spade. Joel Plaskett is skinny and lanky and one of his band members wears a fedora…yet somehow I get a little drooly when he comes on stage. They are just like anyone else, maybe having even been more socially awkward than the average teenager. They had a passion and worked incessantly at it while their parents rolled their eyes at their obsessive need to learn a cheesy Barenaked Ladies’ guitar lick alone in their bedroom; meanwhile their friends played basketball and put far too much energy into thinking about the prom or how they could get beer for Friday night. They were probably in the band and played clarinet for years, or they joined the theatre club and sang solos in the high school production of Little Shop of Horrors. We kind of idolize them imagining them to have always been cool and naturally good at what they do, growing up listening to Simon and Garfunkle and Coltrane and never once being tricked into liking either top 40 hits or show tunes. I think it would be nicer to appreciate musicians for the passion and work they put into their music rather than for a false image that we often force upon them, filling our own need to idolize someone. I don’t think that is healthy for us or the artist.

But that’s just my opinion. Anyone else?

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2 Responses to “East Coast Music Awards”


  1. 1 Rachel February 13, 2008 at 8:57 pm

    Jill Barber is great!!

    I have a friend obsessed with Joel Plaskett. He’s married to this woman, Becky. My friend yells out, “Becky Sucks!” – and then found out that it was that Becky sitting in front of her. Embarrassing. This was a pointless story to tell you, but anyway… 😛

    “the truth about musicians is that they are really just popularized geeks” YES.

  2. 2 Barrett February 14, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    you are dead on, my dear. It is utterly amazing how much talent we have in the Maritimes. “Can someone give me a hand with all this talent?”

    Two Hours Traffic is playing here in Guelph next Thursday, and I’ll be there with bells on! Well not literally…that might distract from the band.


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