I am very excited to be in Saint John, New Brunswick covering The East Coast Music Awards this week! It’s the second time that I’ve written about the ECMAs, but my first time with a swanky Media Pass, and it is my first time in Saint John! I am really loving the vibe of this city. The ECMAs are in the hub of the uptown, configured around Market Square, and there’s a Boardwalk, and huge churches everywhere that look like castles, and some really great old buildings and little touches in the city that feel equal parts historic, but also sort of hipster-vintage. Coming from Halifax where so many of the most unique buildings are being torn down and replaced by giant glass domes, King, Charlotte and Germain Streets are a cozy, welcome change of pace. There is lots of character to these and the surrounding streets, and I’m looking forward to (hopefully) having some more time to explore in the coming days!
Today I stopped by the Opening Concert on the Boardwalk, just outside the main hub of the Festival at Market Square. The rain held off and quite a large number of music lovers crowded in front of the Boardwalk Stage, sang along and danced, and people ate outside on the patio, which as was noted by Colin McKay, the evening’s host from Rock 88.9, is rare for this time of year on the East Coast. It was a testament to Saint John’s enthusiasm for hosting these awards, the first time since 2002, and the ECMAs are off to a great start for me, as I loved the entire Opening Concert lineup.
The evening began with Hilary Ladd (vocals and guitar), Nienke Izurieta (violin) and Katie Bestvater (cello), together known as Ladd and Lasses, who kicked things off with some original folk music that oscillated from slower, broody and evocative sea shanty songs to more rollicking ceilidh tunes. Ladd has a beautiful voice and the harmony of the guitar, cello and violin create a gorgeous, and often very catchy, mixture. The three ladies also sound beautiful when they sing together in harmony, I hope there is more of that on their debut album, which is coming in June.
Adam Washburn and his band rocked out next, which really sent the spirits of the crowd soaring. They have infectious energy and looked like they were having a blast, which got the audience up dancing and cheering. Washburn has a gorgeous, smooth voice (and falsetto) and his songs are youthful, catching, melodic and easy to move to, but lyrically they are also a thoughtful portrait of the highs and the lows of life in one’s often tumultuous early twenties. Washburn’s new album Lift Me Up is available now.
Quake Matthews has teamed up with Toronto’s Kayo to form the dynamic Hip Hop duo The Search. They bounce their incredible energy back and forth like the volleying of two expert tennis players, at times feeding off one another, and at times stepping back and shining the spotlight on the other. Kayo and Matthews both show off tight and rapid rhymes in songs like “In Search of a Dream”- their slightly disparate styles complimenting one another nicely. They both have great stage presence and charisma with the audience and Quake got the entire crowd singing along with his eloquent and clever remix of Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself.”
Old Man Luedecke closed out the set with his extraordinarily charming songs, largely about seeing the delightful in everyday moments, be they a kiss at an airport, the despair of a squandered A&W Teen Burger Combo, angry gardening or the joy of cooking. With his jaunty bango, penchant for yodelling and his quietly hilarious stories to introduce each song, Old Man Luedecke’s set is really a celebration of family and of home. He does such a beautiful job of mining the moments in his life, often small, poignant moments, or domestic routines others may take for granted, and creating beautiful stories that speak with humour and eloquence to the human condition. His accidental commercial for Goldfish Crackers, “The Early Days” is the consummate example of how Old Man Luedecke uses everyday imagery of shopping carts and toothpaste to tell a timeless and heartrending story.
Tomorrow I am looking forward to the East Coast Music Awards Show at 8pm at Harbour Station. Some artists that I am hoping to catch and/or recommend that you try to catch tomorrow are Dave Gunning, Erin Costello, Quake Matthews, The Town Heroes, Classified and David Myles, Coig, Reeny Smith, REPARTEE, Ria Mae, Tomato Tomato, Like a Motorcycle and City Natives. Check out ECMA website for more information.