Living Roots (Dillon Anthony/The East)

Living Roots Music Festival: Firsthand Experience As A Festival Volunteer

I may not be a singer. I may not play an instrument. But I have a Song in Me.

On the last weekend of May, I enjoyed the Living Roots Music Festival. Being a festival goer last year and an ongoing festival volunteer (at other festivals), I decided the best way to enjoy Living Roots was throwing myself to the organizers’ whims as a volunteer.

For me, choosing to join the festival as a volunteer gives me a chance for music discovery. Meeting new people, and hearing artists that I hadn’t heard before are two of the benefits of the volunteer experience. This included not choosing a set list of artists that I wanted to see. I gave my time freely and let the festival organizer place me as he needed. This translated to taking tickets at two different venues. And seeing a bunch of wonderful artists perform from their heart.

Festivals live and breathe from the activities of the volunteer. Someone takes the tickets, someone sells the merchandise, and someone does the sound and stage set-up. And someone takes photos.

Some volunteers give a little extra of themselves to the festival. This extra giving of myself to the festival took the form of photography, which was over and above my volunteer commitments.

In its second year, Living Roots Music Festival is the passion of Eddie Young. And it is one aspect of Roots and Soul Music Promotions, which has been hosting shows around Fredericton for a few years.

Eddie Young with SharonEp1c and Jessica Newman & Brittany Rhynold of the Everyday Weekend (Doug Mullin/The East)
Eddie Young with SharonEp1c and Jessica Newman & Brittany Rhynold of the Everyday Weekend (Doug Mullin/The East)

Using traditional venues like Wilmot Church for the Saturday evening show by Ben Caplan (Halifax), and The Capital Complex for staggered sets between the upstairs Wilser’s Room and the Capital Bar downstairs, played well for festival goers. More non-traditional venues are becoming the norm for music shows as well – places like Grimross Brewery on Prospect, Read’s Newsstand on King, The Abbey Café and Gallery on Queen, and the truly non-traditional, like The Royal Barbershop on King and Bellwether, a clothing boutique on Queen, opens one perception of small business in the city. Living Roots does its part to build community, even hosting shows in Harvey.

For me, my volunteering experience was mixed between Grimross Brewery and Read’s Newsstand. On Thursday, I had the pleasure of listening to three marvellous acts. Brooklyn Doran (Toronto), Midnight Vesta (Toronto), Pretty Archie (Sydney). It was a very folky night, which ended with dancing.

Pretty Archie (Doug Mullin/The East)
Pretty Archie (Doug Mullin/The East)
Rory Taillon (Doug Mullin/The East)
Rory Taillon (Doug Mullin/The East)
Kill Chicago (Doug Mullin/The East)
Kill Chicago (Doug Mullin/The East)

Friday found me taking tickets at Read’s Newsstand, listening to Fredericton’s own Creative Differences, the brother-sister duo of the Fowlie Clan, Colin and Megan. Their set combined a mix of cover songs and original music. They were lead in by musicians from Toronto and Ottawa, Midnight Vesta and Rory Taillon. This was a small intimate venue.

I ended the evening by popping over to The Capital for The Vaudevillian (Kitchener), The Torinos (Saint John), Pretty Archie (Sydney) and Kill Chicago (Fredericton), the 2016 winner of MusicNB’s Album of the Year for The Grey.

Saturday morning found me at Grimross for yoga and beer, put on by The Everyday Weekend, a local yoga company. Being my first ever yoga class, I had no expectation that I would be able to do it. Jessica Newman and Brittany Rhynold made it fun, and I felt terrific for the rest of the day.

Photo: Beer and Yoga (Doug Mullin/The East)
Photo: Beer and Yoga (Doug Mullin/The East)
Jeff Liberty (Doug Mullin/The East)
Jeff Liberty (Doug Mullin/The East)

Enjoying the music of Emily Ruse (Fredericton?), Patrick Reynolds Music (Fredericton), and Isaac & Blewett (Fredericton) lead to a talk about mental health by Jeff Liberty of Quispamsis. This was an important addition to the lineup. Jeff is part of the mental health awareness campaign called #MyDefintion. The overarching message is that your mental health is part of you, but it does not define you.

The rest of the afternoon was filled out by Kathleen Gorey-McSorley (Fredericton), Emily Rockarts (Toronto), Jessica Rhaye (Hampton), three singer-songwiters. And it is Song in Me, the title track of Jessica’s 2016 album that I reference in the opening line, which says “I’ve got a song in me//I’m gonna set it free.” It speaks to me, about not keeping your song, story, passion bottled up. 

Jessica Rhaye (Doug Mullin/The East)
Jessica Rhaye (Doug Mullin/The East)

That idea of keeping my passion bottled up is reflective of my photography. While I don’t have musical talents to get on stage, I do have photographic skills to document what takes place on stage. Photography is a passion that I sometimes keep to myself. Jessica Rhaye’s song reminds me to share my work – not keeping it for myself, but putting it out for people to see.

Chasing a photographic career was always just a dream, a hope, a wish for something more. Having a song that reminds me to chase the dream is necessary. It gives wind to the dream, and hope flourishes again. The wish becomes reality, because I take it up and work on it. I’d encourage everyone to find their dream and work at it.

While the shows were taking place, SharonEp1c was live painting the room. She sets up in a corner and puts the show to canvas. It’s amazing to watch the canvas go from blank to full of colour and vibrancy, capturing the essence of the evening, or morning, whatever the case may be. 

SharonEp1c (Doug Mullin/The East)
SharonEp1c (Doug Mullin/The East)
Ben Caplan (Doug Mullin/The East)
Ben Caplan (Doug Mullin/The East)
Kendra Gale Band (Doug Mullin/The East)
Kendra Gale Band (Doug Mullin/The East)

Then the highlight of my weekend: Ben Caplan. This show was a partnership between Living Roots and Shivering Songs, and hosted at Wilmot United Church with opening act, Jane Blanchard. Ben was wonderful, showcasing some new work, he had a full band with him. Telling stories both in song and word, Ben has great affection for Fredericton, being the first place he landed a gig outside of his native Halifax.

Saturday evening ended with the Kendra Gale Band on the stage of the Capital Bar, and afterwards that I should have stayed around for the pirate band, The Steady Swagger (Montreal). That is what I love about Living Roots, there is so much goodness happening that it’s difficult to enjoy it all.

The biggest highlights for me were the live painting by SharonEp1c, the yoga & beer, and Ben Caplan bringing down the house at Wilmot. These three stand out in my mind, because each person involved is pursuing their own song, chasing their passion for dear life.

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