It’s Hard Times In The Maritimes

So a few words about Saint John; it’s been a long road to recovery since moving the provincial capital to Fredericton in 1785, Confederation in 1867, the Great Fire of 1877, the end of wooden shipbuilding in the 1880’s, the opening of the St Lawrence Seaway in the 1960’s, the end of the frigate program in the 1990’s, the loss of Lantic Sugar in 2000, the recent closing of many of our call centres, and a prevailing mass exodus. Those of us that have chosen to remain do so out of loyalty, a love of family, fog, Victorian architecture, a rich cultural community, and a sometimes perverse love of grit, “I think it’s got grit to it and it’s got a shadow over it at times, both literal and figurative due to the pulp mill and heavy industry, but there’s a lot of light here as well, and there’s a lot of people flourishing here.” If there’s a curator of that light it’s Julia Wright, founder, editor, and head wordsmith of Hard Times in the Maritimes. Continue reading It’s Hard Times In The Maritimes

Earthbound Trio’s Rising Star

In the midst of Earthbound Trio’s set, a sudden explosion of noise cuts Bob Fitzgerald’s upright bass short. It’s the sort of noise reserved for Michael Bay films; not what you want to hear during a show, and especially not during the Galaxie Rising Star competition at Fredericton’s Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival. I had come to interview the opening act and presumptive winners, Tomato/tomato, who had garnered themselves a full 50% of the online vote, though admittedly I was rooting for both teams, and that noise caused the bottom of my stomach to drop. Mike ‘Mumble’ Humble, percussionist extraordinaire, tells me things were even worse from his perspective, “My ear drum dropped out. That was the loudest thing I have ever heard. Like wow, man. That monitor was set up nice and loud for the loop to come in later, and then, all of a sudden, it’s killing me with nowhere to hide. But you just keep playing, and you play through it, right? It’s not the first time that pedals have made whacky noises.” Continue reading Earthbound Trio’s Rising Star

Tomato/Tomato Confirm That It Is Pronounced ‘Tomato’

Tomato/Tomato’s John McLaggan wants to be invisible. It’s an unexpected sentiment to find in a showman, certainly from one of the forerunners in the 2014 Galaxie Rising Star competition; but it’s something that his love of music has inevitably overcome. “I’m a bit of an introvert. I guess I should have prefaced it with that. See, any other super power and people are going to want stuff from you; if you’re super-strong it’s like people are, ‘Hey, come pick up this thing for me’. If you’re super-fast it’s like ‘Hey, can you run over here and get this?’ Now invisibility…” But that was the Old John, and I’m told he has improved significantly with age, even if invisibility still has its appeal. Continue reading Tomato/Tomato Confirm That It Is Pronounced ‘Tomato’

The Saint John Stone Sculpture Symposium

The Saint John Stone Sculpting Symposium began with fire and brimstone, and massive flows of lava moving across great scathes of our fair province. Fortunately for everyone involved the last 390 million years has given things plenty of time to cool down; bystanders and artists alike have little more to be concerned about than the lingering clouds of Devonian by-product that have come to replace the usual harbour-front fog each morning. It was on the far side of one of these that I found Alison Gayton, a returning intern, finishing her lunch inside of the site’s many small tents. She offered me a cherry tomato, but the twenty seconds it had taken me to cross the lot had already filled my mouth my with a fine dust. Continue reading The Saint John Stone Sculpture Symposium

Tom Smith, Kayleigh Kristiansen & The No Fun Zone

It is July, and the annual Picaroon’s Brewer’s Bash in Fredericton is a hipster’s paradise; a sea of humanity awash in sunshine, plaid, beards, and beer, punctuated with islands of live music and performance art. No fewer than sixty-three different craft brewers from across Canada had gathered around Officer’s Square this year, each dispensing a continuous deluge of fermented malt beverage in tiny half-serving mugs. I came prepared for a marathon, but others had come expecting a mad sprint, determined to sample everything the festival had to offer. By late afternoon there were already examples of previously upright citizens staring off into the middle distance, concentrating huge efforts of will into simply placing one foot in front of the other in something like a straight line towards their next drink. Mating rituals had begun in wild and ridiculous displays. The sea had the potential to get choppy.

I had noticed the painting earlier; the artist working away across a brightly coloured canvas under the shade of a tree. It made for a pleasant enough addition to the festival atmosphere in its unobtrusive way, people were milling about it, commenting on it and I occasionally marked its progress throughout the day. But that had been during the relative innocence of daylight hours, and now that the light of the sun was fading from the day the anarchistic mentality of a Thunderdome mob was setting in. Dead-eyed drunks were everywhere, Continue reading Tom Smith, Kayleigh Kristiansen & The No Fun Zone