In our series Home Scene, Grid City asks music fans to share what they love most about the city’s music culture. This time we check in with musician, guitar collector and outspoken bike enthusiast Mike Nason.
I tried really hard to come up with an answer that wasn’t The Capital Complex. There are things I definitely like about other venues in town. The Playhouse is a beautiful place to see a show with absolutely wonderful staff and amazing sound. But the seats-only vibe and seemingly infrequent shows rule it out. And, I miss the Elk’s Club for whatever reason. There’s just so much that happens at The Capital. Zach Atkinson does an amazing job booking bands and treating them well. We’re really lucky to have him here. If it weren’t for the reputation The Capital has with touring bands across the country, we would be underserved for sure. Plus, I mean, Ferg is a bartender of national renown, the sound is usually quite good, and it’s centrally located with a giant patio. What isn’t to love? There’s almost no other answer.
The one Fredericton band more people should know about but don’t.
I’m always surprised when people don’t know who Force Fields are. They don’t play a lot, so I guess it’s understandable. They’re tremendous, though, and one of the best live performances you’ll see. Post-rock at it’s finest from some of Fredericton’s most established and talented musicians.
Name your favourite recent release by a Fredericton artist.
The new Olympic Symphonium album, Chance to Fate, is probably their best release. I’ve listened that quite a bit. They keep growing with every album and find increasingly interesting tones and themes. Oh, and Mayors! There’ve only got an EP right now, but it’s awesome to see Skinner back in the saddle!
I might have to go out on a limb though and say my favourite “regional” release are the two EPs released by Vogue Dots. If you see any write up on them, it’ll say they’re from Halifax. But, like, they’ve been in Saint John, Halifax, and Fredericton sort of interchangeably over the summer. Their first EP, Toska, was a tremendous breath of fresh air to the region. Their brand, brand new EP that isn’t even out yet, Mauka, is streaming over at Sunken Sounds. It’s so good. They’re amazing. Vogue Dots for mayors of my heart.
If a live music experience could be summed up as a combination of time, place and artist, tell us about one show you’ve seen this year that ranks high on your list.
Just one show is entirely unfair. I went to a lot of shows this year… St. Vincent in Halifax, Queens of the Stone Age in Bangor, The Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival, Sappyfest, Shifty Bits Circus all had amazing moments. It’s been one of those years where it’s easy to forget something that, in retrospect, was incredible.
- The Constantines at Sappyfest 9 // Sackville, NB – Anyone who goes to Sappyfest knows the beauty of it. The whole festival is a testament to place. Whether it’s small-town infatuation or true Tantramar Swamp Magic, Sappy crawls right up inside you. You are friends with everyone. Or, as Maggie Estey yelled in passing, “everyone’s name is ‘hey’!” Amongst wonderful Shotgun & Jaybird reunions and a triumphant set by Julie Doiron, The Constantines reunion show was a live experience that felt like societal milestone. Like, our lives can be divided to “pre cons” and “post cons”. There’s no denying their status as one of the best Canadian bands of all time. Huge, powerful, heartfelt… they requested a witness and we couldn’t look away. I hope they stick around and write new albums.
- Beach House at The Playhouse // Fredericton, NB – I used to listen to a ton of Beach House. Their music is the aural equivalent of a Gin & Tonic. But my enthusiasm for the band had more-or-less waned. I did not have high expectations for the show, but was shocked that it was even happening in the first place. “Aren’t they from, like New York?! What?!” Expecting a two piece on a sleepy autumn night and feeling like I was dropped into mid-summer heat waves by a full-piece band was the first surprise. Then, the stuffy Playhouse crowd stood up! They moved to the isles and in between rows in the not-so-sold-out theatre! Singer Victoria Legrand was happy for the proximity. We were just happy they were there at all. They filled us with dreamy tones and made us wish for more Playhouse shows with more floor space. More. I want more, I tell you.
- Gord Downie & The Sadies at Harvest Jazz and Blues // Fredericton, NB – Uhh… one of Canada’s best touring bands in the Sadies backing up weathered – and possibly insane – frontman Gord Downie for a rock extravaganza the likes of which you’ve never seen. I was expecting something like “The Hip.” I left wondering why The Hip even exist if this is our alternative. Easily the best show I’ve ever seen at a Harvest stage. Plus, they covered Guided by Voices!
Live music culture is an important part of Fredericton’s identity. If you could improve one aspect of the city’s music scene, what would it be?
Our all ages scene is really starting to come together. It’s got bodies and bands and support. It just needs reliable venues. The Charlotte Street Arts Centre is gun-shy from bad apples who ruin scenes. Gallery Connexion is less show friendly than it used to be. The Elk’s Club is, I guess, expensive? Reneu Boutique puts on shows. It’s tiny, but supportive and at least a step in the right direction.
It’s hard to keep a scene fresh without a vibrant and healthy all ages scene. Bar bands would be well served in remembering what inspired them to play when they were younger. Fredericton can feed its scene by helping out with all ages stuff. The shell of it is there. It’s better than it’s been in years, I think, but holy moly do they ever need a quasi-reliable, legit venue. Someone go re-open cedar as Bugaboo II and cram wet/dry shows there, please.
Looking to the months ahead, what upcoming show is on your radar as a “must see”?
It’s starting to get around to that time of year where all I want to think about is who’s covering who at the annual Christmas Cover Show. I’ve played a bunch of them and they’re always super, super fun. Locals getting together to pour their hearts into covering bands they love! For charity! It’s so great to find out who’s covering who. There’s always a spectacle. The crowd is always fuelled by Winter Warmer. Folks are back home for the holidays from wherever they went off to. It’s more or less the best thing that happens within our music scene.
Mike Nason performs in several bands, owns several guitars and rides his bike everywhere he goes. He’s a friend to all musicians, a true Fredericton diplomat and an all-around nice guy. He currently performs with The Trick and Young Satan in Love. Follow him at @AhemNason Oh yeah, dude loves hammocks as well.