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 tireless promoter, organizer and volunteer, Sammie X.
As of right now, my favourite music venue in Fredericton would have to be the Capital Complex. The staff are incredibly friendly and you get to be up close and personal with all of your favourite artists. It doesn’t matter if you’re in to metal or rock or indie, there’s always something going on for everyone.
I’ve been actively involved in the music scene here since 2004, from going to shows to being a band photographer to becoming an event manager. Over the years, Fredericton has gained and lost many venues. It’s been really interesting to see how the music scene has evolved and dissolved here.
Back in 2004, I was a high school student getting excited for upcoming shows. You could always find a show happening, whether it was at the Capital Winter Club or the Elks Club. Then the music scene gained access to venues such as the Kinsmen Centre, the Marysville Legion, Musiplex, and the Charlotte Street Arts Centre. In fact, I remember one of the very first Christmas cover shows I went to was at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre. Musiplex was probably one of the best venues we ever had, but I don’t think we really appreciated what we had until we lost it. That goes for a lot of other things though too. Musiplex was expensive to rent and hard to find, but the layout was awesome. You could easily hold wet/dry events without having to worry about underage drinking or kids expressing their concerns about not being able to see the bands they wanted to see.
A lot of people complain about the lack of venues around Fredericton and the fact that we don’t get as nearly as big of bands as other cities around us will get. What people don’t want to account for is what exactly goes into bringing those bands here. I remember Moneen playing at Bugaboo, Silverstein playing at the Capital Winter Club, and Rise Against playing at the SUB. We could still have bands like that brought here, but there’s not enough of a demand. Not enough people go out to support them. So many kids were mad that Protest the Hero wasn’t an all ages show or that Cancer Bats wasn’t an all ages show. Then people were mad because Protest the Hero was held at bar and that tickets were so expensive. So we created a Facebook group to gain interest in getting Protest an all ages show here. But not enough people joined the group or showed how badly they wanted it. Bands like that come with large financial guarantees. When you factor in venue costs along with marketing costs, you’re easily looking at a few thousand dollars if not more to cover paying all the bands, tour riders, venue costs, security, audio technicians, and getting flyers made. Not every promoter out there wants to spend that much money on a show only for 20 people to show up.
Kids say that they want more all-ages shows, but then you don’t see a lot of them at shows anymore. The only all ages venue I would know of would be the Charlotte Street Arts Centre and that’s because I’ve used it. We’ve lost a lot of venues due to people not respecting the rules. It’s not fair to the promoters to have to go around and have to clean up after people who decide they want to drink on the property, sneak alcohol inside the property, get high on the property, and leave the trash behind.
The one Fredericton band more people should know about but don’t.
If you had asked me this question about five months ago, I most likely would have said Anesthesia. They were a four-piece thrash metal band made up of high school students. And they gave me hope. Now, I’m not too sure what band to pick.
Most bands are well-known enough around Fredericton. Bands that come to mind instantly would be Rusted Dawn, The Atomic Machetes, She Roars!, Redcastle, The Green Lung Grinders, Verses, Hero’s Last Rite, Spinesplitter, Hard Charger, The Rocking Argentos, Before the War, Sentimentals, Mandrill Attack, Fallen Pawns, Sciomachy, Celeta, The No Shows, Perpetual Deceit, Blueprints, Oh No Theodore, Reveen, We, The Undersigned and that’s to name a few. I could probably easily come up with a list of local bands from 2004 onward.
Actually, I guess a band more people should know about should be Siegebreaker. They’re a three-piece, old school thrash metal band that just recently formed. It’s kind of a fresh taste on the scene. Everything’s classified by genres these days – ‘thrash metal’, ‘grindcore’, ‘indierock’, ‘altrock’, ‘pop-punk’, etc. These guys are just straight up pure heavy metal and I love it. It’s a good refresher on the scene.
Anesthesia would have been my first choice had they not recently disbanded though. I haven’t seen many bands being formed by high school students, which is kind of disappointing. I don’t know if it’s because there’s a shortage of musicians to jam with or people are too diverse in their tastes. It gets kind of boring seeing the same bands play over and over again. There’s not enough fresh meat on the scene to keep things diverse. I’m hoping that will change soon and that people aren’t getting discouraged. We could really use more talent on the scene and it would definitely help in more ways than one.
Name your favourite recent release by a Fredericton artist.
My favourite release as of right now would be Hero’s Last Rite‘s The Mirror’s Face. It’s a solid release. The entire album blends really well together. There’s not one track I could dislike or a track that I could easily peg as my favourite. I enjoy each track just as much as the one before it and the one after it. The songwriting on the album is really strong and each member really pulls their own on the album. Hero’s Last Rite was chosen last year for a documentary done by one of my colleagues, Pierre Cormier. In the documentary, Steve and Mike go on to talk about the songwriting process and you get to hear how they go about recording the album and jamming. When you see how the band has evolved over the years from where they first started, this is easily their best release to date and easily one of my favourites of the year so far.
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.
Man, this is a hard question to answer. The Christmas cover show hasn’t even happened yet and I already know it will probably be one of my favourite shows of the year. That series is always a favourite of mine. The double cd release party for Spinesplitter and Hero’s Last Rite was also really good.
I suppose the show that ranks the highest so far this year would be when Montreal’s Erihma played here in March. It was the first time I’d ever seen a show have to stop mid-way because the smoke alarm was going off. They had used a fog machine during their set. It had managed to set off the smoke alarm. Even as people were evacuating, they just kept playing through the song.
Looking to the months ahead, what upcoming show is on your radar as a “must see”?
The Christmas cover show. It’s always a good time, every year!
I’m Sammie X. I’ve been a freelance event planner since 2008, but only started taking it more seriously in 2010. Since then, I’ve organized and managed over 30 different events including a book launch for Metalcats Photography book, a Back to School Bash in support of the CHIMO helpline, and various tours for bands as they come through the Maritimes. I’ve been actively involved with working with Roadrunner Records on their street team and working as an event manger for The Black Birch as well as working with other labels like Broken Limbs Recordings and volunteering with the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival as an admission chief.