In our series Home Scene, Grid City asks music fans to share what they love most about the city’s music culture. Here, music journalist Jean-Étienne Sheehy shares his insight and passion for Fredericton music.
Is it cool if I name two? First, there’s The Capital Complex which is one of the reasons why I fell in love with Fredericton when I first moved here. It’s by far one of the best venues for live music in the country, both as a music fan and as a musician. The staff really care about offering a great all-around experience and they’re always trying out new things, even if they’re already the go-to place for live music. I like that they’ve captured some of the stuff I like about Fredericton and the things I miss from bigger cities, in one establishment.
I’m also a big fan on non-traditional venues, like ReNeu, which is a consignment clothing store downtown. Some of the most memorable shows I’ve seen happen in places that shouldn’t host bands, with bands that are made to play small, loud gigs. I saw Yellowteeth and The Famines at ReNeu with 20 people, in 2012. My ears are still ringing two years later.
Name the one Fredericton band more people should know about but don’t.
Pastel Skeleton. I’ve only seen them once, opening for B.A. Johnston at The Capital. Back then, they were a two-piece band. I’m not even sure if they’re still playing or if they exist in any form. They seem like the kind of band who breaks up more than they play shows, but it kind of adds to the myth.
It’s chaotic, but fun and straight forward. They’re not thinking about what to play, they’re just doing it, while giving a fuzzed-out pop-punk lesson to a city which deserves more good, authentic punk bands.
Name your favourite recent release by a Fredericton artist.
The Olympic Symphonium’s Chance to Fate is more than my favourite recent release by a Fredericton artist. It’s also a landmark within New Brunswick-made music. The band’s really captured something on this album, especially through the songwriting. There’s some gems on there, like Predictor or Home. Few bands get to operate on this level of emotional precision, while crafting something that’s universal, but with very regional cues. It’s a huge, beautiful record.
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.
The Olympic Symphonium at Back Alley Music, in Charlottetown. The Forward Music people organize an unofficial showcase every year during the ECMAs and it’s always my favourite part of the event. It’s always nice to take a step back from the very corporate side of the ECMAs to get back to the roots and enjoy great music with people who care about music. This year, they gathered a bunch of likeminded bands in a small room in Back Alley Music. The Olympic Symphonium played to a very small crowd, with Rose Cousins accompanying them. The setting was perfect and the Symphonium came alive that night.
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?
I really want to see bands take their craft within their own hands and build something that’ll be worthwhile outside the region. There’s been many great bands around during the last few years that have never been able to step up at another level. Like, there’s so much potential in the region, but few bands take the opportunities that they are offered both within and outside Fredericton. As much as artists exist within a specific scene, it’s also great when they can get recognized in the broader world. On the other hand, there’s a condition to this. People need to learn to be critical of each other. Because of my journalistic work, I’ve been able to showcase some of the best bands of the region throughout the country, but I’ve also criticized bands, sometimes in a harsh way. People take offence, but they shouldn’t. The real insult is when I won’t even talk about your band.
Looking to the months ahead, what upcoming show is on your radar as a “must see”?
PS I Love You and Cousins at The Capital, at the end of October. I saw these two bands this summer and they were on top of their game. PS I Love You is like Dinosaur Jr. and Rush interpreting each others’ dreams. Cousins are just the best band on the East Coast right now.
Jean-Étienne Sheehy is a bilingual journalist, columnist and broadcaster living in Fredericton. He is a juror for the Polaris Music Prize and an active city musician. He blogs at www.jesheehy.com and can be found on Twitter at @500khz