We whittled down a long list to arrive at these high points. What made your 2017 special?
Grid City Magazine
December is an exciting time of the year. Besides hopefully catching a little break and spending time with family and friends, the end of another calendar year provides an opportunity to look back and take stock of the year that was. In this feature, we’ll turn our attention to some of the many highlights that occurred over the past 12 months, touching on some of the people and the events that helped shape our year.
Quality Block Party
Back in the spring, a small group of Saint John musicians and music lovers decided to organize a showcase to celebrate some of the province’s understated musical acts. The initial idea was to simply create an environment that would best represent and accommodate these music makers outside the confines of East Coast Music Week’s designated showcases. But in the end, they started a movement and a brand that proudly stands behind industry outsiders and celebrates many of the musicians who deserve to be heard despite choosing to play by their own rules and operate on their own terms.
Guided by a strong work ethic and a punk attitude, Quality Block Party grew from a single showcase into a five-day mini-festival in April and a second event of similar scope a few months later. With support from local bars and businesses, as well as musicians from all over the region, Quality Block Party has become a voice for artist and musicians united by the idea that together, anything is possible. Can’t wait to see what 2018 brings.
A Distorted Revolution. How Eric’s Trip Changed Music, Moncton and Me.
The timing of this book couldn’t have been better. Released this past summer, A Distorted Revolution. How Eric’s Trip Changed Music, Moncton and Me (Nimbus Publishing) by Moncton author Jason Murray, recounts the history of one of the province’s best-known musical acts – Eric’s Trip. At a time when it seems New Brunswick is once again experiencing a musical renaissance not unlike that of the 1990s when bands began popping up all over the place making music that pushed regional boundaries and both challenged and inspired audiences, the parallels between now and what was happening 25 years ago are many.
Despite being very much an unofficial biography (only two members of the group engaged in conversations with the author for the project), Murray’s personal recollections and observations on the Moncton music scene could easily be applied to current activities taking place in Moncton, Saint John or Fredericton today. The book also serves as a strong commentary on the way the music industry at the time seemed determined to stake claim to any artist with something new to offer, while also being a cautionary tale about what happens when a hobby becomes a career.
A Distorted Revolution. How Eric’s Trip Changed Music, Moncton and Me is essential reading for anyone interested in New Brunswick rock/indie music history. Kudos to Murray for sharing his story with us.
The Bridge Project
Solo Chicken Productions deserve some serious props for organizing one of this year’s most engaging community events. Known simply as The Bridge Project, the event was possibly the first to utilize Fredericton’s entire Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge as a space for engagement with the arts.
For one single evening the city’s famous walking bridge shifted from a commuter throughway to a performance stage, an art exhibition and a historical retrospective examining the Saint John River’s role and influence on the people who live along its shores.
Bringing together the work of dozens of musicians, spoken word performers, dancers, painters, and photographers including several Aboriginal artists and elders from St. Mary’s First Nation, The Bridge Project was a celebration of who we were, who we are and who we can become.
Fortune of Wolves
Theatre New Brunswick took a bold step forward this year with their production of the Ryan Griffith play, Fortune of Wolves. Set in a post apocalyptic Eastern Canada, the play, performed using a minimalist set design and a four actor cast, challenged the company’s established audience to look beyond theatre’s many clichés (wigs, top hats, elaborate sets and excessive props) and to instead embrace the role one’s own imagination can play in shaping the theatre experience. By challenging an increasingly ossified status quo, Griffith’s work, directed by TNB’s Thomas Morgan Jones, ignited both criticism and high praise from audiences across the province.
As with many of the productions that begin in the company’s Open Space Theatre, Fortune of Wolves served as a strong reminder to us all that much like music, dance and visual art, theatre must also be encouraged to change, evolve and grow. Bravo.
A proven event organizer, artist manager and a vital, outspoken advocate for the province’s less-marketable music makers (as in those who don’t abide by the industry standard), Peter Rowan has once again become a key player in what’s happening with NB music. From his efforts in helping establish Quality Block Party, organizing out-of-province showcases for New Brunswick bands at POP Montreal and the Halifax Pop Explosion, helping both Motherhood and Little You, Little Me reach larger audiences, and by bringing much needed attention to Uptown Saint John’s ongoing issue with noise complaints, no one is more deserving of a standing ovation than this man. A total inspiration.
Keep fighting the good fight, Peter. We’ve got your back!
2017’s Honourable Mention List:
- The Pavilion Public Opening – The Beaverbrook Art Gallery
- NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival
- Third Shift – Saint John’s Night of Contemporary Arts
- Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival
- Flourish Festival – Fredericton’s spring art/music festival
- After Hours – a public art project curated by Connexion ARC
- Shivering Songs 2017
- CHSR Sessions