Vagrants Unite!

Category: community 159

The 2016 Shifty Bits Circus plans expanded hometown programming and first ever traveling caravan.

vagrantsUnless you’ve been living under the Hopewell Rocks for the past few years, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve read or heard something about the Shifty Bits Cult, the Fredericton based artist collective that’s been administering a much needed shot-in-the-arm to the city’s arts community over the past four or five years. This “small group of dedicated freaks” has motivated and inspired a new generation of New Brunswick artists, empowered by art’s limitless potential for creativity, openness and inclusion, and a simple will to transform their own communities into whatever the hell they want them to be.

Throughout all their efforts, the Cult (and their followers) embrace and convey a sense of communal harmony – the idea that art is for everyone and different types of art (just like people with different interests) can work together to create something special. It’s this guiding principal that has come to shape many of the group’s activities including the Shifty Bits Circus, an annual ritual that brings together musicians and visual artists for a few days each year to revel in their crafts, each other’s company and the local community.  For many young New Brunswick artists, the Circus has become a summer staple and a chance to celebrate contemporary artistic ideas of all mediums, formats and means of delivery.

“This year’s theme is, Vagrants,” the Cult’s Penelope Stevens, “because we’re traveling this year, kind of like a traveling caravan. We’re taking the Circus to Montreal. The theme also ties into a musician’s lifestyle too, never feeling like you’re quite at home, always on the road in some way, either physically or mentally.”

Shifty Bits Cult

The Fredericton edition this year’s Shifty Bits Circus will take place August 4-6 and will once again transform the Capital Complex into a living art installation with curated music performances and visual art exhibits that will no-doubt challenge, entertain and inspire all in attendance. Other venues involved in this year’s Circus include ReNeu Boutique, shiftwork studios and the newly opened Red Rover Cider House.  This year will also include the Patient Records label launch, a Sunday morning bike ride to a secret location for a breakfast and live music, and an event called Gals in the Game, a workshop presented in partnership with FLOURISH Festival aimed at encouraging more women to get involved in the music scene.

“We have a lot of women performing this year and we’re hoping to get a lot of them out to this workshop to create a place for other women who want to get started in music but don’t know how,” said Stevens.  “The idea is to have some simple jam sessions and teach them some local band’s songs, let them try our gear, and then we’ll have a community conversation where everyone will be invited.

“It’s awesome bringing different like-minded people together who have an undying love for music and who do it for the right reasons.”

“A lot of women have performed solo, or sang in choirs, or taken music lessons but think, ‘I have no idea how to be in a rock band. I want to be in a rock band, that’s all I listen to. I don’t know any other women who play music and I’m too scared to ask dudes to be in a band with me’. I think it’s different when it comes to dudes because there’s more of a culture of sitting around, drinking beer and jamming. To a lot of people it makes more sense for a dude to sit down and start playing the drums. For a woman, it’s something that’s not expected, almost like there’s a barrier there.  I think if we can offer an opportunity for more women to break that barrier once, to sit at the drums and see what happens, it will help inspire others,” said Stevens.

Following events in Fredericton, many of the performers and artists will pack up and head to Montreal, a journey made possible through the support of Montreal’s Oh Hi collective, a group of artists doing similar work in their community.

“I personally have played at Shifty in the past with my band Smokes and we were treated so well and had so much fun,” said Oh Hi’s Nick Maas. “It really cemented my feelings about the Shifty people and just the folks of Fredericton in general. It’s an honor to be involved in hosting the traveling circus. It’s awesome bringing different like-minded people together who have an undying love for music and who do it for the right reasons.”

Oh Hi is just over a year old now and much like their Shifty friends, their focus is on supporting and promoting the work of their members and building a stronger community among like-minded artists. This partnership between collectives will welcome several New Brunswick bands to Oh Hi’s headquarters including Cult members Motherhood and The Waking Night, performing alongside Cellarghost, LAPS, Little You, Little Me and others.

“I think the Oh Hi collective are like a better version of us,” said Stevens. “They’re new, they’re super motivated and are just really positive people. We (Motherhood) played a show in Montreal probably three years ago and we just sort of hit it off with those guys. They’re super nice, so now every time we play Montreal they’ll usually help us book a show. Working with them just makes sense to us.”

For complete details on this year’s Shifty Bits Circus, checkout


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