N.B.’s fledgling all-ages music scene needs a shot in the arm

This is a state of the union address for the Province of New Brunswick. All is not well in our homeland.

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More specifically, the province is seriously lacking in venues where bands are able to conduct all-ages music shows not only in the small towns of our province but also in the three major hubs of Saint John, Moncton and Fredericton.

Ben Conoley, a Fredericton resident and Interviews Editor of the website www.punknews.org sums up the all-ages scene in that city with one succinct comment:

“In Fredericton, the all-ages scene is all but dead … The only two venues are the Musiplex and the Capital Curling Club. The former is a great venue but a little out of the way, while the latter is a curling club that isn’t used too often but is close to downtown.”

Chris Claessen, drummer for Saint John group 16th Avenue doesn’t believe things are all that rosy in the Port City either:

“This is probably the weakest I’ve seen the scene yet. The only option we have for all-ages venues are renting a community center. In a busy, vibrant music scene that isn’t necessarily a problem, but with the lack of consistency in promoters being able to put on shows here, we aren’t easily able to build awareness of all-ages shows.”

Moncton also suffers from the lack of a dedicated all-ages venue, although promoters there are finding new and different places to conduct their shows. One all-ages show recently held in Moncton took place at the abandoned firehouse on Assomption Boulevard and managed to attract over 100 spectators.

Chris Smith, a concert promoter with TheMegaPhone.ca has had a hand in promoting New Brunswick shows by Protest The Hero, Ten Second Epic and Cancer Bats. He believes that the all-ages scene in New Brunswick is doing okay but believes there is an overall downturn of all-ages shows nationally, which in turn impacts New Brunswick.

“The major scenes in New Brunswick right now are Fredericton, Moncton, and Saint John although shows happen on occasion in Sussex and some smaller cities as well,” Smith says.

It certainly is not a lack of bands willing to play all-ages shows but the relative remoteness of our region plays a major factor in the healthiness of this scene.

“One of the problems with shows out here, licensed or all-ages is the fact that our population is small compared to other cities in Canada,” Smith continues.

The all-ages music scene in the province has seemingly always battled with the feast or famine concern relating to all-ages events.

It seems as though nothing can happen for months on end and then the flood gates open so to speak and suddenly a plethora of shows pop up.

The irregular ebb and flow to the all-ages scene has, for better or worse, been status quo for the past two decades.

“There is an obvious lack of all-ages promoters in Moncton which leaves the city with all-ages shows that are too few and far between,” Geoff Moss surmises. Moss is the drummer for Moncton band Something Delicious, one of the groups who performed at the Firehouse all-ages show in Moncton earlier this month.

The lack of a consistent venue seems to be a major issue in Saint John as well, according to Claessen.

“If we had one venue, whether it was a community center or a bar, which would evenly split the door as opposed to imposing a rental fee, promoters would have an easier gateway to putting on all-ages shows. I believe that over time, we could build up awareness and the shows would eventually become more profitable for everyone which would then help attract bigger bands and bigger crowds.”

A consistent venue isn’t the only ingredient missing from the mix; Moss believes that some all-ages shows aren’t all that well promoted in Moncton, resulting in low numbers coming through the door.

Poorly promoted, poorly attended shows can make even the most confident promoter gun-shy about the success of future shows and potentially discourage them for taking the show promoting plunge again.

“In terms of challenges to overcome, there is a lack of promotion in areas where the all-ages crowd will take notice of what’s going on. Online communities like Facebook, message boards and Twitter are a great start, however it creates an incredibly easy scenario in which the younger crowd can miss out on shows.

“Noticing a poster with several of your friends walking down the street has a much stronger impact and a more personal touch that a community can easily relate to,” Moss says.

Relating to the success of all-ages shows, TheMegaPhone.ca attributes some factors beyond anyone’s control to the varying success of the shows.

“There are already a lot of other events and things for people to do so sometimes that can negatively affect turnouts at all-ages shows,” Smith says.

“Over saturation of shows can be a big problem too.

“But to help bring people out to shows, I have started a couple of new websites (www.themegaphone.ca and www.twitter.com/themegaphoneca)where people can learn about the bands, win CDs and tickets to the shows.”

Moss believes helping the all-ages scene prosper in any city in the province could be as simple as donating your time to help the show run smoothly.

“Anyone over 19 years old can probably remember how much they hated the fact they couldn’t see their favorite act in bars when they were not of age. Think of how much more amazing your childhood might have been with more all-ages shows in the mix of things in your city. Kids need a helping hand with this so no matter what your age, think about volunteering your time to help things move forward.”

The silver lining to be found is that kids are appreciative of the bands performing all-ages shows. But finding a permanent home for these events in all of the province’s major centers as well as the small towns is a must as far as Iron Giant vocalist Chris Lewis is concerned.

“The kids go absolutely nuts! They love every minute of it and are very supportive of the bands. There seems to be a growing underground of kids that want to start bands and nurture our all-ages scene. From what I’ve seen, Moncton has one of the best on the East Coast.”

There is no easy solution that is going to fall into New Brunswicker’s laps on this issue. But with a show of support from the cities and towns where the youth are seeking alternatives to going to the movies or hanging out on the streets, the teen population of the province might soon be able to add “going to a show” to their list of possible things to do on a Friday or Saturday night.

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