Big year to be a music fan on P.E.I.

TC Media
Published on June 23, 2014

Hollywood movie publicist Howard Dietz coined that phrase in the 1930s to describe Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer because there were so many A-list stars under contract.


Some music fans pouring through the concert listings for P.E.I. this summer might make the same observation. Every week between now and the end of September there seems to be a major concert or festival event.

“You could leave home in June and not return home until after Labour Day there are so many big shows to see,’’ one fan remarked.

The roster ofartists playing P.E.I. is impressive by any standard.

For country fans there are A-list acts like Shania Twain, Blake Shelton and Lady Antebellum and rising stars likeAlberta’s Brett Kissel.

Pop/rock fans are looking forward to shows by artists like The Killers, Barenaked Ladies, Marianas Trench, Serena Ryder, The Sheepdogs and Tegan and Sara.

Rap/hip-hop fans have heavy hitters like Kardinal Offishall and Classified.

Those who lean towards roots/traditional music or the blues can kick up their heels to Natalie MacMaster and The Barra MacNeils, Downchild and Matt Andersen.

Halifax music publicist Wendy Phillips, who promotes a lot of major shows coming into this region, said it’s an extraordinary lineup.

“You’ve got a lot of big name acts playing there this summer.”

Phillips said a number of people in Halifax have been talking about making the trip to Charlottetown to see acts like The Killers.”

“It’s a bit overwhelming,” says Gloria Large, a hardcore music fan who takes in as many concerts as she can. “You don’t ever have to be bored on P.E.I. You could go to a different show almost every day this summer and see somebody who was really good.”

Large says she’s fortunate because, unlike some, she was able to secure access passes for pretty much every show she wanted, starting with the huge Canada Day concert featuring Barenaked Ladies, Tegan and Sara, Classified, Roch Voisine, George Canyon, David Myles and Drum.

She also picked up passes for some of the major Celebration Zone concerts she wanted to see, like Natalie MacMaster and The Barra MacNeils and Burton Cummings.

Large said she, like so many others, had to think hard about what shows to try and get tickets for because there were just so many she wanted to see.

The fact the concerts in the Celebration Zone on the waterfront were free helped with her choices.

“We’re so lucky to see so many of these artists for free. That doesn’t happen often.”

For those shows that aren’t free, the choices were harder.

Katie Smith, another frequent concert goer, said cost will be a factor for a number of people she knows.

Smith, for whom the Big Red Festival holds the most appeal, said there are a lot of concerts this summer that people will want to see but having to come up with the money for those shows with a big ticket price will limit their options.

That there are so many free concertsin the Celebration Zone is great, Smith said.

“The Canada Day show is really cool, there are some great acts there, but if you don’t get there before a certain time you’re just not going to get in,” Smith said.

Rob Oakie, executive director of Music P.E.I., has a positive take on the summer concert season.

“Some of our artists are getting the opportunity to share the stage with some very big names for some very big shows. Great exposure.”

Oakie expressed the hope that with so many big shows people are really going to develop an appetite for live music, an appetite that could keep them going out to live shows the rest of the year.

While the summer promises to be great for music fans, they’re not the only ones excited by it.

Many of the artists are excited about playing here.

Canadian country star Brett Kissel, who played a smaller show on the Island earlier this year, said he’s really looking forward to coming back to P.E.I. and playing Cavendish.

“For me this is a really big show, one of the biggest of mycareer,” Kissel said during an interview from Calgary. “When I got the call to do this show it was special for me.”

His Cavendish show will see the Juno Award winneron stage for just over an hour.

“That’s a lovely slot, we’ll play a lot of songs off the last album and a lot of cover songs. We do a lot of covers. I might play a George Strait song or a Buck Owens song. If I see somebody with a Johnny Cash shirt on I might play Folsom Prison Blues. We’re out there to have a good time and to see the fans have a good time. We love to play.”

Kissel said a lot depends on what his fans want.

“I don’t take anything for granted. There were a lot of people went up the ladder before me and came right back down.”

Many of the acts playing here this summer are new but for some, like fiddler Natalie MacMaster, it’s more like homecoming week.

“I absolutely adore P.E.I. This show will be the highlight of my summer,” MacMaster said.

“Like Cape Breton I can relax there, take it easy. The difference between there and home is that when I go home to Cape Breton I end up playing a lot more because everybody wants you play.Here once I do a show I have no other obligations.”

And MacMaster plans to take advantage of her P.E.I. show to enjoy some downtime.

She, her husband and fellow fiddler Donnell Leahy and their five children will spend some relaxing family time at a cottage they’ve booked.

Before that happens though there’s a big show in the Celebration Zone.

MacMastersays her Charlottetown show will be a toe tapper.

“I want the audience to be alive. No slow pieces.”