HALIFAX — Twenty-five years after members of the East Coast music industry first came together to recognize the accomplishments of their artists, the city where it all began is throwing one very large party.
The 2013 East Coast Music Awards, which officially kicked off last night with the first wave of showcases and a free outdoor concert on the Grand Parade, promises to be the event of the year.
By the time the curtain comes down on the gala awards show Sunday night, more than 350 musicians will have played at one or more of the 48 scheduled events spread out over 18 venues.
“There is a tremendous amount of buzz out there this week,” says Scott Burke, executive director of the East Coast Music Association.
“The social media networks are going crazy, in a good way, tweeting, facebooking, promoting artists and showcases. Our social media numbers have skyrocketed since December.”
Burke said Halifax has been gearing up for this week for some time and is primed for the thousands of people who will pour into the downtown core each day to attend showcases and special events.
Promotion of Eastlink East Coast Music Week through billboards and posters scattered around the region has helped ensure big numbers for this 25th anniversary celebration, he added.
While there are still single tickets and wristbands available for some events, festival passes and VIP passes are sold out.
Burke says a number of special events are being staged to mark the milestone anniversary.
The first of those events was the free concert on the Grand Parade which utilized the Red Bull Tour Bus, a refurbished 1970s GM transit bus that features a live stage and a full-featured JBL sound system.
“Getting the Red Bull Tour Bus was a bit of a coup for us. It's been used in the states and elsewhere but it's new to Canada.”
A special event being presented by CBC at the Spatz Theatre Saturday afternoon will see performances of the top 10 East Coast songs of all time, as chosen by the general public.
CBC Music and CBC Radio One's Atlantic Airwaves received more than 5,000 nominations for that top 10 list.
The songs that came out on top will be performed by a roster of artists that includes George Canyon, Jenn Grant, Ben Caplan, Jimmy Rankin and Maureen Ennis.
That concert will also be broadcast to listeners in the entire region on a special edition of Atlantic Airwaves starting at 5 p.m.
Another special event will take place Saturday night at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium when CBC presents A Sound Celebration with Symphony Nova Scotia.
Sound Celebration concerts have been part of East Coast Music Week since 2011 in Charlottetown, but Burke says because this is an anniversary year the format has been modified.
“In the past, the Sound Celebration concert has focused on artists from the province where the event is held. But this year to mark the 25th anniversary we will have representation from all five ECMA regions. The lineup will include Rita MacNeil, P.E.I.'s Lennie Gallant, Cindy Cain, Radio Radio, Ian McKinnon and Ennis.”
Burke said the gala awards show on Sunday night will also feature some special 25th anniversary content.
“That content will take the shape of both performances and special recognition.”
P.E.I.'s Rose Cousins, who's nominated for four East Coast Music Awards this year, will co-host the gala with fellow singer-songwriter David Myles.
Burke noted the gala will be preceded by a red carpet event, something of a first for ECMA Week.
The red carpet show will be broadcast by Eastlink.
“We're very excited about that. And we're especially excited that Eastlink will broadcast the awards show nationally on its cable network.”