P.E.I. music glows at the gala

Todd
Todd MacLean
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Well, to start off today’s Out and About, the main thing I have to say is that I hope you were among the thousands who were out and about last weekend to enjoy the culmination of Music P.E.I. Week 2014.

Friday night was an Islandwide extravaganza of talent that clearly displayed Music P.E.I.’s lack of triskaidekaphobia, as 13 shows were presented and enjoyed in 13 different venues across the Island.

And it all led up to last Saturday night’s 13th annual Music P.E.I. Awards Gala, held this year at the P.E.I. Convention Centre on the Charlottetown waterfront.

The show featured 12 award presentations, interspersed with 12 performances by top nominated artists this year, and it was all hosted by none other than Patrick Ledwell.

It’s an interesting thing with the P.E.I. Convention Centre wherein it is such an impressively expansive room that it actually seems as though it’s a challenge to do a show wherein the audience and those who are presenting the show can all feel connected within that space.

But from the beginning of his opening monologue, Ledwell’s down-home hilarious comedy unified the crowd and brought us in to have a good laugh with one another, as he poked fun at various aspects of Island musical life (tastefully, yet hysterically, with never too deep of a dig).

From jokes riffing on subjects like the Island Grammy Awards (honours that should be given to songwriters who talk about their grandmother in their songs), to the bizarre frequency of animal usage in P.E.I. band names (e.g. Coyote, Racoon Bandit, Paper Lions and Wildcat), to questioning what English Words do when they play in Quebec (nice one, man), to the interesting reality of a bar being nominated for venue of the year in the same category as a church (St. Mary’s Indian River Church vs. Hunter’s Ale House), Ledwell had the crowd roaring in laughter right out of the gates. And his humour kept the show fueled all the way through.

Musical highlights were many, as the show started off, appropriately, with the band that took home a whopping grand total of six Music P.E.I. Awards this year — Paper Lions — as the foursome gathered around a centrestage mike to sing Philadelphia, one of the hits from their now much-celebrated album, My Friend.

The a cappella opening was a brilliant way to musically lure in the room, as the song then launched into a full-band, falsetto-charged indie pop anthem that kicked the big-win night off for Paper Lions on a very fitting note.

Fiona MacCorquodale fired up the show in the next performance of the night with a flowing set of fiddle numbers called B Shifty, backed up by a pro three-piece band, as the 15-year-old fiddler gave a taste of why she was nominated for both female solo recording and roots traditional recording of the year at this year’s awards.

Other highlights of the first half included Dylan Menzie’s shining and electrifying Music P.E.I. gala debut (a supreme high point of the night, by far); the Lynn Grishko Bursary Award presentation to the deserving Drea MacDonald; Teresa Doyle’s ethereal performance of Song Road, accompanied by the Holland College SOPA Dancers; Jordan Cameron’s drawing-in of the crowd with his song, Your History; Colour Code’s vibrant rock out of Good Heart Worker; and Meaghan Blanchard with Ian Toms, as they brought the first half to a soothing finale with Watching the Dandelions Grow.

I am openly going to declare that my favourite part of the second half was unquestionably the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award to one of the greatest musicians this Island has had the pleasure of enjoying for many years now, Gordon Belsher. Yes, he is my father-in-law, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t join in with everyone else and call a spade a spade: He’s the real deal. And I join the chorus of all those who applaud and thank him for his music and all that he is.

With stand-out second-half performances by the Singing Strings Orchestra with Death Valley Driver (what a treat that was to see on a P.E.I. stage), the finale performance by Dennis Ellsworth and band with Coke Machine Glow, along with another slew of latter-show side-splitters by Ledwell, the Music P.E.I. Awards Gala 2014 wrapped up in glimmering style, proving once again how much there is to celebrate within this glowing Island Music scene.

Next week: It’s time to step away from the music for a bit, though, and enjoy some visual art at the first ever P.E.I. Art Battle.

Todd MacLean is a local freelance writer and musician. If you have a comment or suggestion for a review, you can get in touch with him at tmaclean@theguardian.pe.ca or at 626-1242. But he won’t be offended if you don’t.

Todd's Picks

1. Home Routes Concert, featuring Louise Arsenault and Hélène Bergeron – Elmwood Heritage Inn, North River Road, Charlottetown, today at 7:30 p.m. and at Emmerdale Eden Farm, 10 Emery Rd., Summerside, tomorrow at 7:30 p.m.

2. Harmony House Pub Night with Tim MacPherson – Hunter River, today at 7:30 p.m.

3. Wildcat and Haunted Hearts – Baba’s Lounge, today at 11 p.m.

4. The Met Live in HD: Rusalka by Dvorák – Charlottetown and Summerside Cineplex Cinemas, tomorrow at 12:55 p.m.

5. Ripped Paper followed by The Count and The Cuban Cocktail – The Old Triangle, tomorrow, starting at 5 p.m.

6. P.E.I. Art Battle – P.E.I. Brewing Company, tomorrow at 7 p.m.

7. Winterjazz with Bruce Rooney and the Glen Strickey Quartet – The Pourhouse, tomorrow at 7p.m.

8. Bonnie LeClair – The Dunk, tomorrow at 7:30 p.m.

9. Mid-winter Kitchen Party – Benevolent Irish Society, Sunday at 2 p.m. Featuring Treble with Girls, Fiddlers’ Sons and Baile Beag.

Organizations: Holland College SOPA Dancers, P.E.I. Convention Centre, Indian River Church Ale House Singing Strings Orchestra Heritage Inn Emmerdale Eden Farm Harmony House Pub Night Met Live in HD

Geographic location: P.E.I., Charlottetown, Quebec Philadelphia Song Road Death Valley North River Road Summerside Hunter River

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