The curtain has gone up on the biggest show in Atlantic Canada.
For the next four days Charlottetown will play host to more than 400 artists of every conceivable stripe in some two dozen venues scattered throughout the downtown core.
As many as 2,000 delegates will make their way to Charlottetown before the event comes to a climax with the gala awards show Sunday night.
Those delegates, who represent all facets of the music industry, come from across North America and from countries around the world and by the time they leave will have generated somewhere between $4 million and $7 million in economic activity.
“I’ve been told this is the best music event in the country and I’m starting to believe it after looking at the lineup,” said Andy Markowitz, a Toronto engineer interviewed on the street Wednesday.
“I’ve come down for the first three days but will miss the awards show because I have to go back to work. I just saw The Trews, they were great. I hope to see them again before I leave. Great music and great hospitality.”
The ECMAs officially got underway Wednesday afternoon with a parade through the city led by the P.E.I. Regiment Band under the direction of Capt. Frank McKearney.
They performed a number of selections as part of the opening ceremonies.
Several members of the regiment also had the opportunity to share the stage with East Coast rockers The Trews for a moving version of Highway of Heroes.
Co-written by The Trews and Gordie Johnson, Highway of Heroes was inspired by the 2006 death of Captain Nichola Goddard, the first female Canadian soldier killed in combat in Afghanistan.
Members of The Trews went to school with Goddard.
Speaking during the opening ceremonies, Tourism and Culture Minister Robert Vessey praised the organizers of the ECMA for mounting a spectacular event.
“What a great draw for our province,” Vessey said. “This is a very important event in our cultural calendar.”
He said the event provides a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of East Coast artists.
Wednesday’s opening ceremonies were sponsored by Veterans Affairs Canada and a number of veterans and serving military personnel took part.
James Gilbert, assistant deputy minister of DVA, said the department was proud to support the event and to have the opportunity to celebrate Canada’s veterans.
Gilbert spoke to the historic role of music in the military and to the joy that live music brings to members of the military serving overseas when artists from the East Coast and other parts of the country travel there to play for them.
The Trews closed the opening ceremonies with two tracks from their new record Hope and Ruin, including the title track, which has the potential to be huge for them.
The ECMAs shift into overdrive today with shows on multiple stages throughout the city.
If there’s a space large enough to accommodate a guitar, an amp, a mixing console and a couple of microphone stands, chances are somebody will be playing there today.
One of the weekend’s most anticipated shows will take place tonight at the Confederation of the Arts when the centre hosts A Sound Celebration.
That concert will feature Island artists Jenn Grant, Meaghan Blanchard, Paper Lions, Richard Wood and Vishten performing with Symphony Nova Scotia.
The first ECMA Awards of the week will be presented during that performance.
Two awards will be presented, one for classical recording of the year, the other for instrumental recording of the year.
A full schedule containing the performers, venues and performance times can be found on the ECMAs’ website at www.ecma.com and in the official ECMA gig guide, which is available in a number of downtown locations.