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Year of rad

Fredericton, Halifax, Montreal and Saint John converge on Gus’ Pub with a whole lot of productivity (and music).

click to enlarge Owen Steel brings the bluegrass.
  • Owen Steel brings the bluegrass.

You know how cool Ice Cube sounds when he says he had a good day? Imagine if he'd had a good year. For a collective of musicians from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Quebec, 2012 has been a super productive 365 days. They reunite on Friday for a real pal party at Gus' Pub.

As foodshelterclothingmusic, Fredericton's Motherhood, Halifax's Owen Steel, Montreal's Year of Glad and David R. Elliott from Saint John share themes and moods with distinctive regional influences.

Like Ice Cube's ties to south central LA, geographical culture informs creative output. Solo artist David R. Elliott went back to Saint John from Halifax and dove deep into songwriting. With three releases this year, adding to a dozen others, Elliott was inspired by the downtrodden culture of his hometown.

"It's the look and the feel of it," he says. "Saint John is the kind of place where every single person you see walking down the street looks like they just had the worst day of their life. I really like that." He describes his style as "alt-country-politan, really old-school country music that's melodic with a serious pop bent." The vibe of Saint John, he says, fueled the best part of his year; he recently recorded a new album with Mike Trask at Echo Chamber Audio in Halifax, which he hopes will be out in January.

But even as a country guy, rock and roll's Motherhood is one of his favourite bands right now.

"We draw from things like blues and country," says Motherhood's guitarist Brydon Crain. "And we enjoy loud noises, quiet noises, timing tricks and folk-style lyrics." A three-piece since 2010, Motherhood threw a small summer festival this year, The Shifty Bits Circus, leading to The Shifty Bits Cult, a sub-collective of Fredericton artists, which has strengthened the group as a band in a community.

"We're finally getting to a point where we've been playing together long enough that we're turning into one musician, and it's fun," Crain says. Motherhood's current project, Diamonds+Gold, will result in a full-length album and two EPs next year, along with a second Shifty Bits Circus in June. The vibrancy of Fredericton, a small university city, keeps Motherhood energetic, while Year of Glad's lead, Alexandre Bergeron, has transitioned from small-town ambient folk to a more urban soundscape.

Originally from Mahone Bay, Bergeron took off to Dijon, France after tiring of university. He started playing solo as Year of Glad, an ironic title he borrowed from David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. The ambient folk changed more when he moved to Montreal and collected friends to fill out the band.

"Sonically, the root of the sound has always been folk, but having grown up playing in punk bands, the more aggressive tendencies always come out, especially live," says Bergeron, who has been recording an album at McGill University. "It's definitely moved in a darker direction, gloomier doom-folk."

Coincidentally, UK label Vox Humana got hold of Year of Glad's recent four-track seven-inch and plan to press the full-length. Ever inspired by Radiohead, Bergeron says, "I love that stately British doom and gloom mentality." Britain's interest is a trans-Atlantic connection shaped by similar climates and cultures.

With Valley-style bluegrass-country band Owen Steel, the show on Friday will be a "very special one," says Bergeron, "because everyone playing is good friends. It's a great group of artists and it's just nice to come together at this festive time of year." Hopefully no one has to use their AK.

Motherhood, w/ Owen Steel, David R. Elliott, Year of Glad
Friday, December 7 at Gus’ Pub, 2605 Agricola Street, 10:30pm, $7


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