ECMA Day 3 – The Halifax mob descends on the Awards showcases

Statement of the day: "Sorry, but we're filled to capacity."

After a night that went better than any East Coast Music Awards party-goer could have expected, I had to reason that I was in for a bit of a letdown. Although there were a few hitches, Saturday night saw the most crowds, with almost every bar packed to the brim with music fans out to see what the ECMAs had to offer. And with numerous showcases and no-cases going on, there was a lot to choose from.

My night started off at the Seahorse, where a line quickly started to form at just past 10 p.m. With what might have been the best line-up of the weekend, the Music Nova Scotia showcase at the intimate basement venue had Rebekah Higgs, Steven Bowers, Jill Barber, Hotshot Robot, and Dr. Dfunkt set to hit the stage. This was the venue I was going to live at tonight.

Unfortunately, like the Thursday night MNS Showcase at Tribeca, the doorman at the venue informed us that the bar was at capacity and only international delegates would be allowed through the door. Several others with media and crew passes tried to walk through the door, only to be turned back by the busy bouncers. Even a woman who had left her jacket in the venue could not gain entrance. Outside, a line had formed down the block with nearly 50 people waiting to get in. This might be an indication that Halifax needs a bigger venue downtown to accommodate larger shows and made apparent how the closure of a bar such as Stage Nine affects our music scene.

After a 20-minute wait, I give up and promise to come back for Dr. Dfunkt’s set, hoping the older crowd will leave before the band’s 1:45 a.m. slot. Before I leave, I get to hear local chanteuse Rebekah Higgs do her thing while talking to fellow Coast writer Shannon Webb-Cambell. Both fatigued from the night before, our spirits perked up as Higgs kicked into her best song, ‘Parables’. If you haven’t heard her stuff, I suggest you go to Myspace right now and check it out.

Dislodging ourselves from line – one gentleman jokingly offered $20 for our spots - a photographer friend and I head to the Port Royal Room of the World Trade and Convention Centre to check out a set from Trobiz with a band that included three back-up singers, a three-piece brass section, and Tro’s father on guitar. It was an awesome spectacle that gave his R&B and hip-hop sound multi-dimensions and showed what an entertainer Trobiz has become over the years. Too bad there weren’t more people in attendance. I guess they were all waiting in line at the Seahorse.

Classified then hit the stage with his posse of local hip-hop personalities, MCs Mike Boyd and J-Bru, singer Jordan Croucher, and DJ IV. “This is weird,” Classified commented on the spread out room of half-full tables, “but we’re gonna do our best to turn this into a party.” After what was one of the best shows of the evening at the Urban Series Showcase the previous night, one had faith it was going to happen.

And try hard they did. Playing mostly the same set from the night before, Luke Boyd and friends kicked off with first Hitch-Hikin’ Music single “Find Out,” hit some old tracks, such as “No Mistakes,” and even Jordan Croucher got to show off his pipes with what might be the hip-hop/R&B song of the year, “Feelin’ Fine.” By the time we left, a small crowd had formed in front of the stage and people were singing along to the tracks, proving that Classified has the power to win over any crowd.

The Marquee is the next stop on our tour and we catch the tail-end of Newfoundland band the Novaks’ slot, well-received by the crowd. When I walk in to the venue, I realize that if people aren’t at the Seahorse, they’re most likely at the Marquee. The place is not just packed, it’s hella packed, practically needing blueprints to get to the bar to order a drink. Before Slowcoaster goes on, I make my first Sloan sighting of the weekend, as Chris Murphy rocks a truckers cap, Kearney Lake Road-style, across the room.

The audience goes bananas when Slowcoaster comes on, brandishing their form of groove-inspired rock. Guest-starring Jimmy Swift Band’s keyboard player Aaron Collier, it’s probably the second-best set of the weekend after Classified the night before. Rumour had it the Slowco boys are headed to the Sennheiser Lounge to jam out at 4 a.m. with Universal Soul’s Tacktishion. Good luck fellas, you’re gonna need it if you want to feel somewhat normal on Sunday.

At this point, eight hours of sleep in two days and countless drinks start taking their toll. Rather than try to fight the crowds and try to head back to the madness that is the Seahorse, I decide to do what any other exhausted Haligonian club-hopper would do: I grab a slice of fresh-out-of-the-oven Marquee pizza, head home to rest up for Sunday’s ECMA Gala and let other people hit the after-parties I so boldly took on the night before. Not surprisingly, as I walked out the Hell’s Kitchen exit, I overheard a bouncer tell one entrant the words I hated to hear this weekend, “Sorry, but we’re filled to capacity.”

-Johnston Farrow

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