Driving through New Glasgow on the Trans-Canada Highway, you don't see much evidence of a booming music town. It's certainly pretty looking, what with that river and plentiful greenery surrounding it. Don't be fooled, though: New Glasgow rocks.
There's the wildly successful New Glasgow Music Jubilee happening every summer along with a plethora of venues to host shows. And Nova Scotia's by-default sexiest singer in a cowboy hat, George Canyon, is a New Glasgow homeboy.
This weekend, the town, along with the rest of Pictou County, will play first-time host to Nova Scotia Music Week. Organized by Music Nova Scotia, it's a big opportunity for folks in the area to familiarize themselves with a heck of a lot of Nova Scotia acts they otherwise might not get exposed to.
"Seventy bands, three days, eight showcase stages. Over-ambitious, but successful," says Jonny Stevens, Music Nova Scotia's education and events coordinator, in summing up what the festival's all about.
Taking a closer look at who's playing, the all-encompassing nature of this year's lineup is impressive. J.P. Cormier, Ronald Bourgeois, Carmen Townsend, Rich Aucoin, Erin Costelo, Sleepless Nights, i see rowboats, Myles Deck and the Fuzz, Jamie Sparks and Tanya Davis only touch the surface of this year's lineup.
It's going to get pretty loud around town, and that'll carry over to the awards show. For the first time, the Music Nova Scotia Awards are recognizing the province's heavier contributions to music via an award for Loud Artist Recording.
"I remember what it was like playing in a punk rock band going, 'Aww, man whatever. Forget awards, we don't need conferences.' But it is a good thing to have. People get turned on to new music through these awards," says Stevens, who spent nine years singing for Halifax punk group TheNew Breed.
In previous years, MNS attempted to include an award recognizing metal, but Stevens says they weren't getting enough submissions. "Metal is a weird one, because a lot of metal comes from New Brunswick and we don't have a lot of metal bands in our association," he says, adding that they received no nominations for the metal category last year.
The nominees for Loud Artist Recording include instrumental noise-meisters Tomcat Combat (also up for Alternative Artist/Group Recording), punk rockers Myles Deck and the Fuzz, dramatic punkers Shelter With Thieves and Diminished Fifth Records' metal compilation The Music of Artisanship and War: Vol. 1.
Josh Hogan, the brains behind Diminished Fifth, started his label in 2006 as a reaction to the lack of exposure heavy metal was receiving in the Maritimes. As the label's second release, The Music of Artisanship and War: Vol. 1 helped rectify that with 17 tracks of metal mayhem.
"I wanted to show that there's a worthwhile heavy music scene and that there's more here than Celtic music, fiddles or indie rock," Hogan says.
Music Nova Scotia has been helping out his label from day one, and Hogan was impressed to see them take the initiative to form a loud category---he had to actively petition the East Coast Music Awards to get the same result. Diminished Fifth is also up for Company of the Year, rubbing shoulders with big boys like Warner Music Canada and Sonic Entertainment Group.
"All awards aside, I think it's the recognition that I'm personally proud of. It's not about who wins or loses, it's about getting the label's name out there. I'm really honoured to be honest," he says.
There'll also be opportunities for bands to create future business with those folks who handle bookings for venues all over Nova Scotia. Bill Henderson of '80s chart-toppers Chilliwack is flying in to critique songs by attendees. There's also a contingent of industry bigwigs from Iceland. But this won't overshadow the fun atmosphere that Stevens anticipates. "Our goal is to make the event a public celebration of our music. There is commerce and business being done, but this is for the public to come out and enjoy and be introduced to some of the best bands they've never heard before."