Living room concerts are a thing of the past for this year’s East Coast Music Awards.
The five-day event, including concerts, workshops and a long-awaited gala recognizing East Coast talent, kicks off in Fredericton on Wednesday and ends on Sunday.
The event is returning to Fredericton 14 years after it was first hosted by the capital city.
And the 34th annual event will be a special one.
“The most important thing is that we’re here live,” said Andy McLean, CEO of the East Coast Music Association.
The event will take place in 11 venues around the city, on 14 stages and will include 150 bands, translating to around 500 artists.
The main event will take place on Thursday evening and will be hosted by Maestro Fresh Ways at the Acton Centre.
The 2020 and 2021 events were canceled, delayed, then virtually canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak and restrictions. With these restrictions removed, artists and audiences can gather face-to-face.
One of the recognized musicians is Monica Ouellette, also known as Lagermortis. He is a St. John funeral director and embalmer who also produced 1980s synth-wave electronica and was nominated for ECMA’s Electronic Recording of the Year category.
He describes his music as imagining what happens after death – but for machines.
“I imagine what the afterlife might be like with artificial intelligence,” he said.
Musically, he was inspired by what his mother listened to: 1980s synthy music by the likes of Gary Numan and A-Ha. Her interest in death care also came from her mother, who wanted to be a medical examiner. By mixing these two, Ouellet came up with an idea that marries the two parts of his life.
Another artist who will be part of ECMA is Lisa LeBlanc, whose new album, Chiak DiscoEpidemics were a product of stupidity.
He said that “Matasha” inspired him to come up with this new, high-energy, disco and funk inspired album. It started with bingo events that he was hosting online when he couldn’t perform live.
LeBlanc needed songs to accompany the bingo events, so he wrote a few fast-paced, simple and fun tracks. And suddenly, it was an album.
“I had such a blast writing these tunes because the stakes were so low,” he said. “It was fun to write again… and so I was like, well, don’t force it, it’s really fun, let’s see if we can do an actual album.”
LeBlanc will perform in the main event on Thursday.
‘You have to be resilient’
McLean said the pandemic challenges have forced some people to abandon the craft in favor of more conventional lifestyles. But others held on, hoping for the day when they could see their visitors again.
“You’re talking about musicians, you’re talking about creative people, who were born to do this,” he said. “It’s a tough road, let’s be honest, the rewards are incredible … it’s also very difficult, so you have to be resilient.
“I have to salute the resilience, the tenacity, the dedication and the sheer courage to actually go out and do it,” she said.
McLean said that over the past two years the event has developed the skills to adapt and bring content online, so the team has become good at it.
“We’ve actually become kind of an in-house TV production company,” he said.
Shift – NB11:18ECMAs: Lisa LeBlanc
And because connecting with an international community is important, the association will have a virtual component.
New Brunswick has removed all COVID-19 restrictions, including indoor masking and proof of vaccination. McLean said ECMA follows each province’s rules and is reflecting the province’s position of not mandating masks or proof of vaccination.
“We follow what public health recommends,” he said, adding that organizers would not mind if anyone wanted to wear a mask.