Rockin’ out at Seven Music Fest

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It’s about time. That was the general consensus when promoter Barry Bailey announced the inaugural Seven Music Fest coming to Mission Hill this Saturday.

Bailey is gathering contemporary rock tribes and putting St. Albert on the music map. After all, with the many festivals springing up in Edmonton, why not get the beat going as a possible future St. Albert summer staple.

“I have had so much positive support and feedback, it’s gratifying. Lots of people say it’s time we had a festival that is a full-on professional festival where all the amenities are taken care of. We don’t have a contemporary rock festival in St. Albert other than the Kinsmen Rodeo and they bring in classic rock bands,” said Bailey.

Unlike some music promoters that blow a lot of hot air, but deliver little substance, Bailey has worked closely with Trixstar Productions to develop an amazing lineup.

Headlining the evening’s entertainment is Sam Roberts Band and feature recording artists Current Swell. Special guests include Jack Semple, Daniel Wesley, Tupelo Honey, Jeff Stuart and the Hearts, and Scenic Route to Alaska.

Openers are a variety of regional and city acts from Prancing Pony Drum Group, Elder Tony Arcand, country-pop singer Julia Nicholson, folk artist Ella Coyes, Bellerose Poetry Slam and Delta-blues shouter Matthew Potter.

Bailey is setting up a full professional stage measuring 30 feet across and 24 feet deep mounted at the bottom of Seven Hills Park. Food trucks will be stationed at the side and fans can bring a blanket and sit anywhere on the hill, a similar setup to the Folk Festival’s Gallagher Park.

“I’m not ashamed to say I’ve studied their site. They’ve been doing it for 25 years and they are really good at their job.”

The festival budget is a little less than $200,000. Bailey applied to Community Significant Event Stimulus Package and received a $40,000 grant last year for start-up costs.

“A lot of costs are front-end loaded. At lot of times you need to pay costs before you have a revenue stream and this grant was very important for us getting started.”

Administered through the City of St. Albert, the fund provides seed money to community events that typically exceed 1,000 people. Previous recipients included Eek! Comic and Pop Culture Fest and Night of Artists.”

Sam Roberts Band

One of the nation’s top touring acts, Sam Roberts Band is the title-holder of the best-selling independent release in Canadian history.

Known for their amped-riffs and scorching guitar solos, the fivesome has carved a multi-Juno award winning reputation and enjoyed extensive tours throughout the United States, the United Kingdom and Spain.

Their 2014 album Lo-Fantasy was a hit and the band is touring summer festivals to light up the powerhouse songs. Just last week, they were in Cuba performing and jamming with some of the world’s most proficient musicians.

In a quick email to Roberts, the Gazette asked what future direction the band plans to move in.

The Montreal based singer-songwriter replied, writing, “To quote Joe Strummer of the Clash, ‘The future is unwritten…’ The more we focus on any one defining idea or sound for our music, the more the path we’re walking on narrows. We are trying to keep as many doors open as possible so that in 30 years from now, we are still inspired to make and perform music.”

Bands with international reputations usually refuse requests to perform at first-time festivals such as Seven Music. Money-wise it’s too risky. The promoter could go bankrupt.

However, Sam Roberts took a chance and when other bands heard the high profile band was on-board, they signed up as well. The Gazette asked Roberts why the band decided to participate. This was his answer.

“We have seen a lot of festivals come and go over the years. Some have grown into an integral part of the community’s identity. Others have faded away. It’s up to the bands and local fans to take a chance on the unknown if a festival is going to get off the ground. Let’s hope this is the first of many Seven Music Fests and that St. Albert embraces the moment. The summer in Canada is so brief. We need to spend as much time celebrating outdoors as we can.”

Current Swell

Before Scott Stanton and Dave Lang moved to Vancouver Island’s seaside capital, and became part of one of Canada’s hottest bands, they spent their youth in St. Albert playing music, skateboarding and snowboarding.

“I grew up playing on Seven Hills. At the moment I can’t remember anything specific, but as kids we’d walk all over town and play there,” said Stanton.

But he does remember a two-nighter the band played at the Arden in 2013. Both nights were sold out.

“St. Albert is an amazing place to play. It really is a wonderful crowd. It’s blue collar Alberta and we love it.”

The surf lovin’ foursome just completed a Canadian tour promoting their latest album Ulysses while opening for Australia’s renowned ska jazz trio Cat Empire.

“It was amazing. They are a really good band, a lovely band on and off stage. It was like a family for a month.”

After the tour, the band took it easy fishing, walking their dogs and slowly watching the island suffer one of its most extensive droughts.

“It’s bad for the whole west coast. San Francisco is limiting water and fines are given over a certain limit.”

Happy with their career, the band is excited to play at Seven Music Fest.

“People are always trying to create new events and I think it’s great someone is sticking their necks out. And I hope 10 years from now, it’s still going.”

Jack Semple

The Saskatchewan blues musician is part of a rare breed that keeps critics in awe. Lauded as an epic guitarist and soulful singer, he’s been described as “Stevie Ray Vaughn meets James Brown meets Robben Ford.”

His last album, In the Blue Light, won a Western Canadian Music Award for best blues and he is also part of a gypsy jazz trio dubbed The True Jive Pluckers.

His latest big project is a tribute to B.B. King.

“He’s my favourite blues guitarist ever and in my opinion the best guitarist of the 20th century. He’s a guitarist that had an emotional language. He spoke to everyone. He had the best phrasing. He would leave holes in the phrasing so you could soak it up. He had passion, commitment and an incredible vibrato. He was mesmerizing. His music was technically simple, emotionally complex,” said Semple.

While he tours mainly in western Canada, the B.B. King tour is slated for performances at New York’s Times Square, Philadelphia, New Jersey and Michigan.

And Semple will be introducing parts of it at Seven Music.

“Over the years, I’ve developed a lot of close relations with the music scene in Edmonton. In the last 20 years, I’ve played in Edmonton four or five times a year and this festival is a bonus.”

Daniel Wesley

Since 2007, Daniel Wesley has recorded seven albums. His latest, I Am Your Man, is a light, funky blend of reggae, Latin, R&B and country – a perfect beach-ready 10-track for warm summer days.

“It’s a natural extension of who we are and what we like to do – play on beaches,” Wesley said.

Many of Wesley’s songs are inspired from day-to-day events such as the birth of his son Finn, an expected second child on the way, and the love and respect he has for his father.

His initial concept for the album was to release a five-track EP. But after the recording he decided against it. A year later, he recorded another five tracks and completed the album.

“I prefer the idea of releasing an album. I guess I’m old school. But writing different songs with no timeline was really invigorating.”

Wesley has performed at several St. Albert pubs and hopes to reprise his success at Seven Music.

“It’s a welcoming kind of music. It’s not targeted to a specific group. It’s for everyone.”

Tupelo Honey

St. Albert’s leading five-piece indie rock band has slowed the hectic pace from their frantic early days. They have a lot of solo projects in the works.

Lead singer Dan Davidson, at the behest of Dallas Smith, is trying out a few country projects and is booked at Big Valley Jamboree on July 31.

Brad Simons (guitar) is earning an engineering degree at the University of Alberta. Steve Vincent (bass) is studying political science, and Tyler Dianocky (guitar) is exploring his visual arts talents and dabbling as a festival promoter.

But Tupelo Honey is still at the top of its game. The band members are set to record a group of B-Side songs this coming winter – tunes that were never recorded and lay waiting for the right time.

At Seven Music, the band plans a high-energy set with wild crowd participation.

“There are so many kids that love music in St. Albert. You gotta support the scene. I wish I had this when I was growing up,” Davidson said.

For the band, performing in the hometown is always special – especially in the summer.

“People are relaxed. There’s a cool vibe and people don’t feel they have to rush home in the cold. I’m really hoping people come out.”

Jeff Stuart and the Hearts

In the past seven years, Jeff Stuart has charted a determined course for his indie pop-roots-rock band. For years the St. Albert Catholic High School alumnus was the primary songwriter, but after three records, Jeff Stuart and the Hearts have evolved into a more democratic, equal parts band.

Their latest album, borrowing the moniker Equal Love from their title track, matured in large part from global attitudes.

“We write songs about stuff that is interesting to us and we make music that we want to listen to,” said Stuart.

“The whole sentiment of Equal Love rose around the sentiment in the world. When you look around, we don’t see a lot of equal love. When I wrote the song, there wasn’t a lot of equal love. Not always big scale, but small-scale stuff. You meet people in public and they’re aggressive and not accepting.”

During their lifetime, the band has toured from Calgary to Texas to Ontario.

“Festivals are lots of fun. Our summer season is so short and all the festivals are awesome. This is an opportunity to be immersed in them. There are some great artists on this bill and it’s worth coming to see them.”

Scenic Route to Alaska

Trevor Mann (lead vocals/guitar), Murray Wood (bass) and Shea Connor are childhood friends that developed the right chemistry to make Scenic Route to Alaska one of Edmonton’s success stories.

After the release of their first album, All These Years, the trio became Edmonton’s Sonic Band of the month and was nominated for three Edmonton Music Awards.

Their second album, Warrington, built on their distinctive “prairie-indie sound,” was nominated again for Pop Recording of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards.

This year, they finally picked up hardware as Group of the Year at the 2015 Edmonton Music Awards. Scenic Route to Alaska is part of the best and the brightest and if the past is any indication, they are revving up for another electrifying concert.

Gates open at 1 p.m. with regional entertainment. Scenic Route to Alaska kickstarts main stage performances at 3:15 p.m.

Seven Music Fest runs rain or shine in the heart of St. Albert at Mission Hill. Food trucks and beer gardens will be on site.

Preview

Seven Music Fest
With Sam Roberts Band, Current Swell, Jack Semple, Daniel Wesley, Tupelo Honey, Jeff Stuart and the Hearts, and Scenic Route to Alaska
Saturday, July 4
Gates at 1 p.m. Mainstage at 3:15 p.m.
Seven Hills Park on Mission Hill
Tickets: Advance day tickets: $29 to $69 plus fees at www.sevenmusicfest.com. Gate tickets $35 to $80.

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About Author

Anna Borowiecki

Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.