George Street Festival, Folk Fest, Random Sound…St. John’s and the surrounding area don’t hurt for music festivals at this time of year. But a new entrant to the scene is aiming to highlight local and touring acts that might not find themselves playing for packed crowds at stadiums and outdoor festivals—but have plenty to offer local music fans.
That upstart festival, Shed Island, will host more than a dozen local and touring acts at three St. John’s venues this week. The event, which runs August 14 to 17, is soaked in a DIY ethos that covers everything from the organization to the bands themselves.
“We’re a completely independent festival, meaning we’ve fundraised ourselves to make this happen—no handouts,” said Micah Brown, one of the festival organizers.
“We relied on the community, and I’ve got to say, they’ve come through.”
The festival’s participating artists cover the spectrum of indie rock, with a focus on the “rock” part. “A festival for our ‘scene’ was something I’d wanted to do for over a year,” Brown said. “I’d seen a few bands over the years release great records, go on great tours, and play great shows out of province, while still being generally unknown in the city. I wanted to change that, and to help bring light to a few of my favourite locals who are currently a part of this.”
Brown brought the idea to some friends who had been having a similar conversation on their own, and collectively they began working together to make it happen.
Another of the festival’s goals is to bring in some great touring acts that play music of a style that isn’t necessarily well-represented by the acts other promoters are bringing to the city, Brown said. “Rock and friggin’ roll” was his descriptor for what fans can expect at the festival, with a focus on indie rock and punk-infused rock that includes bands like The Mouthbreathers (http://themouthbreathers.bandcamp.com/), Old and Weird (https://oldandweird.bandcamp.com/), and local rising stars MOOCH (http://moochisgood.bandcamp.com/).
The name’s similarity to Calgary festival Sled Island (http://www.sledisland.com/) initially started as a joke, Brown said, but now it’s a solid part of the plans. “It’s an appropriate name given the location,” he said, “as we’ve all played DIY gigs in sheds.”
The organizers had some worry that the name would offend because of the similarity with the larger fest, but Brown reported that it’s actually been embraced—some of the touring bands have expressed interest in hosting their own Shed Island, he said.
The organizers’ idea of success for the festival is quite modest, at least when it comes to their own take. “We hope to make $0 ourselves,” Brown said. They’re focusing on paying the touring bands more than their guarantees and compensating the visual artists and other community members who have kicked in to get the festival ready. “We just want to break even,” Brown said. “Everyone involved to date has done so on a voluntary basis, and the support has been absolutely incredible.”
With that in mind, Brown says the best thing that locals can do at this point is show up for the shows and ensure the bands play for packed houses at Bar None, The Republic, and Distortion. Tickets are available at Fixed Coffee and Baking on Duckworth Street. Here is the website: http://shedisland.com
“Shed Island is about cultivating a stronger arts community,” Brown said, “and celebrating the one we’re lucky enough to have.”