What No One Seems to Be Saying about Salmon Fest.

For this festival to continue, management needs some new blood. Namely, someone with a finger on a pulse.

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The photo above was circling around social media Sunday, and it tells a thousand words: For this festival to continue, management needs some new blood. Namely, someone with a finger on a pulse.

The weather wasn’t a deterrent — we’re Newfoundlanders, and people suited up just fine for Confederation Hill. Competition from the Rod Stewart show couldn’t have helped. But the main issue was the lineup.

Fogerty already played the island this year, watering down his appeal, and the rest of the lineup was composed of bands the Average Joe would assume were deceased or at least retired. You don’t want potential showgoers thinking, “oh yeah, I remember them,” but rather, “oh yeah, I love their new album.” Either that or they need to be pretty epic — like former headliners The Eagles — who have records people still play to this day.

With all due respect to festival organizers, whom I’m sure did their best, Tom Cochrane was inducted into the Juno Hall of Fame 14 years ago, which typically marks the end of a career (I figured he was dead or at least retired) … Collective Soul might still play, but they’re a 90’s band that everyone liked, but no one loved (If I were ever going to go see them it’d have been in 1995 not 2015, 20 years after their heyday). On that note, Fogerty is not CCR. And CCR’s heyday was 1969.

They booked a bunch of bands well past their Best Before Date, who appeal to an age group that doesn’t tend to take in live music with the fierce voracity of the under 35 crowd.Book Arcade Fire alongside a classic band, and you wouldn’t even need another act on the bill to fill that field. That’s one way to go.

If the festival wants to stick with appealing to the old and the young alike — as they should, because it’s the best way to fill a field — they should consider artists with overlapping appeal among several demographics, like Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, or Bob Dylan — 2 of whom have played here and claimed to have loved it. (I hear we have no venue big enough for Bruce, in fairness.)

No one’s denying that “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” and “Bad Moon Rising” are classics. But people would either A.) Want to go see CCR, not just a member thereof, or B.) Hesitate to hop in a car, drive for hours, and stand around at a festival known for oversights like not having ample water on hand to keep people hydrated.

Salmon Fest shouldn’t be declared dead: everything has a bad year or two. These people work hard, and they care, and we should cheer them on to realign. If only because the festival is of such benefit to the community. The festival should, however, look to festivals that sell out before acts are even announced — like Osheaga or Newport Folk Festival — and study how to achieve that kind of branding and rapport.

This is of course an over-simplified sentiment … but one seemingly lacking from coverage to date. This article was meant to generate discussion, not sound harsh. See below and the comments below the Facebook post of this article for that conversation.

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44 Comments

  • Big draw acts need to be booked way more in advance than has been done. Next year’s headliner should have been booked last year. Then there is no panic around trying to find someone like in the past. Right now they should be working on who to book for 2017 NOT scratching their collective head trying to figure out what went wrong. What went wrong can be summed up as “poor organizational skills”. Everything being said here falls under that umbrella. If you are booking someone 18 – 24 months in advance you avoid being told, “We’d love to come to NL but we’re already booked somewhere else.” At least book earlier and announce the act before Christmas and you will sell tickets as Christmas gifts and everyone has a good heads up and can arrange time off or vay-cay for that time. If the act is big enough like somebody else said you will have people coming from all over Atlantic Canada to see it. I also like the idea of a weekend festival (music) I realize that the Salmon Fest is more than one day already. BTW I saw a video of a concert where Jason Hogarth (I think I got it spelled right) was singing lead for Queen…It was fantastic…now THAT would have been a draw.

  • NL is behind the times in every way imaginable , from fashion and food to transportation, tolerance and certainly music festivals. Salmon fest just had to scale itself down and pick a demographic. They aren’t Osheaga and can’t pull off appealing to different masses. Also think about the possibility that some musicians don’t want to play somewhere remote and expensive to get to so you have to pay well known and relevany people more than usual to play the festival.

  • I have to laugh at the fact that most people truly think the sole reason was because St. John’s had another event the same time. This bust was a long time coming, and if it’s ever going to come back, a lot of things will need to change to draw a crowd again. Yes, salmon fest was once one of the only events or big concerts during the year, in Newfoundland.
    Now, with competition, Salmon Fest slowly came to what this year turn out was. Simply an embarrassment.
    I mean, Look what they’ve done to Red Cliff? Turned that into a “pussy” party. To which, no one is coming anymore. I mean, do you think Oshega, Evolve, etc etc gives a hell about DJ’s and music playing all night long? Hell no. People aren’t going to come to a place they know isn’t going to be any fun. Which is what they’ve done here.
    I’m glad this year was a complete bust. The salmon festival needs a refreshed committee, who know a thing or two about entertaining “all” because entertaining one or the other, doesn’t work. Not in NL.

    They can get Bruce Springsteen all they want. But that’s just one year. They’ve ruined all the fun in Salmon fest. I mean, yeah the locals might be fine with going to the Stadium Dance Friday night and hitting the field Saturday. But the locals, aren’t keeping or bringing all the money in here. It’s the outside of town that needs to be attracted and kept entertained.

  • I think your opinion misses the mark.

    The Rod Stewart concert on the same weekend did effect Salmon festival turnout. The island can’t support two big concerts on the same weekend.

    As for the line-up, it was an excellent cast of classics and excellence performances. Last year was the set case to see if young people would show up for a recent and mega-hit pop band and what happened, nothing!!! Kiss and Aerosmith, other classic rockers, kicked 2104’s ass.

    I suggest the low turnout this year was the concert in St. John’s not the line-up.

    The biggest factor is this: young people rather listen to their iPod, their downloaded music from iTunes, and become everything. You will not get young people out in droves they are captured in their technological cyberspace, and natural spaces like festivals cramp their style.

    As well, young people done have the money. It would cost a couple of young lovers from St, John’s %500 at least to do this weekend. And you need east coasters to support the Salmon Festival, and it’s just too expensive yet the older generations who listened to the line-up have the money, yet if there’s a concert in St. John’s the same weekend, especially if they already see John Fogerty this year, they will take in Rod S.

    We can only support one big concert, maybe two on opposite ends of the summer. But it won’t be young teenagers going in droves, they haven’t $500 to spend on it.

    We’ll see what happens in Avondale when Lynard Skynard comes and the country sound! can’t wait for more classic rock!!

    • “The biggest factor is this: young people rather listen to their iPod, their downloaded music from iTunes, and become everything. You will not get young people out in droves they are captured in their technological cyberspace, and natural spaces like festivals cramp their style.”

      I’ve seen comments like the one above a couple times in this thread. What I can only assume to be the older generation has a very distorted and jaded view of the youth of today. There are more large-scale, live music festivals now than any other time in history in North America, and they are all doing really well! Young people LOVE live music and going to concerts/festivals… This is an extremely condescending and narrow-minded view and is NOT the reason why Salmon Fest failed. That said, we listen to a wider variety of music from a greater number of bands now. You aren’t going to draw the youth out if you don’t play the music they’re listening to….

      Also, it’s not the Confederation Hill organisers fault that they ended up being the same weekend as Salmon Fest as this was the day that Rod Stewart was available. “We actually had the confirmation done before Salmon Fest announced their date” (Confederation Hill Music Fest promoter Pete Quinton). Unfortunate timing, but if Salmon Fest booked acts well in advance like they should have done, then perhaps they would have had the upper hand.

  • Pam F. nailed it. It’s also situated in a very bad spot for road access. They need to fix the festival itself before they can even think about pulling the right performers in. It’s inherently broken. I went when Kiss was there, they’re one of the biggest draws in the world — I still won’t go back, because everything else about the experience made it a living hell. They need to visit other festivals and take notes. People don’t put up with bullshit for very long, no matter who’s playing. Maybe once or twice, but it gets old and tired very fast.

  • Here’s a question…

    Why in the world would St.Johns schedule an act like Rod Stuart on the same day as the already struggling Salmon Festival?
    Sabotage! They were set up for failure.

    I do agree the town needs to wipe clean the committee and try something new (like a weekend festival). I was once asked to be on the committee. I showed up with my folder of ideas (with contact numbers and even called in advance to see availability) and they didn’t want to hear it. I was there to mearly shut the town up because people were saying something had to be done. This was their way of getting the Towns input – but they didn’t want it.

    I did and still say country music festival all the way. I said this before they had that country festival in St.Johns – and I still say it!

    • Arcade Fire will sell out any concert they play anywhere I’m pretty sure. I’ve seen them twice. They’re the best band I’ve ever seen live… They are amazingggggg and definitely are headliners.

      I understand the middle age/baby boomer demographic is what is largely being targetted by these festivals in Newfoundland as that age group has the $$$. But we shouldn’t underestimate the love that younger Newfoundlanders have for current, new and upcoming bands. The music scenes in St. John’s, Grand Falls and I’m sure other towns (though I don’t have personal knowledge of them) is very diverse and full of talent and passion. Summer festival lineups seem to show the same acts across the country/continent. Take a look at those lineups and see what kind of acts they’re bringing in. Newfoundlanders do like their rock’n’roll and classic rock, but that’s not all they like. We need to get with the times!

  • Salmon Festival was a bust! I flew from the arctic all the way home to the great province of Newfoundland to see this show and I can honestly say it’s probably my first and last one.
    It’s too bad because I had a great time with some awesome friends but I was totally disappointed in the numbers.

  • They should follow Hillside Festivals model. But not local acts. Maybe throw in some stand up, or comic rock theater.

  • There are some good ppints being made here, but not much being said about one problem Salmon Fest has that affected sales/turnout the last 2 years: pure and simple greed and stupidity.
    1. You weren’t allowed to bring your own water. Water!! For Gods sake. A necessity of life. But you weren’t allowed to bring your own. You had to buy theirs.
    2. Which is bad enough except for a) it was $5.00 for a 355ml bottle and b) they ran out and didn’t have enough anyway
    3. Even theur First Aid tent had no water. My friend passed out in the lineup to get in bc of over heating. First Aid gave her a wet paper towel yo put on her neck, but couldn’t spare her any water to actually drink.
    4. Once you got on the field, if you left, you weren’t allowed back. Pretty crappy for a myriad of reasons.
    5. Over 8000 people in a VIP area that was supposed to be for 2500 only? People paid extra for that area.
    6. The cost of a burger, hot dog or fries? Insanely expensive.
    7. My husband bought 12 beer tickets. In effect a dozen beer. Cost him $80. Wtf???
    8. The Eagles declaring “stop taking pictures or the concert stops NOW” really left most people feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. Insert sarcasm here, in case I wasn’t clear.
    I could go on. But I think I’ve made my points. Greed and stupidity on everyone’s part – the town, organizers, vendors, etc.
    They pissed a lot of people off. And if there’s one thing NLers have, it’s a good feckin’ memory when we feel we’ve been wronged.

    • That’s pretty shocking for sure. That basically explains it. No one would return knowing all that.

  • A lot of good points. I’m no lover of country but it might be time to go country with a headliner like Garth Brooks or Tim McGraw, Dixie Chicks…other more current?? Who in NL doesn’t know all the words to a few Garth tunes or Earls Gotta Die;-)

  • Big country fans around here. I’d love to see Lady Antebellum come. They haven’t been in Newfoundland yet, and would draw a huge crowd. I’d be in the VIP section for sure!

  • This is exactly what I have been saying! It’s pretty bad when before the lineup is even announced you know who to rule out because the artists are probably drawing old age pension.

  • Interesting comments. Here’s my take on it. Salmon Festival wasn’t the success of previous years for a number of reasons.

    First of all Chad, I think you dismiss the fact that another major concert was scheduled for the same day. And in St. John’s of all places. Central Newfoundland has never had the population base to bring in crowds of 20,000 +. That population lives on the Avalon. And a major concert scheduled for the same day as Salmon Fest couldn’t help but significantly impact the number of potential concert goers who choose to stay closer to home.

    The idea that old rock acts don’t bring in crowds isn’t supported by recent concerts. The Eagles drew 30,000 plus two years ago. Rod Stewart drew 15,000 plus this year. These are numbers that Arcade Fire could not bring to any venue on the island I suspect.

    The problem is much more multi dimensional than your analysis recognizes. One factor that comes into play is the fact that the newer demographic, as a whole, does not seem to be as attracted to large music events in the same numbers as previous generations. Put on a concert by Kayne West or Beyoncé in a large city auditorium, then yes you will draw a crowd of under 30’s. But try to feature on a two day rock concert, even with the best of post 2000 bands, and you will probably lose your shirt.

    One final comment on John Fogerty. Given your age I will forgive your comments about how he was “just a member of CCR” and remind you that he was the songwriter, singer and lead guitarist of a four piece group that scored more solid hits than any band I can remember from the late 60’s. And by the way, having heard the guy Saturday night I can say, at 70, he rocks just like he did when I was 18 in 1969. 🙂

    • Some great points, John, and I agree “older rock acts” can still draw a crowd. But they need to have been as epic as The Eagles. Which admittedly, CCR kind of were.

    • Exactly when you were 18, in 1969! The majority of ticket holders werent born until 10 to 20 years after that…so why would this appeal to them?

  • It was the perfect storm for failure unfortunately. The Eagles debacle put a sour taste in a lot of people’s mouths. The weather was horrible ( GFW has always had the salmon festival the 3rd weekend of July, up until a few years ago when they got KISS). And of course a competing concert the same weekend where the bulk of the population lives. As far as lineup, I think the Salmon Festival concert was the better one…I would have loved to go see Collective Soul ( and yes, I love Collective Soul. Even now. Guess I’m the only one). But not gonna drive 4 hours to stand up all day in 14 degree temps. It is unfortunate… but concert promoters have to go with performer’s availability. I think if headliners had been switched – Rod Stewart in Grand Falls-WIndsor, you would have seen more there. The fact that Fogerty played here under a year ago definitelty was a factor.

    I agree with some of your points. But I really hope that festivals such as this don’t turn into the American Idol/The Voice/band of the week garbage that some would suggest. There is a reason John Fogerty, Rod Stewart, Tom Cochrane and yes even Collective Soul are still around. They have talent. And they put off awesome shows.

    • We can certainly agree on not wanting any “American Idol/The Voice/band of the week garbage” at local festivals. I didn’t mean to imply any bands were better than others either, just more … topical. But the wonderful thing about music is it’s all relative. It’d be a boring thing if we all agreed on who the best bands are. I just meant Collective Soul don’t sell the tickets as well as bands like Arcade Fire (they’ve headlined huge festivals, recently, and have won awards like Junos and the Polaris, recently). I’m not even their biggest fan, they were cited at random. Anyway, good points!

  • I don’t think it’s just the concert that’s the problem. It’s also red cliff. After drinking at the concert and it’s over at 11 most people want somewhere to continue the party. When I was younger red cliff ricks actually did rock. There was stages, tents with dj’s, spray on tattoos tents, food, you name it.

    The field can hold 40,000 people. Do you think everyone is ready to go home and go to bed at 11? Hell no. The party is just starting.

    But the town shut down red cliff and it’s strictly for camping and not partying. Each year I would call to get a campsite asap because it would be sold out. Now look at this year.

    • another great point. Post-festival should spill into places that benefit the community. There should have been an after party at a legion or hotel bar, etc.

      • They need to bring back the Stadium Dance on Saturday night for people to go after the concert. You have thousands of people leaving the field before midnight and nowhere to go. Open up the stadium again, have a smaller show there with local bands playing until the sun comes up.

  • As a 50+ concert goer I took a little offence to the statement…”They booked a bunch of bands well past their Best Before Date, who appeal to an age group that doesn’t don’t tend to take in live music with the fierce voracity of the under 35 crowd…”?????

    Just speaking for a few of us 50+ers who love a good concert – and the lineup at Salmonfest didn’t appeal to us either…

    • Yes, sorry Mary 😉 That should have read “who MORESO appeal to…” or something. And the author of this article is with you! I’ll be attending music festivals well into my 80s.

      • Completely disagree with your article. Fogerty is amazing and would definitely have drawn a crowd had he not already been here multiple times. I seen him twice in as many years, and really wanted to see him again in salmon fest; however, I had never seen Rod, and his concert was much closer. Fogerty was definitely worth any travel, as his shows are amazing. This year, Salmon Fest was just a series of unfortunate events: same day as Rod, poor weather, a headliner who had just recently been on the rock multiple times (but again, worth travelling for), poor reviews and planning a couple of years in a row, and finally the too late realization that past greed may have played a big part in souring the taste of Salmon Fest for many people. Even when Bon Jovi headlined (a major headliner), Salmon fest just seemed simpler. Too many rules and the almighty dollar destroyed Salmon Fest, and will do the same to other large NL events if promoters are not careful.

        • Well said. And yes, Fogerty having recently played here definitely watered down the draw. That was an oversight.

        • P. S. Had you seen the Fogerty show you would have definitely realized Fogerty IS CCR. The other members are definitely not missed. It’s just the name.

          • Completely agree with you Mandy! John Fogerty is the voice, the talent, and the songwriting ability of CCR, he’s what made them what they were, and he’s carrying on the legacy brilliantly playing his music.

  • This is so true. I went to the Rod Stewart show myself and there were even certain organizational issues that left a lot of room for improvement. We have so much space to be an awesome concert venue and we don’t use it. Newfoundland could become a primo concert go-we paradise if we did it right. Many of the other provinces do weekend music festivals and this hasn’t arrived here yet. I think someone should take the reins and make Newfoundland the best music festival place to go! If buy my tickets in advance!

  • It’s not the age of the bands, The Eagles drew a large crowd. it’s the changes, they need more local bands, and east cost bands like years back. They also wait too long to announce. People need more time to book that time off work. They need to have more country to draw the people who will spend the money , the majority of the young crowd are only here for the booze and partying.

  • The problem with this year’s Salmon Fest was the fact that Rod Stewart was happening the same day and the fact that John Fogerty was here before Christmas. I don’t think your comment about CCR’s heyday and how Fogerty is simply one member is relevant at all. Fogerty was and is CCR. He was just here twice in the last two years, so anyone who wanted to see him did already. And I don’t think Arcade Fire as a headliner will necessarily help, they’re an opening act (when I saw them they opened for someone quite a bit bigger….U2). Keeping it in the rock genre would be a-okay (look at how last year turned out for them with Maroon Five), just get someone like ACDC or Spingsteen who hasn’t been here recently.

    • “And I don’t think Arcade Fire as a headliner will necessarily help, they’re an opening act.”

      Arcade Fire sell out stadiums and have headlined plenty of the world’s biggest music festivals. I think they could sell more than a couple tickets to Salmon Fest.

      • Backspacer: Look at the demographics of Newfoundland. A population of 500,000 with a median age of 44.4 years old. The demographics here simply don’t favour groups like Arcade Fire and co. They’re obviously quite successful but salmon fest certainly isn’t a market where they could thrive.

      • I don’t think ye old Newfoundland mom and dad are travelling from far and wide to see Arcade Fire actually. Unless you think they’re comparable to the Eagles. I stand by my statement.

  • It doesn’t help that John Fogerty played in St. John’s within the last year. You would have to be a die-hard fan to travel to see him after seeing him in St. John’s… and even then you may decide against it because you already saw him a few months ago.

  • I agree with most of this article but don’t feel Arcade Fire and Modest Mouse would fill the field at all although good they tried to appeal to just younger ppl and it failed miserably! Also to my knowledge Bruce Springsteen has never played here and if so he would sell out Salmon Fest in a heartbeat by himself as ppl from the Maritimes and other provinces would come or come home just to see him so I just feel Newfoundlanders no matter what age are Rockers and Salmon Fest is just not bringing in the right groups but bring in Springsteen or Metallica or ACDC or any Rock new and older classicly defying decades bands who are still relevant put them with the new and they will sell out and the ppl will come under 35 and over 35 as well!! 😉

  • Pretty sure that’s what everyone is saying, bud. But if it were that simple to book the likes of Bruce Springsteen someone already would have. Saying this is piece is an “over-simplified sentiment” is an oversimplification itself.

    • I think there are some valid points being made here but something I haven’t heard addressed is the date of Salmon Fest. Typically, it is held in the second or third week of July. This does not allow for much flexibility in terms of the availability of acts. Organizers can’t really call up Bruce Springsteen and say, “We want you to come but it can only be on the second Saturday of July.” I think that is the biggest hurdle. The Town is trying to keep this date as that is what people want so people can book travel, etc…. but it really limits who they can get. Not only that, it’s prime festival season so performers have lots of options of where to perform in the summer. Then there is the cost of getting across the Gulf. This adds alot of cost to what the tour organizer will charge, etc… I think these festivals need to be planned and run by private companies who know the business and can assume the risk. I don’t think Town Councils should be in the business of concert promotion or of gambling with taxpayers’ money.

  • I wholeheartedly agree. The only times I’ve been even remotely interested in Salmonfest was the year that Our Lady Peace was there and the year Alexisonfire was there. I was pretty bummed I couldn’t go to either. But any other year, it just doesn’t appeal to me. Gimme some Mumford & Sons or Imagine Dragons and I’ll buy the ticket the day it’s announced! I love John Fogarty as much as anyone else, but it was also the third time he was on the island. He gives a good show, but after I saw it once, I didn’t feel inclined to see it again.

    Bluesfest in Ottawa is another good one for them to look at. It lasts a week, sure, but they have an incredible mix of classic and new talent. There’s something to appeal to everyone. Last year’s line up was amazing. Lady Gaga, Journey, STYX, Foreigner, Lady Antebellum, Maroon 5, The Band Perry, etc etc.

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