To many touring bands, the East Coast of Canada is uncharted territory due to logistical and financial reasons. Some bands manage to make it to the Maritimes, but few are able to extend their tours over to Newfoundland. Even many Maritime bands have never been over to The Rock. And in reverse, some Newfoundland acts have never performed outside of their home province.
The St. John’s music scene continues to thrive, but longtime scene veteran Liz Pickard says that it’s time for local bands and labels to get their respective acts together and to get some national exposure. As a member of The Lizband and Black Bags, Pickard and the Independent Artists Cooperative developed the Rock Can Roll Music and Video Festival and Conference, which takes place this weekend in St. John’s.
“We’re about rock music and the independent rock scene,” she says. “As opposed to focussing on shopping your demos to label reps or showcasing for booking agents like at many festivals, the Rock Can Roll event will be more focussed on things like making your own independent label stronger. Also, unlike most music festivals, nobody pays to play the Rock Can Roll event.”
Pickard, with the help of the Music Industry Association Of Newfoundland And Labrador, will feature dozens of guest speakers and presenters who will discuss independent labels and distribution practices on a local, national and global scale. Along with several local industry savants, the conference will see speakers from NXNE, Sonic Unyon, True North Records, Dependent Music, MMS Atlantic, and even I an MacKaye, who will represent Washington’s Dischord Records.
“With all of our presenters, all we really had to do was ask,” says Pickard. “Most of our speakers and presenters know of the Newfoundland scene, send their artists here or work with our artists up there. I think the other thing we have going on in our favour is that people really want to come to Newfoundland. People are curious about Newfoundland – it’s an exotic destination and they aren’t sure what to expect. ‘I’ve always wanted to go to Newfoundland’ was a very common response.”
With the cream of the crop assembled to speak and/or perform during the conference (including MacKaye, who will perform alongside Amy Farina as The Evens), the Rock Can Roll Festival aims to show both young and established Newfoundland bands that it is possible to make an impact outside of their home province.
“The conference’s main purpose is to learn more about independent distribution practices and strengthen our touring and support networks,” says Pickard. “We hope for Newfoundland bands to make more connections with each other throughout the island and to places beyond the island. The discussions are designed to be informative and also to respond to the needs of those who show up at the conference. We hope to have some meaningful discussions where people walk away armed with new information, feel more connected to what is happening throughout the island and in the rest of the country and the world.”
The Rock Can Roll Festival’s Video Screening & Performance Schedule:
January 14 @ The Ship Pub – Video screenings by Jim Bird, Paddy Barry, Colleen Power, The Lizband, Wintersleep, Alexandr Konstantinov, Mike Wade; performances by Cherie Pyne, Faster Miles Per Hour, The Black Bags, The Firewires, Trailer Camp
January 14 @ The Majestic – all-ages performances by The Rockford Peaches, Moral Less Right, Skullface and Others, Trailer Camp
January 15 @ The Ship Pub – Video screenings by Jill Barber, g.i.r.l., Moral Less Right, Alexandr Konstantinov, Kyla Tilley, Jim Bird, Brian Borcherdt, The Haters; performances by Jody Richardson, The Lizband, The Coast Guard, Kuroda
January 15 @ Junctions – performances by The Rockford Peaches, Commoname, Roundelay, Moral Less Right, My Antonia
January 16 @ The Masonic Temple – all-ages performance by The Evens
January 16 @ The Ship Pub – performances by The Novaks, Mark Bragg & The Black Wedding Band