One of my first blogs highlighted a most treasured festival in Canada's province of Newfoundland and Labrador. In the downtown of the capital city of St. John's sits a legendary street. The street is lined on either side with bars and eateries. While the street only spans 2 city blocks, it's Canada's most legendary location. Every year (minus Covid), the street is shut down to vehicle traffic, a stage is set up, and it hosts a music festival extraordinaire, The George Street Festival!!
As it typical of every time I have attended this week long event, I hit up the Saturday evening "Kitchen Party". On this evening, some of the province's best local talents gather to perform their land's distinct folk music, a mix of English, Irish Celtic, with locally themed lyrics. Of course, the standard music made famous by their Irish ancestors are also thrown in for good measure. The people here are extremely proud, and they love their local music. It's why this is the best night to attend the festival. The street was packed with thousands of locals, and visitors, and the party is one of my favourite events of the year. I cherish the moments here, and this year was no exception. Perhaps a result of the previous 2 year hiatus due to the Covid 19 Pandemic, but the evening was a smash!!
The Masterless Men
The Masterless Men started the evening portion of the show on this night. At the time they hit the stage, it was already near impossible to maneuver yourself around. It's unusual for an opening act to garner such a large crowd, but these guys are well worthy of headlining any event.
The Masterless Men were formed in 1991, and have been performing in Canada's Atlantic Provinces, down through the eastern seaboard ever since. So they are clearly no slouches when it comes to their craft, and they set the scene for a raucous evening of Newfoundland Jiggs, and heartfelt music.
Next up on this evening was one of the province's most popular bands, Celtic Connection. They picked up right where The Masterless Men left off, and they immediately had the crowd dancing and clapping along with their set.
While the sun hadn't yet settled, dark clouds threatened rain as the forecast had been calling for it most of the day. And alas, the rain came during Celtic Connection's set, but it was hardly anything to be concerned about as it literally came down in a slight fall for a mere 2 minutes. It was enough, however to bring out a double rainbow and the crowd continued to dance and sing along with the band's set, which included a drum solo. It's not rare, but unusual in this genre, and it was frankly one of the coolest, albeit brief drum solos I've witnessed. By the cheer of the crowd, I'd assume they were in the same boat as I.
The headliners from this year's Kitchen Party was none other than The Navigators, led by baritone vocalist, guitarist, fiddler Arthur O'Brien and fellow vocalist, tin whistle blower and bodhran banger Fred Jorgensen. The energy they brought was unmatched as they raised the roof (so to speak) in the outdoor venue.
While the street was packed from the start of the evening, you literally could not move by the time the headliners took the stage. Hands were raised for the whole set, people tried to squeeze themselves closer for a better view, young ladies were perched on the shoulders of young gentlemen, beers and drinks spilled over each other, and everybody was having a blast!
I have had the pleasure of seeing The Navigators before, as they have been around for 20+ years. They won the 2002 MIANL award for Folk/Roots Band of the year, and are constantly playing many local venues around the island of Newfoundland and the east coast of Canada. This night was different however. I've maintained in a few blogs now that the band and the crowd are both critical to have a successful gig. As I stood back, watched, listened and snapped shots of the concert and the surroundings, it was without a doubt clear as day. Both did their part, and the show was a smashing success.
Newfoundland is one of Canada's treasures. The George Street Festival is a treasure within a treasure. It's why I plan my visits around this annual event. And it's not just for the rowdy night dwellers. In fact, the festival sees musical events all day long. In the more family friendly daytime, the street is open to all ages to partake in some of the fun. But my heart sits in the evening, during the Kitchen Party, when the guitars, fiddles, and accordions come out to play. This year, a (phenomenal) photographer friend of mine flew from Toronto to St. John's (none of my doing) for a weekend vacation. He owns TriRocks, a live music photography business. Hit him up! I am certain that he will corroborate my story!
Show Date: July 30, 2022
Have you visited the Island? Have you ever attended The George Street Festival? Share your stories in the comments below. I'm sure there are many fond memories.