Cavendish Beach Music Festival

Posted: 28th October 2009 by refrainmusic in Concerts

So it all started with a phone call and a question: “Do you want to meet Reba”?

That’s how this whirlwind of a weekend began with one of the jocks at the radio station that I ‘part-time’ at calling me and asking that very question.
With all the successful concerts taking place in recent years in Moncton, and Halifax; PEI wanted to get in on the game. They did so moderately with the likes of Pussycat Dolls, Black Eyed Peas, and Aerosmith but the venue they chose was atrocious. This time however they changed things up a bit, it was to be held at Cavendish Beach, behind “Avonlea”, near Ann of Green Gables…a three day country music extravaganza. Now, I had no intention of going to this concert as I was saving my pennies for the much anticipated AC/DC concert in Moncton later in the summer.

‘Want to meet Reba’? Enticing words, the chance to meet someone of musical stature and respect such as Reba…these opportunities don’t materialize every day. After my limited amount of brain matter processed the question it came up with a response…’of course I do’. So now my friend at the station is visually impaired and thus I was to be his guide, never having done something like that before, needless to say that was a little terrifying. But arrangements were made and on Friday evening we would be hopping in a station vehicle, and heading for potato-land PEI.

Friday arrived and …let’s call him “S” and I were heading for the island in a vehicle emblazoned with station and sponsor logos, now we left late in the day knowing we were going to miss Friday’s line-up, as “S” had to finish his shift at the station before we could leave. Surprisingly without much interference between Moncton and Cape Tormentine we arrived at the ‘bridge’, I wish I could have shared that view with “S” but I did my best to describe it to him. A few moments later we are on the island of red mud and booking it for Cavendish! I won’t bore you with details of parking but somehow we shmoozed our way into the ‘vip’ parking directly behind the stage, and I mean directly, about 50′ behind the stage to be exact. Score! “S” had been in contact with Willie Mack, one of the performers and the host of the event this weekend several times and we were off to try and find him…we’d already missed him perform along with Doc Walker, Aaron Lines, and a couple of others in the ‘Kitchen’. What is the Kitchen you ask? They had an alternate stage set up at the top of the hill where local acts would be playing in between the main acts that were performing on the main stage…great idea. We determined that we had arrived just before country stars Big & Rich were about to take the stage. We were frantically trying to reach Willie Mack as he was the one getting us our backstage passes, did I forget to mention, heh, we were supposed to be backstage all weekend. But here comes my first gripe with the concert site, the cellular service was absolutely ‘non-existent’ if you were on Bell/Aliant. Bell/Aliant really dropped the ball on this weekend…Rogers had put a portable repeater tower ON the concert site. I don’t know if that repeater also had a ‘cancelling effect’ on Bell/Aliant’s service, but it really hindered us this weekend…more on that later…come on Bell/Aliant, you are supposed to be the ‘local’ guys here, and the guys from Ontario trump you!?? Bad for business!

We were also supposed to meet up with another co-worker from the station who was from the island, he was letting us stay at his Mom’s house 30 minutes away, score, free accomidations! But wait, no cell service, luckily we managed to get a couple of text messages out to him and we met him after the show. Now off to find a good place to view and hear Big & Rich! Well, “S” and I managed to get about a hundred feet from the stage, dead center for Big & Rich and the show was about to start, for those that were there I have no idea what the purpose of the ‘midget and the giant’ thing was all about, that was weird. The show it self was really good, but the animosity between Big Kenny and John Rich is very evident, they did not say one word to each other for the hour and fifteen minutes they were on the stage together. One would talk to the crowd, or the other would, but never directly to each other. We also found out that John Rich likes his Canadian Whisky in the form of Crown Royal…smart man..he was toasting the crowd with a rather large sized bottle of Crown. JR also stated that if anyone wanted to party with him afterwords he’d be at (one of my fav’s in PEI) Peakes Quay in Charlottetown until the wee hours…and from reports the next day…he did indeed actually go to the bar! “S” and I were hungry at one point and we went to get a slice of pizza, only to find out we had to go buy “token’s” (plastic coins with the concert logo on them) from another booth, then come back to the pizza line…my words…dumb, dumb, dumb! Then, after that silliness, to be served cold, cardboard with some sauce on it…blech! It only cost me like $6 (yes I’m rolling my eyes). The show ended about 10:30pm and we were off to fight our way out through traffic and back to Summerside for some food and and sleep.

Saturday…up and off to the concert site, with a stop at a burger joint, oh and for coffee of course as I need at least one to start the day. The concert site was a bustle of activity, even more than the night before as I surmise that more people have arrived on the island on Saturday. The nice security card from the night before waved and passed some pleasantries as we passed into our backstage secure parking area.
Once again Bell/Aliant really let us down, we couldn’t get a signal again and we wanted to upload some live remote feeds back to the station…no such luck. We tried many times to reach Willie Mack to no avail in the backstage area, but finally managed to get a hold of the tour manager or another performer, Tara Oram who brought us backstage to sit and chat with Tara for a few minutes before her show. Now, I have to say, what you see is what you get with Tara, what you see on stage is what you get off, she’s just a nice, pretty, hometown girl from Newfoundland that’s made good with her music. It was great of her even when our Netbook that we were recording interviews on malfunctioned, that she was willing to do the whole interview all over again. Not only did she have a great interview with us she put on a fun and entertaining segment to the show which I greatly enjoyed mixed with her music and her goofy sense of humor. On our way out from the Tara interview we ran into “The Wilkinson’s” who were backstage getting ready to do their bit for the crowd, having known “S” from the past we stopped to chit chat with them for a bit. After Tara’s performance we spent some time in ‘the Kitchen’ watching/interviewing local artists like John Oliver and The Keats. The Keats are an act to watch out for, as a sister act based out of Halifax that performs around the Maritimes regularly, they are growing a large fan base. I describe their sound as a cross between The Dixie Chicks and Sugarland with that slight bluegrass twist of Allison Krauss. While we were in the Kitchen we also ran into Steve Waylon and Joan Kennedy two local Moncton artists that were there as well. As we left the Kitchen in search of some grub the Grass Mountain Hobos were taking the stage on the main stage, but they turned out to be more background music for us as we stuffed some more overpriced grub in our faces. Saturday also featured the like of Steve Azar, The Wilkinson’s, and I must say, The Wilkinson’s are fantastic performers. They breezed through their songs like the seasoned veterans they are exciting the crowd with a sincere and heartfelt performance. The headliner of the day was Tim McGraw and “S” and I positioned ourselves in pretty much the same spot that we did for Big & Rich the night before only about twenty-five feet closer. It was a warm clear night and the crowd was substantially larger than the night before. Now I didn’t know quite what to expect out of the tall man in the black hat after hearing mixed reviews from his performance in Moncton a few years back when he was touring with his wife Faith Hill. Let’s just say I wasn’t as impressed as some of the obvious fans that were there, he spent very little time interacting with his crowd (which he literally took the time to tell the crowd he thought was just a bunch of “BS” anyway, they just play music), they played for a total of one hour, 15 minutes (encore) exactly and were gone off the stage…this was your headliner? (zzzzz) I think most of his fans were happy just to see him perform, as an avid concertgoer I would have been very upset to pay money to see that.

Another day gone…off to Summerside yet again in search of food and sleep.

Sunday! We also have good news…we finally reached Willie Mack, or rather, he reached us by calling us before he went to the concert site and we made arrangements to meet him and get our passes!

Into the car we jumped and tore for the concert site so we didn’t miss meeting up with Willie, who if you’re Canadian, and haven’t listened to his song “Howdy Eh”, you’re missing out. We finally met up with Willie and got our backstage passes and head into the realm of mystery behind the stage to hang out in the performer trailer with Willie. A recurring theme for me all weekend had been how nice and ‘genuine’ all these ‘country folk’ had been and Willie was no exception. We chatted with Willie in between his hosting duties, and his performances as he had to play extra today for ‘no show’ Crystal Shawanda…who no shows a chance to perform at a concert with 20,000 + people and get to hang out with some of the biggest names in country all weekend? Bizarre. While we hung out in the trailer we chatted with Bruce Guthro, Gordie Sampson (whom I’d met years ago while he was part of a band called “Real World” out of Cape Breton) and Deric Ruttan. We got to interview Deric who is one of the nicest guy’s you’ll ever meet, yet another performer that when our computer malfunctioned (or was it the operator) he was willing to do the interview all over again. You learn with sitting with these artists that they are real people, with families and trials and tribulations, just like the rest of us. As we watched Deric perform his set, I thought, I liked his music before but today I became a fan. I also had the opportunity to meet Deric’s wife who is an amazing lady who is also an accomplished song writer. I’m looking forward to when Deric comes back to the Maritimes on tour in February. While Deric was performing I had to go to the washroom and as I was walking back I saw a tall guy in a ball cap standing just outside a trailer and thought ‘hey…isn’t that…?’ Yup, Paul Brandt. So off I went to grab “S” and we went off to have a chat and get a picture with Paul Brandt.

As Paul Brandt took the stage we were hanging out in the catering tent and noticed a new red Ford Flex zip into the backstage area, and I noticed the tension level in the area amped up a bazillion degrees. I caught a glimpse of red hair in the back seat, and realized what was going on, Reba had arrived. The catering tent was rapidly cleared by security muscle and label powers as this is where Reba would do her meet and greet with the few fans that had won various contest’s and such to meet her, oh, and yes I was one of them. As we all gathered in a tight line we were given instructions by one of Reba’s ‘people’ on how this would all go down, she’d come in we’d get to say a brief hello, etc, if we had a camera we could take a picture and off we would go. That’s exactly how it went, it was over as fast as it had began, I’d met Reba, got a picture to prove it and was off to watch her show. Reba is a pro, and she oozed that on the stage, you could just tell that this was someone who had been doing this, and loving it, for a long time. She played all the hits, told stories, interacted with the crowd and the fans ate it up…as I watched from backstage with Deric Ruttan, his wife, Willie, and “S” it was a good cap to a great weekend of music, new friends, cardboard pizza, and not enough sleep. With a costume change into a brilliant red dress Reba sang one final tune and was gone as quickly as she’d arrived and that was the end of the 1st Cavendish Beach Music Festival…I’m sure there will be more.

Stage at the Festival.