Jubilee rocks the river

10-plus bands wow crowds at annual music celebration

The river came alive once more.

The 2017 Riverfront Jubilee has come and gone and early signs are showing it to be more successful than last year’s festival.

Due to health reasons, executive director Carlton Munroe was more hands-off , with former vice chair Michelle MacLean taking over the reigns.

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“There’s been times that’s a little overwhelming,” MacLean said of her change of position, “but it’s definitely been worth it. It’s a great event. It’s a great community event … we get to bring some music to Pictou County that may not otherwise get to be here. It’s extremely rewarding no matter how much work goes into it.”

She said Saturday appeared to be the biggest night attendance-wise at around 2,600 people, with Sunday being not far off. MacLean chalked Saturday’s success to the return of Wintersleep and Matt Mays to the festival, with both acts being absent from the Jube lineup for a few years, as well as Wintersleep drummer Loel Campbell — who hails from Stellarton originally — pulling double duty and manning the traps for Matt Mays as well.

“Really, having Loel Campbell in with Wintersleep and also with Matt Mays was really a big local draw, which was really good for us and I think drew a lot of the sales in,” MacLean said. “It’s been a number of years since Wintersleep’s been here, so I think getting them back on the stage after such a long stint really helped the sales as well.”

A festival such as the Jubilee can live or die based on the weather, so naturally Sunday’s downpour provided a few concerns.

“(There were) a few worries,” MacLean said, “but it’s Alan Doyle and Matt Andersen. Let’s be honest, people love them. Thankfully Mother Nature has been on our side.”

This year’s festival marked the first year that executive director Carlton Munroe played the part of spectator since 2008, an experience he said was “not easy.”

“It’s quite an adjustment to say the least,” Munroe said. “I thought about it a lot over the last eight months when it was becoming quite clear that this was going to be the case come August. I had complete and total faith in the committee that we had, our new chair — she was a summer student of mine six years ago — complete and total faith in her leadership during this change. But yeah, it was tough. It was really, really tough. This is the love of what I do, right here.”

Munroe said that this year he was actually able to enjoy the music fully and properly.

“Any other time it’s just kind of trying to find five minutes here, 10 minutes there.” he said. “But the other thing I found was finding something to do that I felt to be productive and something to help promote the festival. And that became an easy one.”

Ultimately Munroe carved out a unique role for himself and found a way to not only contribute to the festival but its growth as well — he created a podcast which will appear on the official Jubilee website in the near future. The podcast will feature music from this year’s festival, as well as Munroe in conversation with some of the artists who took part. To his knowledge, the podcast is the first of its kind for any Nova Scotian based music festival.

“(It’s me) chatting with all my friend that are on the stage, or going on stage or just hit the stage and just talking about stuff randomly as friends — not so much Q&A, it’s just a different thing,” he explained. “It’s how we would talk any other year, only we hit the ‘record’ button.”

The festival carried on in the rock-centric direction of the last few years, but each night took on its own particular flavour.

Friday night featured a fair bit of local content with Grooveback and Andre Pettipas & The Giants kicking things off, and the Pictou County Pop Classics and Haywire wrapping up the night.

Saturday packed a bit of a punch with the newly expanded four-piece Town Heroes warming up the crowd for Wintersleep and Matt Mays — and Loel Campbell marathoning through both sets on drums.

Sunday got underway with the duo Fortunate Ones getting thing ready for the blues rock of Matt Andersen & the Bona Fide. Alan Doyle & the Beautiful Gypsies closed out the night with another Pictou County drummer — Westville’s Kris MacFarlane — manning the kit. While not a to-capacity sellout, Doyle received just as much love from the crowd as he did when his former band Great Big Sea (which also featured MacFarlane on drums) headlined 2013’s Sunday lineup.