Thursday, February 26, 2009

Day 1: Damhnait Doyle to Hey Rosetta before sunset

Some of Atlantic Canada's most export-ready artists were invited to perform during three afternoon sessions. From Thursday through Saturday, intimate crowds composed of international delegates, buyers and media get to see Atlantic Canada's finest. There were seats for everyone, and front row wasn't a problem - just my style these days. At least until a couple bands had me wanting to get up and dance.

So just who are the most "export ready" artists? Today's lineup included 4 great performances.

1. Damhnait Doyle - The darling of the ECMAs, she'll be co-hosting the awards show on Sunday night. Of the 4 performers, her sound seemed the least unique, blending folk, rock and pop. When technical difficulties were causing problems, she moved into the crowd for an up close acoustic session.

2. Duane Andrews. Duane fuses jazz and folk on his acoustic guitar, in an upbeat instrumental style paralled by the legendary Django Reinhardt.

In 2005, I exchanged CDs with several ECMA nominated artists and his quickly became my favourite. We hung out at the after party that year, and have kept in touch ever since. Last year, he introduced me to Neil Conway, a great St. John's based artist. While catching up today, I found out his brother plays in the great ska/funk/jam band, The Idlers.

3. Ennis - The duo of Maureen & Karen Ennis, whom you might remember from Ennis Sisters, provided the most impressive performance of the afternoon. Karen's stage presence rolled smoothly through jokes, singing, step dancing and playing of the tin flute and drum, with each talent more impressive than the previous. It was a breath of fresh air - it's ashame people weren't dancing.

4. Hey Rosetta!. Anyone in touch with the Canadian indie rock scene has been hearing more and more about this St. John's band. Frontman Tim Baker fits the bill, providing a rock steady stage presence, strong voice and impressive songwriting. The hypnotic melodies of the lows perfectly offset driving "get up and dance" energy of the highs. Think Wintersleep on an energy drink.


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