A rainy cold day in Prince Edward County is generally good for staying indoors and keeping warm and dry.
Today is County Pop, an eclectic smorgasbord of music, food, art, and human connection designed to bring the County together.
Tonight was the third instalment of #CountyPop. Its a combination food truck and music festival, where a resident can try any number of County products and food samplings. The food trucks ranged from pizza made in an actual wood-fire stone pizza oven that had been placed on the back of a flatbed truck by Vintage Pizza Pie Co., to gourmet french fries made by renowned chef Jamie Kennedy. (I did say the chef, NOT the comedian!) I have it on good authority that the poutine wrap was absolutely extraordinary and the County made soda was a rare treat, and very tasty provided by Outlet Food Co. Among others, were PICNIC, Idle Wild, Chill Zone Desserts and The Shore Oysters.
When you first walked into the Crystal Palace, the large historic building was empty albeit there was a buzz from musicians and vendors setting up. Before long there was a line-up at the main entrance of ticket holders. Apparently I hadn’t gotten the memo about wearing sequins or sparkles, because from dresses to shoes, and shirts to toques, there was sequins and sparkles everywhere.
The first few acts had a smattering of fans that sat in rapt attention. But by the time Jeremie Albino hit the stage though, the large building began to feel very cramped indeed. Soon there were little girls running around in their princess dresses and super hero capes. The capes were made courtesy of Small Pond Arts and The County of Prince Edward County as a part of the free kids programming offered at the event. Their faces were painted with any number of variations of animals or super hero logos, depending on where their passions and predilections swayed them, and they danced to the fun bluesy rhythms of the first band to bring out a drum kit.
But despite the bands getting livelier and louder as the night wore on, make no mistake, the bands selected to perform at this year’s event were extraordinary talents. They each brought an unmistakeable voice that was in and of itself unique and emotional. Take Lindsay Ferguson for example, her single acoustic guitar sounded like a chorus of instruments with her skillful mastery of her instrument. Her deep and resonating voice reverberated around the room and cut through to the very soul of the listener. And her style was varied. She began with a folk like blues sound, and ended with an acapella Irish song that left the hearer mesmerized.
In between sets on the main stage, in the building behind, there was a small song writers showcase. Four artists sang and performed on a more intimate stage, surrounded by a thoughtful and attentive audience. One of the largest audiences for the Bluebird Room Stage was for Siobhan Bodrug, a grade 8 student at PECI. At thirteen years of age, this young lady has the vocal range of a mature vocalist. She has an incredible command of her vocal instrument, and has a powerful stage presence. Sharing the stage with Miss Emily, another County born and raised musician, she displayed immense confidence.
And as one of the last two performers to close out the evening, Miss Emily and her band took the stage, and gave a rousing performance of some of her familiar hits and a couple of covers. She gave an emotional shout-out in dedication to Jeanette Arsenault and Kait Shannon, the latter who just recently passed away from a long battle with cancer and was one of Miss Emily’s vocal students. And being the tried-and-true County girl she is, she also promoted the event’s charity of choice, the Prince Edward Learning Centre. A $1 from each ticket sold for County Pop would be going to that organization, and Emily pointed out her long standing connection to the County when she mentioned that Lori Farrington, the women representing the Learning Centre, had been her brownie leader many years ago. It was a wonderful moment of connection for long time County residents in the room with the powerhouse performer now in front of them.
But the headliner, the night’s close out performance, was a band from Toronto. Elliott Brood is a fantastic three-piece alternative country band. If you haven’t heard of them, you’ll want to. They have a sound that isn’t unique, but its magical. Their rhythm makes you want to stomp your feet, clap your hands and hug the person next to you. It makes you happy just to hear them as their perfectly blended vocals mix with their rousing sounds and before you know what’s happened, you’re dancing in your seat. The band finished their set and walked off the stage, but the packed house called unanimously for an encore, and the guys did not disappoint. The amazing thing about this event, is that it was completely kid friendly, and over by 8pm so the families with young kids could get them home to bed.
The unsung genius of the evening (literally–I don’t think she sang a note on stage…) was the artist who designed the up-cycled backdrop for the County Pop stage. The Installation is titled Meadow Life by Suendrini of Artful Waste, and according to the brochure, its her largest piece ever created. A quote taken from the County Pop Brochure:
…created with the intention to express a local touch point of beauty reinterpreted, in unlikely and unforeseen places. The art arrangement…is a cross-sectional, semi-abstract snapshot of a meadow from above and below the ground, with carefully chosen materials to represent the hand-cut and detailed elements, such as; grassland creatures, wildflowers, native grasses, fibrous roots systems, organic matter and various layers of earth. The piece symbolically represents the vital significance and diversity of a meadow, which may be a seemingly simple landscape at first glance.
County Pop is a genius construct, and I am just sad that I have missed the first two years of this wonderful new part of the County experience. It perfectly blends the new with the old, the creative and the business, and the young with the old. Its a wonderful experience. I just wish I had gone to Parsons Brewing Co. tonight for the after party. It looks like the adults and the musicians have kept the party going all night long.
There’s always next year…