New music festival gives stage to unconventional genres

A new festival is seeking to bring recognition to New Brunswick artists and the local music scene, no matter what genre they play.

Quality Block Party was started by Peter Rowan, an active manager in the east coast music scene. It’s is a smaller festival that wants to give all bands a place to play, understanding that music is about more than the business.

“I hope we can be the umbrella for all the talented weirdos in New Brunswick,” said Rowan.

“Bands are the main focus, not the industry.”

Quality Block Party has traveled from Halifax to Montreal to Fredericton represent New Brunswick’s music scene. (Johnny James/AQ)

The original goal was to build momentum for an extended version of the festival, which is also held in Saint John, in the August following its launch. The response was overwhelming, leading the festival to compete with the East Coast Music Awards in attendance.

Rowan said Quality Block Party is complimentary to the ECMAs.

“We made New Brunswick look great. We were an absolute, necessary compliment to the ECMAs,” Rowan said of the festival’s first installment.

It received so much support locally that additional festivals were held at Pop Montreal, a festival Rowan also helps organize.

After it’s warm reception at home, Quality Block Party rolled into Fredericton and Halifax this last week.

Quality Block Party is a music festival that seeks to give a stage to unconventional genres. (Johnny James/AQ)

Rowan said these iterations were not planned but came about through peaked interest and open arms from the festivals and venue owners.

“Everybody responded so positively,” said Rowan.

On stage the musicians and bands bring unconventional genres not usually found in the mainstream music scene.

Rowan said you won’t find blues artists, singer-songwriters and other popular genres at these shows. He argues there is already a well-established platform for them and there are other artists who need the spotlight.

Quality Block Party’s motives are defined in it’s motto: “Stay ugly.”

It promotes the idea of creating a community unafraid to embrace its blemishes.

The Quality Block, which is the area between Princess Street and King Street, along Germaine Street in Saint John, embodies this sentiment as it is the working-class area, often overshadowed by the uptown scene.

A local furniture store, Bustin’s Furniture, which existed for a century within the Quality Block, once ran a promotion slogan which said, “If you want to shop for the best, you shop the Quality Block.” This is where the festival gets its name.

The next guaranteed iteration of the festival is slated for April. (Johnny James/AQ)

Bustin’s Furniture also paid the city to put Qs made of bricks in the side walk at the corners of the block, which now defines the territory of the festival.

This physical presence is vital not only to the festival, but also to the identity of the community, Rowan said.

“It’s important that we present ourselves as we are … We don’t need to be the next Seattle, we don’t need to look like Toronto,” Rowan said.

“If we are true to our own personalities, then all of our attributes and warts will be there, and we need to keep our warts in mind.”

Rowan says that there may be a festival in Ottawa planned for February. The next guaranteed iteration of the festival is slated for April.

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