This year at Showcase PEI marked a number of firsts as we continue to tweak, experiment and develop an already successful event. Music PEI introduced an artist exchange pilot project this year and brought UK recording artist John Smith to showcase and collaborate with PEI artist Dennis Ellsworth. The two spent the better part of a week together exploring each other’s music and co-writing two songs which they performed in a showcase both Sunday night at the Alibi Lounge and also in their individual showcases Monday and Tuesday. Future plans are in the works for Dennis to go to the UK and do some performing with John. Also on the bill at the Alibi on Sunday was piano phenom Max Keenlyside.
Sunday had started off with a cruise of the Charlottetown harbour for the delegates so they could experience the city from the water before they settled in for two intense days of music.
This was also the first year Music PEI partnered with the Fédération Culturelle de l’IPÉ which allowed us an opportunity to bring some francophone delegates from Quebec and Îles-de-la-Madeleine. Those delegates were not only looking at the two Acadian artists, Vishten and Rebel, but also at the English speaking artists for their events.
There were three people from the media in attendance this year for all showcases as well and we have asked them to share their thoughts about their Showcase PEI experience.
Colin Irwin– Freelance Journalist and author, UK:
“Canadians have a reputation for not only being the world’s best festival organisers, but also the most hospitable hosts. Add to that the best conference organisers too…
The most striking thing that hits you on arrival in Charlottetown and get whisked off on a break-the-ice boat trip with beer, mussels, sturdy backslaps and firm handshakes to an impressive backdrop of PEI coastline is the friendliness and enthusiasm of delegates and organisers alike. As the chatter intensifies and notes are compared amid stories of memorable summer events from Ottawa to Canmore, New York and Bromyard, smiles abound…the welcome is warm and people are very happy to be here.
The very term conference is a bit scary to the likes of a humble scribe from the United Kingdom, but this is a very relaxed, laid-back and unpressured affair and while the ‘speed dating’ aspect of the appointments system is a very necessary conduit of the formal business end, you feel there is even greater value in the more informal discussions that take place as friendships are forged, contacts are made, experiences shared and ideas swapped in an environment that freely encourages it. This, perhaps, is the magic of PEI.
The other big strength of this particular event is the music on display. It seems trite to say it, but conferences of this kind sometimes overlook the one thing at the heart of it all – the music. Showcase PEI puts the music at the forefront with 22 acts on display, varying dramatically from the inspirational jazz of the Glen Strickey Quartet to the outstanding Acadian sound of Vishten, the highly approachable rock of Tim Chaisson, the enthralling showmanship of Gordie MacKeeman & His Rhythm boys, the engaging character of Meaghan Blanchard and the fiddle masterclass of Richard Wood. Oh and let’s not forget the terrific impact made by both the songs and self-deprecating humour of an Englishman abroad, John Smith, duetting impressively with his new best friend and writing partner Dennis Ellsworth; or indeed, the charismatic Molly Rankin, surely a big name for the future and – as we discovered later – not a bad waitress either!
A lovely reception at the Haviland Club, a splendid supper at the Globe and a visit that ended all too soon. PEI should be very proud of both its music and its organisational ability…”
Andrew King– Editor of Canadian Musician Magazine:
“A relatively new Islander, I’m still consistently impressed by the remarkable talent that blankets our small province. Showcase PEI 2011 was a terrific opportunity for Music PEI to flaunt some of that talent to attending delegates in hopes of drumming up mutually-beneficial business opportunities for Island artists and the invited elite from North America and beyond.
While I was previously familiar with 90 per cent of the showcasing artists, it was still a treat seeing such a wide array of performers impress the delegates with their musical prowess, professionalism, and that intangible bit of charm that seems to emanate from all who reside on the red rock. From some bouncy indie rock upstarts through to talent from the Island’s more traditional scenes, I can speak for myself and some fellow delegates when I say that it was a pleasure being treated to such a rich tapestry of tunes, not to mention a terrific PEI experience overall, for which Music PEI and its members should be extremely proud.”
Doug Gallant– Journalist with the Guardian:
“We have an embarrassment of riches in P.E.I. when it comes to musical talent. The pool is deep , it is diverse and it is multi-generational. That we have so much talent sometimes escapes us until we go to an event like Showcase P.E.I. and see one good act after another for three hours . And then do it all over again the next night.
We sometimes take for granted how good people like Meaghan and Dennis and Gordie are until we see them though somebody else’s eyes as I did when talking to some of the international delegates. For the size of our population, the number of really fine acts is out of all proportion to our numbers.”
Each artist gets a 20 minute showcase to present a snapshot to the delegates. They also have an opportunity to participate in one on one meetings (kind of like business speed dating!) with the delegates of their choice.
Feedback from all of the delegates has been exceptional. Here a few brief quotes:
Adam Lewis– Planetary Group, US:
“Thanks so much for everything guys! Had a wonderful time! You guys did a great job with all the details/organization.”
Mike Campbell– The Carlton, Halifax:
“Thanks so much for having me over for your event. I will come any time you ask. Not only was it well organized and entertaining, I also saw a lot of great talent and I know a lot of it will make its way to my stage over the next year.”
Joe Heap– Association of Festival Organisers, UK-
” Thanks Rob and all at Music PEI. It was a really special few days. Great company, great music, great food and drink and a beautiful little town.
Dick Dixon, Warwick Festival, UK:
” It was wonderful to meet so many interesting delegates and artists, some of which we will be happy to book at Warwick or Bromyard when their tours fit in with the festivals dates.”
This year also marks the first year of the Showcase PEI Artist of the Year. It was voted on by the delegates and they were asked to vote for their favourite performance of the conference. The winner this year is Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys. The Showcase Artist of the Year receives a $500 gift certificate from Music PEI sponsor and partner Long & McQuaid.
For a list of all the delegates and showcasing artists and their bios go to
Showcase PEI 2011 Conference Guide