On the Saturday of 2014 Labour Day Weekend, St. John’s saw the debut of the Harbourage Festival, featuring artists Mick Davis & Thin Love, Repartee, Elliott Brood, Matt Mays, and Hey Rosetta!
As the name would suggest, the harbour front was the setting of this unique festival. I was lucky enough to have a chat with Lorne Loder and Jon Loder, who were part of the small team behind this new endeavour.
Q: First of all, thanks very much to you both for making time to talk to me as you finish up what must have been a busy weekend. Secondly, and more importantly, congratulations on what I thought was a very successful day. I had a blast and I got the feeling that was the consensus. Lorne, you’re the owner of Ballistic Skate and Snow in downtown St. John’s and you were a strong contender in the city’s 2013 municipal election. What’s your background in spearheading concerts? Do you have any other secret occupations?
Lorne: I don’t have a lot of experience in the concert business but I was a fifty per cent partner in the Black Eyed Peas/Pussy Cat Dolls show in 2006 that took place in Mount Pearl. That was a lot of fun and I learned a fair bit in the process. Outside of that I’ve dabbled in a few different retail ventures: Stomp! Shoes was mine and I also have a few properties rentals in the city.
Q: Jon, I know of your business background and your affinity for music because I know you, but give those who don’t know an idea as to your background and your role in Harbourage.
Jon: I studied business here in St. John’s, and have been involved in business or finance to some degree since I was a teenager. Music has always been something that I have felt very passionate about. When I came out of university I tried to fuse my two passions together. I started throwing band/DJ shows in a few different clubs around town. I was always trying to bring something to Newfoundland that didn’t exist here already. While I know that the bands that played at Harbourage were not foreign to anyone, I believe the concept and attitude we brought was unique to the music festival culture existing in Newfoundland and Labrador. That was our goal from the beginning, to start a festival that was unique, and to create something with longevity. This event was planned in eight weeks, and because of this myself and Lorne did a little bit of everything. We definitely split up a lot of tasks, but to really define my role is tough. We had a very small team, and that meant I had to do whatever was necessary to help our process along.
Q: Harbourage was a welcome addition to the summer schedule here in St. John’s considering the quality of the local music scene and the appetite for live music. If you could, give me some insight into what it’s like getting something like this off the ground?
Lorne: Wow! Where do I begin? It’s a lot of work. It’s one thing to put something off in a field in a rural community, but putting an event like this off in the centre of a capital city is a different ballgame. The first thing I did was call the Mayor and get him onboard. I got to know him during my municipal bid so he not only took my call, he was also very responsive and excited about the idea. He, like many, saw it as an opportunity to bring some life to a harbour front that is largely industrial. Secondly, I reached out to Fortis Properties to ask permission to throw a massive party in their parking lot; not an easy task. They were cautiously receptive of the idea and, I can only suspect, saw it as a great opportunity to do something for the general public. Fortunately, they had enough faith to let us proceed and give it a go. That was the first task. The second and the third tasks had to happen simultaneously as time was very short. Those two tasks were to get permission from the St. John’s Special Events Advisory Committee (SEAC) and to line up the talent and sponsors, all in an extremely tight timeframe. There was much going on at the same time. SEAC is a committee with representatives from many different governing bodies. There were a lot of different hoops to jump through but we got it done. This committee is there as a safeguard to make sure people can’t have large events that endanger people, and create chaos rather than an event. It was a lot of work with much attention to detail but in the end the committee was helpful and completely facilitated the entire process. As for the talent, I made a lot of calls, did a lot of checking and in the end, we miraculously came out with, what I think was, a great line-up.
Q: The lineup was truly stellar. When it comes to the acts, they all hailed from Ontario or eastwards, with the emphasis on Newfoundland and Labrador. How did the whole lineup fall into place?
Jon: Again, with the short timeframe we had to make haste. Hey Rosetta! was an easy choice because of their strength at home, and the fact that they hadn’t played a big show since Christmas. Matt Mays was available, and hadn’t played here in a while. Anyone who has been to one of his shows before, knows that he brings it to the stage every night. So again, an easy choice. Elliott Brood was the wildcard here. I am a huge fan of their music, and I love their live shows. As soon as Lorne heard them he was fully on board. The only problem we had was that they were already booked in Kamloops for the next day. Turns out they can’t get enough of St. John’s and were elated to come and play at our festival.
Q: Harbourage isn’t only a music festival – there is a strong art component, as well. How was the reception of the events at Eastern Edge Gallery and the Harbourside Studio?
Lorne: Really great. There were a lot of people that ventured through the galleries and I heard a lot of great feedback. Mary MacDonald and Andrew Harvey from Eastern Edge and Candace Fulford from Harbourside Studio were all incredibly helpful with the art aspect. We could not have done it without them. I figured involving the gallery and studio was a big asset as they were physically on the event ground, and they just gelled well with the type of music and the patrons so it was a real no-brainer.
Q: From an attendee’s perspective, everything seemed to run very smoothly through the day despite the amount of people. Do you know how many people ended up at the festival? Do you have any highlights from the day?
Jon: There were approximately 3500 people at the show, and everyone I talked to had a positive experience. I think the biggest highlight of the day was seeing all the happy people. We both spent the majority of the day running around maintaining operations, but I occasionally ran into people I knew and their attitudes were all the same. Harbourage brought everyone out to a known venue, with a great atmosphere. There were no major incidents all night, and this really shows you the kind of people that attended.
Q: Something that I’m sure a lot of people want to know is if we’ll see a repeat of this festival. Are we in luck?
Lorne: I certainly hope so. At this point I can’t see why not? All the feedback from the event was very positive: the media, social media, and the patrons all seemed to have a great time. There were no incidents, no injuries, no damages, or anything of the sort. Furthermore, there was $5000.00 raised for The Gathering Place in Fortis Properties name, as they were kind enough to let us use their parking lot and there was $2500.00 raised for Eastern Edge Gallery on the bar. All in all, everything came up roses, and I couldn’t be happy about that.
Photo credit: Kristen Janes