Monday, 18 August 2014

A Scuff and Stomp on The Rock - St. John’s Summer Music Festival Recap

A post by Mike Ciuffini

30th Annual George Street Festival 

George Street can be found at the heart of downtown St. John’s. It's home to 23 bars, pubs and clubs in a two-block span (I took contributor Scott there last summer, as you may recall). For six straight days every summer they fence off the street, invite headlining musicians and have a giant party called the George Street Festival.

This year I got access to the street and took it all in – especially the beers. Did I mention that you are allowed to drink on the street?

The main stage sits in the centre of the street allowing music to surge through the district. All the bars and clubs come alive during the after party with live and Top-40 music.

St. John’s got some amazing weather for the event this year. There were a string of unusual sweltering hot days but the cooler nights made for a deadly music listening and body-thumping experience.

Thursday night – The Wallflowers: 

I started the evening by meeting up with my friends Candice Walsh ( and Cailin O’Neil ( We went down and met their friend Mark Critch (you know, the comedian from CBC’s This Hour Has 22 Minutes and this year’s hit film The Grande Seduction). We were invited up to a semi-private rooftop patio to catch the headliners of the night, The Wallflowers.

I totally photo-bombed Candice and Mark’s photo too. Sorry. Not sorry.

We belted out the chorus of “One Headlight” hanging over glass barriers trying not to drop our phones to the crowd below. We took to the street for the after party and I took photos for passing fans with Mark Critch. George Street was on the go and so was I.

It was a great start to the festival, even considering the next day's rough recovery – I spent most of it on the couch with my cats watching Netflix.

Sunday night – Dropkick Murphys:

This would be my first time seeing the Dropkick Murphys live; there’s no better way to see them than on a street with a thousand people crowded together bashing body parts off one another.  I popped open a couple beers before heading down and had a few more when I got there.

The band pulled out all the punches – including lead singer Ken Casey getting his head shaved on stage while belting out the lyrics to “Rose Tattoo.” It was all in support of a 4-year-old fan battling cancer:

By the end of the show I stumbled through the crowd and headed towards home only to find myself walking right behind Casey and his son en route to Fog Town Barber and Shop to get his stage-buzzed hair cleaned up.

Monday night – Serena Ryder:

I have some heavy love for Canadian Artist of the Year Serena Ryder and she owned the stage. Her onstage presence was magnetic and she had the crowd, including myself, chanting and stomping along.

It didn’t take much to convince a female friend to join me for this one. It may have been a little awkward standing in a crowd of (mostly) women staring at the stage with a big smile on my face while singing along to her hit “Weak in the Knees.”

Tuesday Night – Alan Doyle:

The final night of the festival had come and there was no one better to cap things off than Alan Doyle. He got his start in St. John’s playing his first George Street show at a bar called Trapper Johns. He passionately played his solo work and a selection of Great Big Sea hits. He even went 15 minutes past the cut-off time. There is no performer that loves the George Street Festival more than that man.

People began filing out. I grabbed a beer, sat on the steps leading off the street and sipped. What a time!

Newfoundland & Labrador Folk Festival

Less than a week later I was invited to attend the 38th Annual Newfoundland & Labrador Folk Festival – a staple in the St. John’s summer music schedule.

Rain or Shine. That is the disclaimer that all St. John’s outdoor music festivals have to put on their promos, and we quickly found out why.

Friday Night

With heavy rain already soaking the fields, my friends and I made our way down to the park. We decided it was best to suck it up, get some beer tickets and just enjoy it. Besides, the man I was there to see that night, New Brunswick-born blues guitarist singer-songwriter Matt Andersen, wouldn’t care about a bit of rain.

Unfortunately, the show was cancelled mid-way as heavy rain created a safety hazard with the electricity supply.

Andersen’s set was promptly moved to a small venue downtown, but by the time my friends and I got some dry clothes on and got down to the bar, it was packed. We were forced to stand in line outside the bar in the rain. We were getting drenched again so we bailed and sought shelter in a Smoke’s Poutinery.  A delicious alternative.

Saturday Night

The rain cleared up on Saturday in time for the evening performances. I dried my jeans and walked to the park. Local musicians Fortunate Ones set the stage for the headliner that night – Gord Downie.

He sat in his white slacks, button up shirt and a cowboy hat and began to sing. Standing close to the stage he had the crowd, and me, in a trance.

A guy came stumbling up right next to me in the crowd and leaned on me with his head. I quickly realized he was beyond drunk. He swayed back and forth, almost falling over at one point. I grabbed him as he stumbled back and held on to him until the set was over. He thanked me with a sweaty hug and foul breath. Help out your brothers, right?

The City of St. John’s has some incredible music festivals in the summer months. George Street Festival and the NL Folk Festival are staple events of the summer in the city. Come on out and have a time with me next year!

Mike is a “mainlander” residing out in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. When he’s not out discovering the island’s terrain and port towns in his Subaru, he’s producing TV and award-winning films: the kind that play in Cannes, France.


  1. You do it all, amazing.

    1. I don't do Hair or Makeup. Mainly because I have very little hair and cover my face with a beard.