Gander or bust

Tara Bradbury
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MusicNL takes its awards gala and conference on the road this weekend

There’s no doubt MusicNL week is a good time for all involved, given the gala awards show, showcases, parties and after-parties. There’s another side to the celebrations that are business and just as anticipated.

The Once — Submitted photo

MusicNL week gives local musicians an annual opportunity to participate in one-on-one meetings with industry professionals and funding officers — many of whom come from outside the province for the event — and take part in a variety of panel discussions on topics like media preparedness and self-marketing to exploring revenue through songwriting and film and TV placements.

The members of RocketRocketShip have their strategy already planned for the conference part of MusicNL week, which starts Saturday morning.

“We’re going to have at least one member at everything we can,” says drummer Jeremy Kelly. “There’s always more you can learn. These panels give views that sometimes as an independent band you don’t really see, and it just really, really helps with furthering your career and how to approach different subjects.

“Anyone who’s there, if they’re serious about what they’re doing, need to be taking in all these things.”

Taking in as much as possible is RocketRocketShip’s M.O. at music conferences, and it has served them well — they’re self-marketers who’ve amassed a large following in this province; fans who’ve dubbed themselves “Rocketeers.” They’ve learned all about advertising, developing ideas that range from silicone bracelets with the band’s name on them to handing out rolls of Rockets candy with their business card at networking events.

This year, RocketRocketShip’s got more to look forward to than the business aspect: the band has been nominated for its first MusicNL award. Four of them, in fact: FACTOR Album of the Year, Bell Aliant Fan’s Choice Album of the Year, Canadian AV Group of the Year and Molson Coors Pop/Rock Album of the Year, for their record, “Your Best Kept Secret.” The guys — Kelly, Paul Brake, David Shears, Kenney Purchase, Matt Dines and Tyrone MacNeil — were surprised, Kelly said, especially considering the changes they had gone through this year. MacNeil joined the band after former vocalist and main songwriter Jon Pike, an engineering student, left to concentrate on school. At the time, Kelly says, RocketRocketShip was in the process of writing for its upcoming record, tentatively scheduled to be released in January.

“We kind of had to go into overdrive because people had to take on different roles for songwriting and start fresh,” Kelly explains. “It was a bit of a transition period, for sure, and definitely set us back, but we made the best of the situation, like we always do, and things ended up working out. The band is still very much like a family, and Tyrone fit in fantastically.”

Fans will notice a slight change in style, but nothing that deviates too far from the pop-punk sound RocketRocketShip has always stood for. It’s just less raw and more refined.

“There’s still stuff that’s high-energy but these songs are very powerful. They’re pretty deep but they’re fun as hell and really catchy. I absolutely love playing these songs.”

Folk trio The Once is nominated for The Telegram Folk/Roots Group of the Year award — having won it last year — for “This is a Christmas Album,” a record spun from the popularity of the group’s annual Christmas shows. This will be the fifth year for The Once’s holiday concert, which the band will be taking on the road for the first time. Along with shows at Gower St. John’s and Corner Brook, they’ll perform in Toronto, Ottawa and across the Maritimes.

“This is a Christmas album” features original material, written by The Once members Andrew Dale, Phil Churchill and Geraldine Hollett, with help from other local musicians.

“(The record) wasn’t to celebrate any particular year or anything; people were asking us at the shows,” Hollett explains. “Anyone can do traditional Christmas music. That would be too easy. Every Christmas there were a few lines that kept popping up, so I said let’s finish them.”

Hollett says they didn’t know a Christmas album could even be nominated for a MusicNL award — holiday records are hard projects for which to get grants, and they assumed it would be the same for nominations.

Dozens of local performers are nominated for awards this year, many of them, including Ennis, Idlers, The Black Bags, Chris Picco and Craig Young, for multiple trophies. The awards will be presented at a gala at the Gander Arts and Culture Centre Sunday night. Tickets are $25 plus tax and can be purchased at the Gander Arts and Culture Centre box office, by calling 256-1081 or online at They will also be streamed live online starting at 8 p.m. through

The MusicNL industry awards will be handed out at a private brunch Saturday morning.

Events will be taking place in St. John’s and Gander all week including tonight’s “A Night with HeavyWeather,” featuring video screenings and performances from artists including Steve Maloney and the Wandering Kind, Peter Lannon and the Pathological Lovers, at The Rockhouse. Thursday night will see the Gander edition of MusicNL’s  Talent Contest fo musicians aged 19 years and younger at the Hotel Gander ballroom. A full schedule of shows and events is available online at

The Telegram will be in Gander for the MusicNL events this weekend.

Keep an eye on for news updates, photos and videos.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

Organizations: The Once, Best Kept Secret, Gander Arts The Telegram Folk/Roots Group of the Year The Rockhouse

Geographic location: Gander, Corner Brook, Toronto Ottawa

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