The concerts, which took place in St. John’s and Grand Falls-Windsor over the weekend, were pretty much mirrors of the same format: a large green area, lesser-known acts to warm things up, cool weather to prevent people from actually getting warm, followed by internationally known — and aging — rockers to close the affair. The two also had the luxury of appealing to those who attended, as evidenced by the favourable reaction to both.
The issue, of course, is not with the people who made the trek to see Rod Stewart or John Fogerty, but instead with the people who didn’t attend. The crowd at Centennial Field in Grand Falls-Windsor was estimated to be about 4,000. The audience at Confederation Hill was said to be about 15,000.
Granted, the catchment area to draw from in St. John’s is far greater than that of central Newfoundland and more people would be expected. However, in years past, the Salmon Festival concert has been one that has drawn an audience from throughout the province and became a summer destination for those with a love for live music.
So, what changed this year? First off, the headliner, John Fogerty, played in St. John’s in November 2014, giving the die-hard fans fewer reasons to travel to Grand Falls-Windsor for the concert as well as giving the Fogerty billing less lustre through an absence of exclusivity.
Costs can also be prohibitive as any family knows, and shelling out a few hundred dollars to get in may have helped people decide to spend the weekend at the cabin.
The thrust of the disappointment in Salmon Fest attendance, however, was the Stewart concert in St. John’s. While Stewart was going to be a big draw anyway, and he hasn’t performed in St. John’s since 1989, the outdoor billing and festival atmosphere gave people an alternative. It allowed people — especially the two-thirds of the province’s population living on the northwest Avalon — to stay at home and get their festival fix.
Newfoundland and Labrador can sustain two large outdoor concerts in one summer, no problem. But having those concerts planned for one day won’t work — especially for the one that forces the majority of the province to travel to it. One will inevitably fail and organizers of both knew it.
Unfortunately, someone at the top didn’t do the right thing and organize his/hers for another time. It gives the appearance someone went looking for a battle.