Family, Beer, Music. Paddlefest 2019 in St. Andrews, New Brunswick

My Canadian relatives live about an hour north of my hometown, and were the closest extended family to me growing up. The distance between us may have grown over the years, but we all like to make a point to get together whenever we can. My cousin, Kylie Fox, has been traveling all over Canada for the last couple of years showing the world her musical chops, and while I had always been treated to performances of her original music on Boxing Day, but I’ve never been able to see one of her public performances. So I was excited that my first weekend after graduating college I had that opportunity.

St. Andrews is a coastal town in New Brunswick known for the cute shops on its Main Street, it’s historical buildings, and The Algonquin hotel (more on that later). To me, it’s where my dad goes to get his last minute Christmas shopping done, and where my mom and I go when we want to feel fancy. Paddlefest is the town’s folk music and outdoors festival, with three stages throughout the main street and events taking place on the mainland and on the nearby Minister’s Island. Having never been, and not really sure what to expect from the weekend, I was surprised by how professional the festival felt. The Mainstage, underneath a tent protecting us from the rain, sounded spectacular, and the bands performing were all spectacular– it wasn’t a matter of whether or not a group was good, it was about whether or not you liked them.

All in all, I would say that the trip was a bit more like a visit to St. Andrews with the perks of a festival. In short, here were some of the highlights from this awesome weekend.

Music music music. There were plenty of awesome groups, some I caught the names of and some I unfortunately didn’t. The theme of the festival was folk music, and while there were a few exceptions, most of the acts had a more twangy sound. I liked the classic sound of Whitney Rose, the first act we saw of the evening, but it was too different from what I normally listen to for me to necessarily feel like I would go out of my way for them. Saskatoon band The Deep Dark Woods, were my favorite group of the evening, even though I didn’t get the chance to see their whole set. I walked away from the show with their album on vinyl, and am looking forward to giving it a spin once I have my turntable set up in my next apartment.

In terms of local bands, we were able to see Womb to Tomb, an Atlantic Canadian act fronted by twin sisters. My parents were particularly interested in this band, a gothic folk band with strong feminist themes to their lyrics. When we turned at 2am to the last open bar on the street, there was a three piece rock band that I can’t find the name of anywhere that I really enjoyed. Their drummer proved a theory to me that I’ve been developing for the past few months– always trust a drummer with a Mötorhead shirt on.

St. Andrews is Delightful. This coastal town has tons of history, including the Algonquin hotel (where my family stayed). This hotel is super duper haunted, so anybody who is interested in experiencing something sort of ghostly is in for a treat here. My Aunt is a volunteer tour guide in Atlantic Canada for cruise lines that come through, so while we walked from venue to venue she was able to give me the scoop on the town, from their most notable art collectors to traditional Loyalist architectural styles.

On Satuday, we spent the bulk of our day walking down St. Andrews’ main street, visiting tourist’s shops and, as well as attending the Paddlefest craft fair. The fair was a little bit small, but what the vendors had to offer made up for it– we saw gorgeous pottery bowls, necklace pendants made out of insects, and eco-friendly swimwear. I picked up a journal made by A Saunders Story to be my next diary (diverging from the Wal Mart brand Moleskin knock off is a necessary change).

But be Careful Where you Bring Your Beer. My parents, aunts and I walked from the Algonquin to the downtown area for the evening, already working on the first beers of the night. While we walked, a restaurant owner came out of his establishment to let us know that we were going to get stopped by the police if we had beer in public. Public drinking in St. Andrews is not okay, and there were a few times in the evening where festival or bar employees came up to us to remind us of that fact. It was an unfortunate crossover for this town and this event, that it was so inconvenient to move between show to show because you either had to sneak your beer or chug it– and it wasn’t necessarily a chug-it crowd.

Seeing my Cousin! Finally getting the chance to see my cousin perform was incredibly exciting, and seeing the way that the people who weren’t dearly related to her respond to her music was especially gratifying. She had plenty of new songs that I got to experience for the first time, and it was a great taster for the album that she’s going to be recording later this summer. Kylie Fox is on Spotify and if you are looking for thoughtful, honest music, her music is for you– or if you’re lucky enough to be in town for one of her shows, go see her live, it’s well worth it to hear her tell her stories.

The Variety of Accommodation. I was only in St. Andrews for one night, but I saw the inside of nearly every hotel in the area, as well as several AirBnB’s. My cousin, her friend (and my new friend) Abby, and myself spent the whole night wandering from bar to bar, hotel to hotel, and popped into a couple of after parties at several different AirBnB’s.

My parents stayed at their haunted luxury hotel, and in lieu of sleeping on the floor of their hotel room I elected to share a twin bed with my cousin, and Abby at The Kennedy Inn. This hotel was super up my alley, and the bar downstairs was also where my cousin performed (and was a pretty decent bar). The rooms were snug, but had a nice kitchenette and bathroom. If returning to St. Andrews, this is the kind of place I would like to stay.

Next time around, I’d love to stay longer for Paddlefest and get to enjoy a few more of it’s events. But as a getaway after my whopping two days back home from college, and an opportunity to catch up with some family that I haven’t seen in a while, it was a welcome escape. St. Andrews in the summer is as lovely as ever, and whatever ends up bringing you there over the summer, you’ll be glad you stopped.

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