Best gig at ECMA’s: The Flocase – New Brunswick

The East Coast Music Awards feature dozens of spectacular performances over the five-day long festival, but as seasoned delegates know, often the very best shows aren’t on the schedule.

They happen in the wee hours, in hotel rooms, lobbies, supposedly-closed restaurants and any place two or more musicians can gather.

For at least 15 years, back to the last time the ECMA’s were in Saint John (I know, because I can blearily remember), the best show of them all is what has become known as the Flocase.

It’s not mentioned in the official literature or website, and until the first night, nobody even knows where it will be held.

Eventually Flo Sampson of Big Pond, Cape Breton, will find a piano, and when the official showcases wind down each night, hers is just beginning.

Flo (“Gordie’s Mom,” as she proudly introduces herself) is an accomplished pianist who does plenty of gigs the rest of the year back home.

Human jukebox

Once the ECMA’s begin, she becomes a human jukebox, ready to play any kind of style, and pull out old favourites to surprising hits — Saturday night featured everything from “New York, New York” to “Love Potion #9” to “Flip, Flop & Fly.”

If you bring an instrument, as many do, you’d better be prepared to join in, it’s expected. That’s included bagpipes and horn sections.

Halifax r’n’b singer Reeny Smith, along with her sisters Mahalia and Micha, did a set of gospel songs at the Flocase. (CBC)

There aren’t microphones or P.A. systems, this is a kitchen party, just without the kitchen.

The crowd, and there always is one, is a cross-section of every province, every age, every culture, and it’s the true melting pot of the ECMA’s.

World-class performers

It’s also not the kind of place a reporter pulls out a microphone and starts doing interviews, but in a casual chat with Matt Andersen, he relayed some knowledge he’s picked up from years of international touring.

He agrees that it’s this kind of gathering that makes the East…

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