LITTLE CURRENT— The twinning of pop and an electronic dance music with the FREC.ME Festival at the Flatrock Entertainment grounds in Little Current may have failed to draw the hoped for crowds, but those that did attend were obviously having a great time—and that included the musical acts who entertained on both nights.
“You bring it like a coliseum,” quipped singer-songwriter Francesco Yates philosophically about his own energetic performance. “Everybody there looked like they were having a great time.”
Mr. Yates, the up-and-coming artist from Toronto who is a protégé of pop dynamos such as Pharrell Williams, did explode onstage just like he was performing at a packed coliseum, as did headliner Shawn Desmon.
“The artists were all happy,” agreed FREC.ME promoter Kelly Timmermans, “and the crowd might have been small, but they were certainly mighty.”
Ms. Timmermans agreed that the crowds were not what had been hoped for and the promoters will be reassessing their marketing and what was learned from this event before deciding whether to pull the plug.
“One of the toughest things to push back against is this idea that nothing great can happen here,” said Ms. Timmermans. “You bring in the best acts, but it is hard to bring people in through the gates.” Finding the magic formula to overcome that perception has proven to be a major challenge.
Stepping close to the front of the stage on both nights proved that magic can happen if you believe, as the young people enjoying the music and lightshows were clearly enjoying themselves “like the coliseum,” whether dancing to the driving pop music beats of Mr. Yates and Mr. Desmon or gyrating with the onstage dancers to the beats laid down by the DJs at the EDM portion on Saturday night.
Security for the event was solid, with metal detecting wands waved over everyone entering the show grounds, while the distinctive bright yellow T-shirts of the CANCOM Security guards were ubiquitous. Roy Preston, an instructor with CANCOM Security, could be seen walking the grounds with a leashed German shepherd, although the “sniffer” dog seemed more playful and friendly than ominous.
Another challenge presented by the EDM format is the general age of the target audience, as the genre tends to attract those in their teens or 20-something range for whom transport to Manitoulin Island (and chaperoning for the youngest quintet) is a significant hurdle. Options for overcoming those hurdles present their own challenges for the promoters, even in accessing the fairly close Sudbury market.
What comes up on the drawing board following the debrief will determine the future of the FREC.ME Festival, but for now the organizers have more pressing issues to attend to, their signature (and more successful) Manitoulin Country Fest event is fast approaching (it starts on August 6), making the next few weeks a very busy time for Ms. Timmermans, her husband Craig and the host of dedicated volunteers who have put in countless hours to ensure the country music festival remains a success.