Big news for music lovers: Saint John's beloved Area 506 live music festival is back as of tonight — with a few tweaks.
The festival, a summer live-concert staple that draws thousands to the waterfront, was sidelined last year because of the pandemic.
But organizers have made multiple adaptations to mitigate any COVID risks, engineering a site plan that minimizes unnecessary contact and maximizes entertainment value.
Performers say they are thrilled to finally be getting back onstage.
On Friday, opening night, comedians James Mullinger and Nikki Payne will get things started, along with Fredericton band Grand Theft Bus.
Saint John musician Jessica Rhaye andt the Ramshackle Parade will take the stage Saturday night with a mix of past favourites — including material from Rhaye's Just Like a Woman: Songs of Bob Dylan tribute album — and new material written during the pandemic.
"I can't wait," Rhaye said in an interview with Information Morning Saint John on Friday.
"We played on the big stage at Area 506 in 2017, and I remember it being such a great experience. It was lots of fun … it just felt good to be part of Saint John concerts."
Seating in pods, concerts spread out over summer
The festival has altered its format this year in light of our new, pandemic-altered reality.
Seating will be in multi-person pods, masks will need to be worn until you get to your pod, food can be ordered in advance for delivery to your pod, and concerts will be spaced out over the summer as a series.
But the main thing, as Area 506 organizers note, is that "the music will feel amazing ... and the beer will be cold."
Area 506 runs from July 16 to Aug. 14, with musicians Ria Mae, Jenn Grant and Jessica Rhaye and The Ramshackle Parade lined up for Saturday night, July 17.
A week later, Jimmy Rankin and Tomato Tomato will take the waterfront stage on Friday, July 23, followed by Nova Scotia rapper Classified, David Myles and Wolf Castle on Saturday.
The Waterfront Concert Series takes place on Long Wharf, just off the corner of Smythe and Station streets on the Saint John harbourfront.
The full concert series lineup can be found online, where tickets can also be purchased, at area506.ca.