Flo Sampson knows what it means for music-lovers to be together. This weekend at the ECMAs, she will celebrate with fellow musicians and industry-types as her late-night after-party, dubbed 'the Flo-case,' returns after a pandemic-induced hiatus.
She couldn't wait to get back to the ECMAs, which continue in Fredericton until Sunday, driving all the way from her home in Big Pond, Cape Breton.
Sampson is still marvelling at the welcome she received when she checked into her hotel.
A note on a piano in the lobby read: "This piano is reserved for Flo Sampson."
"It was really heartwarming," she said. "The clerk behind the counter pointed to it…when I looked at it my heart swelled."
"The first thing they told me when I walked in the door the other day: 'This bar closes when you're finished,' and that's probably around 4 in the morning," she said with a laugh.
Sampson, the mother of music producer, singer and songwriter Gordie Sampson, has been at every ECMA weekend since it started 34 years ago, and her late night 'Flo-case' has become legendary.
"It's the camaraderie," she said. "There's so many young people here today that don't know each other and around the piano they get to play with one another, they get to chat and do all of that and it's a great experience for them."
WATCH | Walk the red carpet at the ECMAs
The red carpet has been rolled out for musicians from across Atlantic Canada, but also for the more than 100 delegates.
"Who cares about sleep," said Emma Chevarie, co-chair of the ECMA local engagement committee after a late night at the awards gala. "This is about celebration — this is fun."
Delegates and fans filled the stands at the Aitken Centre for the show, and Chevarie was reminded of what live music "does for our community, for the east coast, for our souls."
"These delegates come in … and they experience what we have to offer and we hope that they're going to want to take some of these people home to their festivals, to their theatres."
Liz Scott and Neil Pearson are two of the industry people who are in Fredericton to meet artists.
Scott is the artistic director of the Mariposa Folk Festival in Orillia, Ontario. Pearson runs an artist development and management company based in the United Kingdom.
"There's nowhere else I'd rather be right now," Pearson said of his first visit to Fredericton.
"If it wasn't so fun we'd call it grueling," Scott added. "There's so much good music to see and there's so many people to meet and people we haven't seen for a while to reconnect with."
WATCH | ECMAs are about musical camaraderie and connections
Both say they are playing the "long game," and the relationships that begin this week might not lead to anything concrete for years.
"We're all building networks, contacts, relationships that could ultimately lead to bookings that come two, three, four years down the line," said Pearson.
Scott is looking for performers that might be a good fit for her three-day festival in 2023.
"There's lots of things I'm looking for and there's lots of it out here," she said. "It does take a while to really get those musicians into your soul and be aware of them and then to see if they're a fit."
Tradition continues bringing together artists, fans, industry
For Pearson, what makes the ECMAs unique, is that the entire regional industry comes together in one place, "so you get the very best of all genres."
He points to one showcase that includes three award winners: Quote the Raven, Rube & Rake and Morgan Toney.
"It's such an unrivaled opportunity to have all these artists in one place," Pearson said. "The whole industry convenes here and the music in unrivaled in its range and depth in such a short period of time."
Flo Sampson says while the ECMAs have grown, at its core is still a love of music and of coming together.
This weekend she is expecting Lenny Gallant to join her as they revive the tradition she has so missed during the pandemic - bringing people together around the piano.
"We lived in a little farm house in Big Pond and when I could get people in that house, if I could do it seven days a week — they'd be there. And it was always music."
Flo says the ECMAs are about so much more than the awards which were handed out on Thursday night.
"It's about everybody being together…and the music" she said. "I often thought, where would I be without it? It is a universal language now and I realize that and I just thank God every day that I have it."