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The Gramercy Riffs riff in St. John's. (Paul Daly)
The Gramercy Riffs riff in St. John's. (Paul Daly)


Newfoundland rocks Add to ...

With that ethos in mind, Haynes and Power make a point of playing tour guide and host to everyone they book. When the Polaris-nominated Toronto country rockers Elliott Brood came to town, the trio enjoyed a day of kite-flying at Cape Spear (a national historic site, home to the oldest surviving lighthouse in Newfoundland and Labrador). Regina's Rah Rah went out to Petty's Harbour and saw icebergs in the ocean. Sometimes the couple book whale-watching tours for bands truly looking to play tourist.

With its hilltop perch, ocean air and calmer pace, St. John's sometimes succeeds in holding on to outsiders. "Almost every band that rolls through," Haynes says, "someone always says they could picture moving here. What's funny is when someone does."

Says Halifax resident Plaskett, who has seen them all: "There's a lot of great places to play in Canada. The one thing I will say about Newfoundland is, if there's one other city I'd want to set up shop in, I think St. John's would be it."

Many locals who try head west inevitably make their way back east. Singer-songwriter Mark Bragg came home three years ago after a stint in Ontario. Now very much settled again in St. John's, he says the lifestyle in the city of 100,000 agrees with him more - it's easier to be successful and creative where the vibe is relaxed and everyone is psyched for the music.

You won't catch Newfoundlanders watching a band with their hands folded in judgment.

"That's just Newfoundlanders," Bragg says. "They like to have a good time and don't have reservations."

* * *

Pack your bags

Air Canada and WestJet both fly to St. John's, while Toronto's Porter will begin offering flights in October that connect through Ottawa and Halifax. Where to stay The Franklin Hotel 193-195 Water St.; 709-754-9005; thefranklinhotel.net. From $179 (until the end of September). A boutique hotel steps from all the major downtown bars and venues.


Ship Inn 265 Duckworth St.; 709-753-3870. Holdsworth Court
A complex of three buildings, on the corner of George and Adelaide streets, and home to the following clubs: CBTG 709-722-2284 The Levee 709-746-4942; thelevee.ca. Distortion 709-738-8833 The Bull and Barrell 709-579-7077

WHERE TO EAT Bacalao 65 Lemarchant Rd.; 709-579-6565; bacalaocuisine.ca. A modern twist on traditional Newfoundland dishes, such as Jiggs Dinner, and a wine list stocked with local wineries. Try the daily salt cod dish. Leo's Restaurant 27 Freshwater Rd.; 709-726-2658. Most people will direct you to the Ches's chain for fish and chips, but a discerning local will take you to Leo's for the city's finest fish, chips, gravy and dressing. more information Mightypop.ca Krista Power and Jud Haynes on upcoming shows.Thescope.ca The city's most up-to-date concert listings.

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10 that rock the Rock Some of the best bands in St. John's may not even have an album yet. Here are 10 actslocals are checking out. You can give most of them a listen on MySpace. Ye-Yeti This underage trio plays angular electro, often with their shirts off and bowties on. http://tinyurl.com/iheartyeyeti Idlers An 11-piece reggae band that proves Newfoundland has a great reggae scene. http://idlers.ca/ Mudflowers Straight out of high school and into the bars of St. John's, these girls like to drink beer and rock. http://www.myspace.com/themudflowers Kujo Victor Lewis and his new band blend their love of blues, garage and psych rock for an intense live show. http://www.myspace.com/kujotherockband Gramercy Riffs These melodic indie rockers are best seen during the winter or summer when all the members are back from school and ready to party. http://www.makeyourselfwarm.com/ Over The Top Fun, loud pop punk that makes Blink-182 look tame by comparison. http://www.myspace.com/overthetop709 The Novaks Their tight rock riffs easily fill the larger venues in town. http://www.thenovaks.ca Mercy, the Sexton Rhythmic indie pop inspired by New Wave and seventies punk. http://www.mercythesexton.com Mark Bragg and the Butchers The folk rocker with the Dylan-esque voice never fails to start a dance floor. http://www.myspace.com/markbragg The Pathological Lovers Tim Baker of Hey Rosetta! is a fan of these frenetic indie kids. They do a mean cover of Total Eclipse of the Heart. http://www.myspace.com/thepathologicallovers

Cliff Lee

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