A Night of Music Live on the Waterfront

Story and photos by Jack Barten

It was another rainy Wednesday when Connor Loughlin took the stage at Thunder Bay’s northside waterfront on August 3 for Live on the Waterfront. He quickly introduced himself and then sprang into his solo set comprised of Celtic folk songs and originals. Loughlin utilized the doom and gloom of the clouds to his full advantage, telling stories of bygone relationships, times of war, and traditional struggles. The audience that was slowly starting to form during his set was fully present during each song. More people assembled as time passed, despite the rain.

Then, just as the audience thought they knew Loughlin’s formula for this show, he introduced his next song as “a sea shanty you might know.” He then started tapping his feet and with no instrumentation, belted out a traditional shanty, getting the audience fully into it with claps and hollers. Loughlin’s set was very well done, even managing to make the clouds feel appropriate, and he is an easy recommendation next time he plays live.

Just as Loughlin was finishing up, the clouds started to part and the waterfront audience was presented with scattered sun for the next set by JC Campbell. With a four-piece band and a Nashville blues tone, Campbell built on the energy of the evening. He would give a bit of context before each song, usually by himself first before the band would come in. With big bluesy guitars, crisp drums, and basslines that connected the two well, Campbell’s band backed up his contemplative lyrics throughout the set, which the audience enjoyed the whole way through. 

As if on cue to introduce the next act, the sun fully presented itself once more. New Friends burst onto the stage with a thundering crash from the drums, and the band immediately had the audience invested. With pop-infused track after track, they danced around the stage with a seemingly limitless supply of energy for the hour-long set. On stage there were six members: a lead vocalist, a keyboard player, two guitarists/bassists, a drummer, and what I would describe to be a hype man with a laptop. And you could tell there were that many members too, as their sound was all-encompassing and attention-drawing, making the crowd dance and jump with ease. New Friends commanded the waterfront for the rest of the night.

Overall, Connor Loughlin, JC Campbell, and New Friends were all very distinct and well-presented acts; each managed to utilize the often temperamental waterfront weather to create a memorable evening.