The ultimate musical summer

MUSIC RISING by Bruce Mason

It’s here. Let’s get started; www.bcmusicianmag.com is your link to the 2015 Ultimate Summer Festival Guide. This amazing, free resource connects you to 348 music and arts festivals and events all over BC, with lots in Alberta and Washington and some in Manitoba, Yukon and NWT. You’ll find street fests, art walks, concerts in parks, multi-venue five-day camp-outs, stages in barns, backyards and outdoor amphitheatres. Offerings include un-crowded to jam-packed and slick to impromptu.

It’s searchable by date, festival name or region. You will find, for example – right here, right now – the next festival nearest you. And for musicians, as well as music fans, there are venues you can select and conduct your very own tour. The site also points you to a location where you can pick up a take-anywhere, flippable, functional hard-copy of the seventh edition, with a map in the middle.

The 2015 Ultimate Summer Festival Guide is a labour of love and work in progress from the folks at BC Musician magazine, self described as “a bunch of music lovers who also love the smell of ink on paper…” and who “play and work in the digital world and really appreciate the opportunity to sit back, unplug, kick back and get away from the screen from time to time.” Thinking there might be others out there like them, they ask the silly question, “Are you one?”

Leanne Nash is the publisher, Sarah Fahey the “editor/everything else.” Finishing her third year at the helm of the ambitious undertaking, Fahey says, “We are building the big picture; there is ebb and flow, a life and a death to the number of festivals each year. A number either die out or more likely morph into another creative project and each year brand new pups arrive. This guide encompasses new to seasoned 30 and 40-year-strong festivals.” Fahey notes some new trends and additions, including the growing number of multi-themed festivals, film and long-board festivals, record fairs and food fests, particularly for garlic and especially at harvest time.

Look for bees on the cover. And who doesn’t love to see bees, humming their endangered way through all the bad news these days, never mind all the nectar on the inside pages? Take a tip from the honeybee, which can fly at a speed of 15 mph, and stay close to home.

Cover artwork by Milan Basic was inspired by a mural the artist created at ArtsWells 2014, which doubled as a sound buffer and amplified the acoustics on the outdoor stage at the end of the elementary school field. The Artswells Festival of All Things Art: Expect the Unexpected! in Wells, BC and nearby Barkerville (July 31-August 3) features 300 artists and performers on a dozen stages, music alongside visual art, theatre film, literary and interdisciplinary events-, lots of workshops and kid’s activities. (See the lineup at www.artswells.com)

The 1930s mining town and 1860s Gold Rush community are the actual festival sites and events are hosted in historic buildings as well as on the streets. Wells (Pop. 200-250) grows 10-fold for the four days.

“It started 10 years ago with a few people on lawn chairs,” recalls founder Julie Fowler, executive director of Island Mountain Arts, the year-round organization responsible for the event, reputed to be BC’s largest and best new indie arts festival.

“We strive for diversity and feature emerging talent; it took a few years for the ticket audience to outnumber the artists. Nearby natural attractions and the residents themselves are part of the experience,” she adds, noting that many people, including artists, return to ArtsWells every year.

Over two decades, the Vancouver Island MusicFest (July 10-12) has grown into a major component of the culture and economy of the Comox Valley. Close proximity to an airport helps make appearances of the likes of Lyle Lovett and His Large Band, Buddy Guy, Steeleye Span and Graham Nash, possible. But it is more than 1,000 keen volunteers that keep folks coming back; there are crews responsible for ambiance and performer massages as well as increasingly important Green initiatives, healthy food and Kid’s Zones.

The major role of festivals in building communities was recognized last month in BC’s largest city when UBC conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws – honoris causa – on Gary Cristall, co-founder of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival (July 17-19) and artistic director for its first 17 years.

Stepping into the big Birkenstocks of the good doctor, since 2008, Linda Tanaka has put her stamp on one of the best festivals in the world by programming some of the world’s best music, performed in constant orbit on myriad stages. In an interview with the VFMF artistic director, she put her finger on the pulse of festivals in our region, with just one word: “discovery.”

“After travelling to places such as Spain and Australia and talking to organizers, audiences and musicians for a year, I’m excited as we put final touches to workshops, to emphasize diversity and encourage spontaneity,” she reported.

One of the best features of the 2015 festival season is the rise of websites to provide pre-event background, right down to video. It’s highly entertaining and informative to wander www.thefestival.bc.ca and discover what’s in store at Jericho this year. While online, consider taking out a subscription to BC Musician magazine. “Your support would be huge for us. Really, really huge,” magazine contributors say. Same for festivals.

Discover more music – keep it alive and live.

Bruce Mason is a Vancouver and Gabriola-Island based five-string banjo player, gardener, freelance writer and author of Our Clinic. brucemason@shaw.ca

 

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