Our annual music festival roundup

🕔Jun 13, 2011

Dig out the camp chairs, the blanket you don’t mind getting grassy. Wash out the cooler, fix the hole in your thermarest. This year you’re bringing the trailer, or you’re bringing the tent…or you’re sleeping in the back of the truck. Know anyone looking for a ride, share the gas? Someone is always looking for a ride. Leave room for a hitchhiker in the back seat beside the banjo case. Buy your tickets early, buy them at the gate, or get them at the door. Bring the sweater you don’t mind abandoning when you get hot from all that dancing. Remember that year someone walked away with your five-dollar vest you’d left on the front of the main stage, but they left behind the car keys and headlamp from the pockets? Leave your watch at home too—you can always ask someone else for the time. Besides, you’ll know when the music starts by the sounds drifting across the field, through the cottonwoods, over the driftwood piled high for bonfires.

Hold your breath, cross your fingers and fire up the van, or wait by the window for your friend’s truck to pull up. You’re driving up late after work this year, or you’re planning to get there early and get that perfect camping spot by the river. You’ve been telling everyone for days, “Look for the tent with the green fly”; “look for Simon’s red truck”; “look for that old musical camping sign.” Make a last quick stop for that one item you forgot from the store. You roll out of town. It’s going to be a long, slow drive. Or it’s just a few kilometres down the road and you’re walking there with your tent on your shoulder.

You’re the first of your friends to arrive at the festival so you set up the tarp while you wait…or maybe you talk your way in long after ten o’clock, though the gates are officially locked for the night, parking the van to welcoming cheers. The tunes have just gotten started; maybe you’re too tired to dance so you’re just gonna sit this one out… or you can’t wait to kick off your shoes and dance till dawn. You’ve never heard of this band or this particular mix of genres before but it doesn’t matter…or you’ve seen this band every single year for the last five but it doesn’t matter.

You’re here for the love of the music, for the friends, for the late night by the fire, for the moonrise over the beach, for the early morning by the river. You’re here to finally lead that song around the fire. You’re here to finally eat a falafel from that painted bus. You’re here, all of you, for the festival.

The festivals—this festival, all the festivals—are here for you.

June 4-13: Kitimat Arts Festival, Kitimat
Kitimat Arts for Youth and a number of other local service groups are planning the first annual Kitimat Arts Festival: ten days of arts and musical performances in a number of venues around the city. Catch the impressive vocal cadences of the Vancouver Welsh Men’s Choir, or the symphonic concert sounds of the Naden Band of Maritime Forces Pacific as they light up the acoustics at the Mount Elizabeth Theatre. More than 300 youth from the community are expected to take part in music, dance and visual arts presentations. Look for more information in your local news source as the organizers get their press releases out.

June 18: Mackenzie Summer Solstice event
Mackenzie’s usual musical offering, the Morfee Mountain Music Fest, is unfortunately not taking place this year, but for anyone in the area looking to catch some local acts on stage, the Mackenzie Performing Arts Society has organized an event celebrating the summer solstice on the evening of June 18 from 6 to 10 pm. Admission is by donation and there will be some food vendors on-site. For more info on this community-oriented celebration, check the District of Mackenzie’s Community Events webpage.

July 1-2: Crabfest, Gingolx
The Seafood Capital of the Nass once again hosts the ever-popular Crabfest, two days of classic rock and First Nations’ culture mingled in the heart of the Nass Valley. Although information for 2011’s event was scant at the time of this publication, previous musical headliners have included 54-40, Buffy Sainte- Marie, and Nazareth. Festival-goers will surely be captivated by the vibrant pride of the talented Nisga’a singers, dancers, and drummers who also take to the stage. Camping is limited but the locals are friendly, and the festival’s name does not belie the food vendors’ wares. Go to www.crabfest.ca for more information—or live dangerously and just head on up for the weekend.

July 1-3: Midsummer Music Festival, Smithers
Those of us with the last weekend in June marked off on our calendars will have to do some rescheduling as the granddaddy of northern music festivals has moved to a new weekend. Weekend passes are $60 for adults with a $10 fee if you’re looking to camp. As always, leave your pets, stereos, glass bottles, and booze at home—good rules of thumb for any festival weekend. Canada Day celebrations will add to the usual merry atmosphere; headline acts have yet to be announced but take a peek at the website for the goodies: www.smithersmusicfest.com/midsummer-festival/

July 2-3: Jam at the Dam, Hudson’s Hope
The land of dinosaurs and dams plays host to a family-oriented musical weekend featuring musicians and vendors from the Peace River Region. The 7th Annual Jam at the Dam will be held at the Pearkes Cultural Centre in Hudson’s Hope; there is limited camping available on-site (first come, first served) and tickets for the event are available at the gate. No word yet on ticket prices or headliners, but look for the organizers’ page on Facebook for more details as this event approaches.

July 8-10: Atlin Arts and Music Festival, Atlin
After a hiatus in 2010 to work on the festival grounds, the Atlin Arts and Music Festival is back for 2011 in a big way. Headliners include Juno-nominated singer/songwriter and actor Tom Jackson, the multitalented Annabelle Chvostek of the Wailin’ Jennys, plus the high-energy Middle-Eastern-Celtic-rock fusion of Arizona-based Traveller. Comedians, storytellers and dancers are also integral threads in this festival’s fabric. The Atlin Arts and Music Festival is a “green gathering,” meaning that recycling is heavily promoted and organic composted materials will be used to grow flowers for the next year’s festivities. Camping is permitted at Tarahne Park, the main festival grounds, and is free to those with a festival wristband; buy yours in advance at www.atlinfestval.ca.

July 22-24: Kispiox Valley Music Festival, Hazelton
Ever since 1995, when a core group of enthusiastic music-lovers threw themselves into creating a festival on the banks of the Kispiox River, this event has steadily mushroomed in attendance and musical diversity. This year promises to be no different! This is a family-friendly event, with a dedicated kids’ stage and quiet camping sections for those with little ones who don’t wish to be disturbed by the unfailing late-night campfire jams. Please note that there will be no camping permitted before 3 pm on the Friday of the festival. Browse through the many stalls selling pottery, textiles and massages, or volunteer in the kitchen for a chance to ladle out lunch to the headliners. For the usual nitty-gritty on ticket prices and other necessary tidbits, visit http://kispiox.co/kvmf/index.php.

July 29-Aug 1: ArtsWells, Wells
Brace yourself for this four-day art and music extravaganza in the heart of gold-rush country! More than 100 musical acts from a smorgasbord of genres are complemented by art exhibitions, a one-minute-play festival, and 30-plus workshops featuring such creative opportunities as laughter yoga, geodesic-dome-building for kids, and stilt walking. Events are scattered around the village of Wells in numerous historic venues like the quaint clapboard Sunset Theatre, built in 1934. If you buy your festival pass before June 30th you can save 20 bucks and pay only $90 for what is sure to be an epically memorable BC Day long weekend. Peruse the colourful website www.artswells.com for information on headline acts, chances to volunteer, and travel information.
Aug 5-7: Edge of the World Music Fest, Tlell
Always well worth the effort it takes to cross the 60 kilometres of open water to the remote and lovely archipelago of Haida Gwaii, the Edge of the World Music Festival once again promises to outdo previous years with another stellar line-up. This is your chance to shimmy and shake to come-back rockers The Odds, or allow yourself to be swept away on an aural adventure by Juno-nominated jazz and roots band Jaffa Road. Let the kids work out their creative wiggles in the children’s area and make sure to get up close to the stars at the performer-led workshops. This year’s event is dedicated to the memory of Bob Bullechuk, dedicated EOTW contributor and musician; look for a special Friday-night set in his honour. Misty Meadows Provincial Park Campground provides the closest camping: 30 sites available on a first-come, first served basis and usually fill up by Thursday afternoon. The snazzy new website is a wealth of information: www.edgefestival.com.

Aug 19-21 Robson Valley Music Festival, Dunster
The members of festival fixture Mamaguroove once again play host to nearly two dozen bands and a thousand festival-goers on their property in Dunster, 240 km east of Prince George. Prepare to be blown away and left speechless by Namgar, a Russian/Mongolian band offering a unique mix of metal and traditional Mongolian musical styles, as well as the sultry blend of jazz, roots and rock from Digging Roots—Aboriginal People’s Choice and Juno award winners. Food and merchandise vendors will be present, as will fabulous activities for the kids like face-painting and costume parades. Buy your weekend festival pass before July 15th to save some money. Camping on-site is $10. Check out www.robsonvalleymusicfestivalbc.com for the skinny on ticket locations in other communities, as well as other pertinent morsels.

Aug 25: 2nd Annual Mariner’s Music Festival
Perched on the bluff above the Northlands Cruise Ship Terminal, Mariners Park in Prince Rupert provides the scenic venue for this one-day event highlighting the best local talent around. Last year’s experience was so successful that organizers have decided to brave the elements two years running. Timed to coincide with the weekly cruise-ship visit, this is a chance to bring the summer festival feel to the coast. Spread your blanket or set up your camp chair in front of the park’s new performance stage; sunshine is not guaranteed, but a good time definitely is! Visit www.gardenrecords.ca for more information.