It was an interesting festival that seemed to pop up out of nowhere only two months before it was set to run. Even more interesting was the varied lineup they had planned with big-name gets in Canadian country music star Paul Brandt and American rock band Rival Sons, plus a plethora of mid-tier talent like The Trews, April Wine, and Kim Mitchell.
On Friday, I showed up moments before Jesse Roper opened the main stage. He put on an inspired performance. Ripping crunchy blues riffs from his guitar as he contorted his body in a display of unbridled passion. He set the bar and prepped the crowd.
I walked about the grounds and checked out the amenities. Everything looked clean and well thought out. There were games to play like cornhole, giant Jenga, and axe throwing. There was a row of food trucks to feed on with everything from pizza to ribs and even desserts. They had local beers on tap, a gathering of vendors selling their wares, and even a VIP area for those who just wanted to sit near the stage and relax.
It seemed like a well-executed event that was respectful of the grounds and supported by a strong community of volunteers.
I strolled back to the stage to check out the next act.
The Trews continued on that previous high, carrying out a fun set that brought the venue into numerous sing-alongs of hit songs like “Tired Of Waiting” and “Not Ready To Go”. A true Canadian workhorse that never disappoints.
The night was culminated by a transcendent display by Rival Sons.
They took over the stage and didn’t let go until every last bit of love, sweat, and tears were ringed out for the crowd.
Lead singer Jay Buchanan stalked stoically about the stage, his look an homage to Jim Morrison of The Doors. Guitarist Scott Holiday carried the rockstar vibe, shredding complex riffs effortlessly.
Their set had the crowd looking in awe, just staring back, wid-eyed and captivated.
They were able to play a few of my favourites, here are the ones I could remember they played:
Back in the Woods Open My Eyes Pressure and Time Too Bad Electric Man Keep On Swinging Jordan Do Your Worst
I wasn’t able to attend Saturday but by all account, it was much busier than day one.
On day two I showed up just as Vancouver country musician Kadooh was mid-set. The audience was right up there, clapping and stomping along, as the band belted out sweet summer tunes into the air.
They closed out there set as still more and more people kept strolling into the venue grounds and setting up their lawn chairs or blankets out in the field in front of the stage.
Another local act, The Washboard Union, took over the reins and brought a more engaging and free-spirited feel to the day. Their songs had more depth and more well-rounded production.
The sunset around the music group as they inspired an increasing number of onlookers to stand up and dance along.
It was just a fun performance that left me proud to call them a Vancouver band.
The festival was closed out by Alberta-native Paul Brandt.
His set was captivating. He is a good showman and made great use of the entire stage.
At times he would stand out on the edge of a front platform and reach out and touch the hands of his fans. The reaction from the audience was overwhelming, it might have been louder than the giant speaker dotting the platform.
The night grew darker and the stage grew brighter as Mr.Brandt carried us off.
I left the venue as the last song was played, many other attendees following suit.
For a first-year festival, many things were done well. Things seemed polished and accounted for, but a few tweaks will be needed if there is a next year.
They will need to have a better way of lighting the grounds aside from the stage lights. It was very dark once the sun went down, and without some ambient lights for the ground, it can be easy to trip or roll your ankle.
The social media team will need to take control of their presence. Throughout the weekend there was no real effort to share their hashtag, tag their brand partners, or even engage with their approved media outlets. When they shared images it seemed like they were just trying to get something out there and had no worry about quality. Some photos just looked like they re-cropped some cell phone shots. They will need someone with a proven social media ability to take the horns on this bull and get it firmly under control, it can really make or break a festival.
It would be nice if they had some front lights for the stage that came from the soundboard. I found it hard to see the artists faces, which seems nitpicky but it does hinder the audiences ability to really feel in the moment.
Aside from those few things, I felt like the team behind the scenes had a great amount of foresight and planned things out quite well.
The lower mainland needs more small festivals like this. Not everything had to be a three-day blowout setting to be the next big thing. Sometimes festivals can just be these niche events that feel heartfelt and down to earth. A lot of the time these are the festivals that you look forward to year over year.
To all the artists that attended, thank you to you and your teams for a wonderful musical escape
To the team behind the festival, thank you for having us out and we really hope you will be back next year.