I was having a conversation with Penguin Eggs
publisher Roddy Campbell recently, part of which will air on Points North
Sunday June 11 and Tuesday June 13, during which he summed up the collective infatuation with festivals.
“We’re driven inside for the vast majority of the year, and I just think we love to get out and hang together and enjoy some culture,” figures the writer who has attended his share of gatherings from coast to coast, and in other countries, while covering live music over the past 25 years.
While not every festival is held in a natural amphitheatre in the heart of a major city, as venues of all sorts play host to musicians and audiences, Campbell was right - we do love to hang together come summertime.
Just on the roots scene alone there are more than 200 festivals produced coast to coast. The total must be double that when jazz and blues festivals are tallied alongside multi-day events such as the Banff Summer Arts Festival
, that runs as the Banff banner implies, for the entire summer.
Is there a saturation point? If there is, it is certainly nothing that the Edmonton Folk Music Festival
organization has to wonder about any time soon, as passes for the four day event were snapped up in record time last week. Something like two hours and wham, all of that extra money Terry Wickham spent on the artistic budget was back in the bank.
Many longtime Edmonton Folk Fest patrons were caught off guard and will be left standing outside the Gallagher Park gates come early August.
Interestingly enough I haven’t heard any grumbling from those less fortunate Edmonton folk fans who weren’t quite quick enough on the draw. Most have suggested the slight disappointment means that it is time to check out a few festivals in other locales that had been beckoning for a while.
A few friends have mentioned that the Kaslo Jazz Fest
in B.C. is a priority... and why wouldn’t it be? Just take a look at the festival website pictures of the floating stage on spectacular Kootenay Lake as audiences soaks up the sounds and the sun while kicking back on the beach.
Kaslo may be billed as a jazz fest but the line-up suggests otherwise as Jim Byrnes, Dan Mangan, Delhi to Dublin, David Gogo and Mr. Something Something are headliners between Friday July 29 and Sunday July 31. Not that jazz fans will be left without, as The Nightcrawlers, the Paul Peress Band and the great Phil Dwyer will all make appearances as the weekend rolls out. If this gem in southern B.C. sounds enticing, head to kaslojazzfest.com
for complete details.
The great prairie city of Winnipeg has no shortage of major draws this year. Robert Plant and The Band of Joy may not draw on anything musically that the devout jazz fan appreciates but the singer will certainly draw a sold-out house at the Centennial Concert Hall with his all-star band that includes Patty Griffin, Darrell Scott and Buddy Miller.
Buddy Miller, Robert Plant and Patty Griffin
A couple of weeks after the Winnipeg Jazz Festival
comes to a close, The Jayhawks will be making one of two western Canadian appearances of the summer. The date is July 6 at Birds Hill Park, the longtime home of the Winnipeg Folk Festival
. Gary Louris, Mark Olsen and company will hit the Vancouver Folk Festival on Jericho Beach 10 days later. The Vancouver Festival is in many ways the talk of the festival scene as Linda Tanaka, who took over the reins of the festival a couple of years ago, has programmed line-ups that have helped slice the festival debt to a sliver of where it stood when she took over a few years ago.
Writing this is starting to make me think I had better take a long look at 2012 and make my way to a few festivals that have been off my radar for a few years.
One event on my list this year is the Vancouver Island Music Festival
in Comox. Artistic director Doug Cox (yes the same Doug Cox who plays the resonator guitar with such authority) has once again pulled together a terrific line-up of artists that cover everything from emerging to hardcore retro.
Aging hippies on the island will be out in droves to catch the likes of Randy Newman, Jon Anderson of Yes fame and David Crosby, who will be closing the festival on Sunday July 10 with an all-star band. That band, the Night Train Music Club, includes bassist Lee Sklar, guitarist Jeff Pevar, and singer Bernard Fowler.
New Orleans marching band sounds, guitar pyro from Albert Lee and John Jorgenson, sacred steel from the Lee Boys, and bluegrass from both Alison Krauss and the Travellin’ McCourys will be presented on one of the more picturesque sites in western Canada.
Speaking of backdrops, Banff and Canmore are spectacular places to indulge your cultural fix. Canmore
is home to the oldest folk festival in the province and as mentioned earlier, the Banff Centre
delivers an amazing array of concerts over a four month period.
The jazz end of the summer programming at Banff Centre is winding up on June 23 with spectacular Cuban/Canadian jazz pianist Hilario Duran. However, fans of classical music are advised to pour over the Banff production calendar that also boasts an impressive theatrical, literary and dance line-up presented in a variety of inviting venues.
One knowledgeable observer from the CKUA clan, Orest Soltykevych, is certainly impressed by what the Banff Centre is serving up this summer.
“There's a remarkable line-up of classical music experiences at the Banff Summer Arts Festival. Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, from mid-June to mid-August, there are concerts featuring a wonderful selection of chamber music, including string quartets, wind ensembles, solo piano and vocal works. I suspect a Banff festival highlight will be the two performances by the Banff Festival Orchestra playing works by Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn and Debussy. As well, two operas will be staged - Mozart's "Cosi fan tutte" and "Lillian Alling" by the Canadian opera creation duo of John Estacio and John Murrell,” says our host of Saturday Breakfast.
Basically it all comes down to how much time we have, and what our resources are, but there is certainly something for every cultural taste being served up as we head into summer. Off the top of my head, I hope to catch Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Centre Orchestra, Del McCoury and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Vernon Reid, The Felice Brothers, Imelda May, Trombone Shorty, Marty Stuart and Connie Smith, Andrew Bird, Taj Mahal, the Holmes Brothers, The John Nemeth Soul Revue, and the Fitzmaurice bluegrass band as the summer unfolds…and the beat goes on.