Monday, 16 July 2018

Sunday was another stellar day at MusicFest

By Keith and Heather Nicol
The Grassy Knoll has had a makeover
   Since MusicFest offers 5 stages running at the same time it is often a challenge to figure where to go to hear the music you are interested in. Since moved to the Comox Valley 3 years ago from Newfoundland we always have a affection  for listening to fiddles, jigs and reels. Newfoundland is known for its kitchen parties and there was a kitchen party of sorts at the Barn at 10:00 am on Sunday when 4 groups got together to play. They included the Fretless, The StepCrew (which we had seen earlier), The Atlantic String Machine and Qristina Brooke which all feature lots of fiddles in the mix.  The Atlantic String Machine was hard for the others to join in on since they play classical music but all the others often played music they knew the others would be to join in. The volume of all those strings made for a memorable session and the StepCrew’s awesome step dancers made it especially lively.

The sprinkler system had lots of takers to cool down
     From there we stayed in the Barn to hear another mix of musicians thrust together to play under the theme of  “Influences”.   And Etage Diouf did an amazing job of coaxing the others to join in and it made for another fun sesson.  After hearing the award winning “Fretless” in the morning we wanted to catch them again at the Grassy Knoll in the afternoon.  This venue has had a welcome makeover since last year and included a huge tent which we all appreciated to get out the sun (Sunday’s temperatures hit 30 C which made it even warmer than Saturday).  It also included beer service which kids were allowed into which allowed families with children to have a drink.  
Eliza Gilkyson (right) and Gretchen Peters are part of "3 Women and the Truth"
       After a break at home we returned In the evening to the main Concert Bowl to hear “3 Women and the Truth” , Arlo Guthrie and The Bros Landreth.  The first 2 sessions were like we were in a time warp since “3 Women and the Truth” is made up of Mary Gauthier, Gretchen Peters and Eliza Gilkyson who are all folk singers whose songs have been recorded by Joan Baez, Bob Geldof, Jimmy Buffett and many others.  Next up was Arlo Guthrie who brought us back to Bob Dylan days with songs like “Hey Mister Tamborine Man” as well as his best known songs “Alice’s Restaurant” and “City of New Orleans”.  The Bros Landreth hail from Winnipeg and they are another Juno award winning band known for their bluesy – soft rock music. We didn’t catch the last performer of the festival-Exco Levi and the High Priest – a well regarded reggae musician, since the late nights were catching up to us.  All in all it was another great MusicFest and we look forward to seeing what the organizers have in store for next year.  See
Arlo Gurthrie did a fine job of bringing us back a few decades.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Despite heat warnings MuiscFest sells out again

By Keith and Heather Nicol
Cooling off in the Tsolum river

   Despite a special weather statement warning about the heat wave that has descended on Vancouver Island and most of B.C., MusicFest in Courtenay sold out its Saturday shows again this year. “We still have a few tickets for Sundays show so if your friends don’t have tickets they better act fast” we were told in the main concert bowl just before “Nice Horse” performed for their 2:15 pm show.  It was certainly hot at the Exhibition Grounds but if you managed to find shade and keep hydrated it was actually pretty easy to stay cool. If was helped by the amazing hosts who even came around with water misters that they would spray on your arms, legs and face if you wanted. And the 6 water wagons were kept busy delivering ice cold water to people around the concert grounds. One group I spoke to said they were going through six 5 gallon containers an hour in the peak of the afternoon.  Also if you really need to cool off you can go for a swim in the Tsolum River which we saw several people do. So hats off to the festival organizers for thinking of many ways to keep people cool. 

Mike Kerr (left) and Campbell Woods put on a fine show at the Woodland Stage
       We also stuck to shady sites for part of the day and really enjoyed Campbell Woods and Mike Kerr followed by Gretchen Peters on the Woodland stage. These are folk singers from Canada and the US respectively fit this small venue perfectly.  Since we enjoyed “The StepCrew” the night before we thought we would check out their workshop on step dancing held at another shady venue – The Crossroads.   They packed that venue and had many people up trying their hand or should I say feet at step dancing.  
Hats off to the organizers for keeping people cool with water wagons
 We then headed for the main stage to see Canada’s only all female Country/Rock band – “Nice Horse” from Calgary who put on a great show.  We will keep an eye out for that group in the future.  We then decided to take a break and head home to get ready for the concert bowl evening set which included a wide range of international music including “Darlingside” from the US, “Noreum Machi from Korea, “Passenger” from England, Ry Cooder from the US ending with Skakura S’Aida who was born in Brooklyn, raised in Switzerland but who now calls Canada home.  Can you get any more varied than that?  And we still have Sunday to come with Arlo Guthrie and many others. For more information see:  See you there and stay cool.
Darlingside is known for all 4 musicians singing in harmony from one mike

Passenger had the crowd up and singing with him

Saturday, 14 July 2018

MusicFest opens with perfect weather and great music

by Keith and Heather Nicol
Ideal weather for the opening night
   We headed down to the Exhibition Grounds in Courtenay on Friday evening with my brother and his wife who had just driven from Victoria. Bruce and Mary Ellen are avid festival goers and have been coming here for the last 4 years to see the varied musical offerings that MusicFest brings every year. The sun was out but there was a cool north breeze which made for ideal “music listening” weather. We headed to the main concert stage just in time to see Irish Mythen setting up for her 6:45 pm show. 
These folks will be busy this weekend handing out water
 We spent the whole evening there and enjoyed all the performances. Troubadour Mythen was followed by the US group “The Dustbowl Revival” with their large group of 8 which included horns, a base and a fiddle. At 9:30 the energetic “The StepCrew” took to the stage with step dancers and fiddles.  Musicians in group have won major fiddling awards and played with the likes of the Chieftains.  Say no more! Since we are big Celtic music fans we thought their performance was very impressive.   The night ended with “Walk off the Earth” from Burlington, Ontario. Their You Tube channels has close to 3,000,000 subscribers and they are Juno award winners.  An amazing opening night with lots more to come.
Lead singer for the "Dustbowl Revival"
  The Vancouver Island MusicFest runs Saturday and Sunday and there are still a few tickets left for anyone wanting to get a last minute ticket. But it promises to be hot so come prepared with water and sunscreen and fortunately there are some nice shady areas when you need to take a break. And if you get too hot you can always s go for a swim in the Tsolum River which follows next to the festival grounds. Up over the next couple of days are musicians Ry Cooder and folk legend Arlo Gurthrie and many others. Check out the Vancouver Island MusicFest web site for a complete listing-    See you there!

Monday, 9 July 2018

Getting ready for this year’s Vancouver Island MusicFest

By Keith and Heather Nicol
    Well, you still have time to get tickets to this year’s Vancouver Island MusicFest which is happening this weekend-July 13-15, 2018. The lineup looks as varied as past years and we are looking forward to seeing the wide range of performers that descend on Music Fest .  It looks like the weather will be warm and dry so attendees should be prepared for lots of sun. Be sure to bring your sunscreen and water bottle. We plan to head to shady venues when necessary and really appreciate the venues like the Crossroads and Woodland stage since they tend to be shady. 
The festival always seems to attract a large crowd
 We will be joined by my brother and his wife from Victoria who have been coming up to see MusicFest  for the last 3 years , ever since we moved to the Comox Valley.  And they have been encouraging their friends from Victoria to come up since they enjoy it so much. The festival truly attracts people from up and down Vancouver Island and beyond and it is right in our backyard.  What we really enjoy about the festival is that although the ‘name attractions’ are fun to see, we always find the unexpected performances from people we have never heard of to be one of our highlights. Piano player David Vest and singer Maria Dunn (and her band) were some of our favourites that come to mind from last year’s Music Fest.  We are still listening to CD’s we bought from them last year. 
It fun to see some big names like Bruce Cockburn from last year's MusicFest right in our backyard
 This year we are looking forward to seeing Arlo Guthrie,  Ry Cooder, Dustbowl Revival as well as Celtic musicians Step Crew and Quistina Brooke among many others. For people that want more information and to buy tickets see:    See you there!
David Vest was one of our highlight performers from last year