South By. Coachella. Sasquatch. Osheaga. If you don’t know these names you’re probably on the wrong blog. They’re 4 of the biggest music festivals on the continent. I haven’t been to any of them. In fact, 6 months ago I hadn’t been to ANY festivals. A gross oversight on my part that has since been remedied. In keeping with the purpose of this blog, I didn’t go to NxNE, Winnipeg Folk or Ottawa’s Bluesfest. No, this season has been dedicated to the (mostly) much smaller and lesser-known.
The Homemade Jam Music Fest
June 30, 2012
Esli Dodge Conservation Park
Nestled in the minute community of Forest, ON, Homemade Jam (www.hmjfest.com) was my first-ever music festival experience. I don’t think there could have been a better way to start. Adjectives that come to mind: intimate, quaint, peaceful, serene. The festival takes place on the park’s curving hillside, like a natural amphitheatre around a small pond whose shore holds the main stage. The side stage is set up under a gazebo in a copse that also plays host to a dozen-or-so vendors and craftspeople. With attendance between 50 and 100 (I wasn’t counting but probably could), the performances feel less like a concert than a conversation with the artist. With such acts as The Great Bloomers, Danny Michel and Jenn Grant (all of whom have new albums coming out soon, I might add), the festival is certainly doing its part in flexing some CanIndie muscle. Keep your ears on the other acts, too. The musical director knows what they’re doing. It was here where I was introduced to The Hamptons and The Bettys, of whom I have previously written.
Home County Music & Arts Festival
Formerly Home County Folk Festival
July 20 – 22, 2012
Remember that “mostly” I parenthesesed earlier? This is what I was referring to. Home County (www.homecounty.ca) isn’t of the same scale as the other festivals I’m writing about here. Their attendance was in the thousands. I will assure you, however, that you wouldn’t have guessed it. Performances were spread out over 6 stages in the picturesque Victoria Park. Shaded by century-old trees, you’ll feel a real sense of community with the musicians and your fellow audience members. The park’s bandshell played host to each evening’s all-ages events (Home County is a dry event, if that matters to you.) It was here that crowds were blown away by performances from Bahamas, Kathleen Edwards, and Joel Plaskett. On the side stages we were treated to workshops from Cuff the Duke, Maz (Check these guys out. Surprise of the weekend), and Dave Gunning. As if that weren’t enough, after the outdoor festivals wrapped each night (at around 10pm for noise by-law-related reasons), the adults convened at apk live, a local music establishment, for even more music from The Kramdens and Kinnie Starr. Best of all, the festival is by donation. Pay what you can and you’ll ensure that next year’s events are eternally better.
August 16, 2012
Owen Sound, ON
If you check the date I posted this you’ll see OTHERFolk (www.otherfolk.com) is actually tomorrow. Bright and early tomorrow morning, I’ll be packing in to Beau (I named my car) and hauling across the province for 9 hours, 15 venues and over 50 (FIFTY!!!) acts. That also means that if you hurry you can come too! Arranged by the generous folks at Mudtown Records (Thanks, Josh!), this will be my first crack at the multi-venue festival. Luckily for me (and you if you choose to come), every performance will take place within a square kilometre. Seriously. The furthest you’ll have to walk, by Google Maps’s reckoning, to get from one venue to another is 650m. With shows from Elliott BROOD, D-Sisive, Bruce Peninsula (appropriate choice given the location), catl, Bidiniband, Jennifer Castle, Doug Paisley, and many, many more, this 3-year-old festival is already a must-see event. I’ll tell you more when I’ve recovered from it. I expect that will be in September.
Shelter Valley Folk Festival
Aug. 31 – Sept. 2, 2012
Henkel Valley Lavender Farm
Northumberland County, ON
Completing the list of festival styles, Shelter Valley (www.sheltervalley.com) is a traditional camping fest. Again, this is a future event that I shall be attending, albeit as a volunteer this time. This festival is also under the 10-year mark and yet they’re bringing in some fantastic acts. John K. Samson, Emm Gryner, The Wilderness of Manitoba, Del Barber, and Craig Cardiff are just a few. Like Home County, Shelter Valley also features 4 Villages (Artists’s, Sustainable, Wellness and Family & Children’s) for a wide range of vendors and organizations. The mission of SVFF also extends beyond a weekend of great music. They put on a concert series throughout the preceding months at various local venues (I missed Dave Gunning in Port Hope and Royal Canoe in Grafton? Nooooo…) Even better, they coordinate an education program that sends musicians to local schools. Imagine your child getting to hang out with Joel Plaskett or Old Man Leudeke for an afternoon?
So that’s my festival slate filled (for now). I have truly enjoyed the close-quarters events I’ve had the privilege of attending thus far. I hope they grow up big and strong but not without a touch of regret. After all, the bigger a festival gets, the harder it is to maintain the intimate atmosphere. Home County has proven that is not an impossibility.
But what about you? Is there a smaller festival you’ve been to or are involved with that you want to share with the world? Is there one festival you really want to attend or one you never miss? Post a comment or send me an email! I love hearing from you.