where the forest songs are

this summer i produced a music festival with my friend robert (who, just before i met him, lived with my cousin robert in namibia for half a year).  after months of planning, the festival took place sept 8.  it was called "where the forest songs are" and was a showcase of indie bands from the fraser valley.  there were folk, blues, rock and trance performances from friends of ours, people we met a month ago, and bands we had never seen before.

the venue was island 22 regional park, a beautifully forested strip of land along the fraser river.  we set up in the corner of a huge horse corral that dwarfed our little festival.  on the right you can see big bessie, who steadfastly formed part of the backdrop as well as a front wall and refrigerator for our green room, an outdoor living room complete with couches, a coffee table, lamp, breakfast cereal and bowls of chips.

the aim was to be a family friendly showcase for local bands, to encourage live music in chilliwack and to throw a big party by the river.  the first and last goals were easily checked off.  we'll see over time if we can accomplish the middle one.
our festival was alcohol free, which unfortunately is a big burden for a concert, in that a lot of people won't show up if they can't drink, and also in that we were foregoing the main source of income for a show like this.  we attempted to turn this negative into a positive by providing activities for kids, offering a family price and making the show welcoming for all ages.

 ty, finn and coby can attest that the kids had a great time!  the above picture made it into the local paper the next day.  coby is now also asserting that she will marry ty one day.  kylie is demanding at least 3 goats, which i think is a bit of an undersell.

first up was abbotsford's old mare.  rob booked them and i didnt realize that 1) they were really good and 2) that they had a full band and drums and amps and pedals and the whole nine yards.
it was a shame to open with them, as only about 3 paying customers had arrived when they were scheduled to take the stage.  in retrospect we should have started with a boy and his guitar, and let the full bands play later when they had more people to play to.
  to that end i got up there with my guitar and played them in, hoping to draw in a little bit of an audience.  thankfully our volunteers stepped up (literally) to listen to the show, providing at least a modicum of crowd.  thanks to patricia for taking these pictures.
  old mare stayed for most of the festival, and we shot some sweet footage to help them make some music videos.  plus they seemed like really cool guys, so they were OK with it.

next up were ma petite and jordan klassen, two abbotsford based bands that (predictably) now live in vancouver.  the music was fantastic (ukelele, double bass, violin and keys) but i didnt get much of a chance to stand still and listen, as at this point there was still way too much logistical stuff going on for me to stop moving.

it was really fun running a show like this, juggling 5 different tasks and constantly being interrupted.  it's a bit like my day job, only no one was bleeding and there were a lot less drunk people.

some things were very thankfully delegated.  our local indian restaurant, shanhdar hut, provided the food, as well as "melted" a gourmet grilled cheese vendor serving out of this world sandwiches.  my friend patricia ran the first aid tent.  kylie made cookies and did bottled water and pop runs and delivered last minute items, like a big carpet to keep the drums from skittering around the stage.  tonnes of rob's friend arrived to set up tents and move picnic tables etc.
next up was adam klassen (no relation to jordan).  he was another wild card and he stole the show!  all over the venue i heard people talking about him, asking who the heck he was and how they had never heard of him when he was so good.
after back to back klassens came the band i was most excited about.  the harpoonist and the axe murderer are a killer blues duo from vancouver, reinterpreting muddy waters all over again, ignoring led zeppelin and moving in a entirely different direction.  their latest album checkered past is straight up blues with a bit of extra distortion, and their live set delivered the same with adrenaline and a pinch of psychedelia.  the tunes got people dancing, particularly ty, finn and coby, as you have seen above.  i figure if this only happens a few times a year their ears will recover.

by this time our crowd had finally thickened up.  our ticket sales were disappointing from a financial point of view, but we sold around 120 tickets and when the volunteers and the members of the other bands who stayed around for the show (most of them!) gathered in front of the stage it made for a sweet comfy vibe.  shawn (the harpoonist) summed it up nicely when he exclaimed from the stage, "i love this show... its like playing at someone's backyard bbq, only they have enough money for a killer sound system, and they have really awesome friends!"  matt (the axe murderer) chimed in "yep, no one's gonna call the cops on anyone here tonight."
ian schram played next, in a cozy little living room set accompanied by two glowing penguins on our side stage.  his laid back songs gave the crowd a chance to catch their breathe before they were moved to start dancing again by

the young liars, a vancouver electronic pop rock indie band with tonnes of energy.  they were another surprise for me.  i had heard their music online and knew i would like them, but i didnt know i would love them live.  a full rock band plus some groovy synth loops gave the young liars an amazingly deep sound.  their single echoists had the whole crowd jumping.  its sweet hook underscored their recent record deal and foreshadowed radio success to come (take me in your arms tonight and i'll be there, i'll be there, i'll never be gone).  the thoughtful lyrics give them a depth sorely lacking in todays music.  pop for a new century.  marshall mcluhon would be proud.
a few minutes after the young liars left the stage, it was time for "the parish of little clifton", a local musician and newly minted DJ, who has stayed at my parents' house on two separate occasions.  his set masterfully moved the crowd from swaying to dancing and back to swaying again, ushering in the soul embracing sounds of teen daze, chilliwack's trance sensation.  a rosedale boy, hipster and personal friend, jameson aka teen daze is well known in the club scene from san francisco to new york to barcelona.  the dictum that a DJ is not recognized in his hometown holds particularly true when the hometown in question doesnt really have any legitimate clubs.
teen daze ended the evening in spectacular fashion, holding the crowd between his knob twiddling fingers.  the atmosphere was intense, euphoric and intoxicating.  one of my favourite moments of the night came near the end of his set, when the daughter of a co worker and her friend, lost in the trance music and the hypnosis of their own involuntary movement, both caught my eye in the crowd with a look of pure golden happiness.  the emotion writ large across their faces echoed the greater throng and resonated with my own utter contentment.  what an awesome day.  already looking forward to next year.

1 comment:

Alisha said...

It sounds like an amazing time! Good for you! I'm sure it's only going to get bigger and better!