For the first time in three years, the Chemainus Bluegrass Festival will present a full two days of music at Waterwheel Park.
And what a two days of music it will be.
The 2013 version of the Chemainus Bluegrass Festival will take place at Waterwheel Park in Chemainus this Saturday and Sunday (July 27 and 28), with a preview of one of the festival’s top bands at Chemainus’ ArtBeat celebration on Friday evening.
Vancouver-based Five on a String will arrive in Chemainus this Friday and will head straight over to Willow Street as the featured artists at the ArtBeat celebration.
It’s a busy weekend for the band. They’ll play two sets on Saturday, plus a short gospel set to open the day’s events on Sunday, which will be followed by another full set later in the day.
Band members will also offer free workshops on Saturday morning to anyone interested in learning more about the guitar, mandolin, banjo, fiddle or bass. These workshops will go ahead if enough people sign up ahead of time through the festival website.
The Five on a String band isn’t the only major attraction this year.
Also arriving from the Mainland will be Highrise Lonesome, which has just released its latest CD, Shades of Bluegrass.
Although the festival will be bringing a couple of top bands over from the Mainland to headline the weekend’s events, Vancouver Island bands will not be ignored.
“The Island is home to some of Canada’s finest musical talent, and the festival is proud to present plenty of Island-based music,” states a press release.
This includes Nanaimo’s Ira Pelletier and his new band, the Hub City Ramblers; the Cowichan-based Maple Mountain Boys and Bluegrass Fever, which is rated the No. 4 bluegrass band in Canada on ReverbNation.
There will be many more attractions at the festival, including a display by the
Chemainus Valley Cultural Arts Society (CVCAS) president Bob Johns, who started the Bluegrass Festival and plays with Bluegrass Fever, says he is excited that a couple of his favourite bands from the Mainland will be in Chemainus this weekend.
He says he has always enjoyed watching Five on a String since the first time he saw them years ago, and he is thrilled to have Highrise Lonesome at the festival.
“Sue Malcolm is one of the leaders in the Vancouver folk and bluegrass scene, and it’s nice to have her over here,” he said.
This will be the first year the Chemainus Bluegrass Festival is a full two days of entertainment at Waterwheel Park.
“It’s been my experience that we’ve never been short of a good-sized crowd,” said Johns. “Any time we’ve put on these festivals, we fill the place. It’s not a kind of music that gets a lot of publicity, but it seems to be very popular with people. The other thing with bluegrass is it’s very participatory. People can pick up a guitar or banjo, and people like to jam. It’s a real kind of a join-in music. Workshops and jams are a big part of it. We’re encouraging people to jam after the paid players in the evening. Quite often, the paid professionals will join in with them, and they’ll play all night as well.”
Johns started the Chemainus Bluegrass Festival three years ago, and he says it’s gotten bigger every year.
“There are more people every year, and there is also a bigger budget every year,” he said.
When Johns decided to start the festival, the closest bluegrass festival was in Coombs.
“I was playing in a bluegrass band, and I thought there were festivals all over the place, and there wasn’t one here, so I thought it would be a good idea,” he said.
Johns’s favourite thing about putting on the festival is watching the crowd.
“It’s such a rewarding feeling during the day when you get a big crowd show up, and everyone’s enjoying the music and having a good time,” he said. “It just feels good.”
For more information, visit the Chemainus Bluegrass Festival website or find the Chemainus Bluegrass Festival on Facebook.