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Cowichan Bluegrass Festival packs in 3 days of toe-tapping talent

Bluegrass and old time music will soon be filling the air at Laketown ranch for Father’s Day weekend

The sounds of bluegrass and old time music will soon be filling the Youbou air as the Cowichan Valley Bluegrass Festival returns to Laketown Ranch for its fourth year from June 14 to 16.

“For the first time we are having a honky-tonk dance party on Friday night. Our signature event is always our Saturday night outdoor square dance, which will return again this year,” said artistic director Bob Remington. “We added the honky-tonk dance on Friday because we have the perfect band for it. The Caleb Klauder-Reeb Willms Country Band is best described as ‘retro-country’. This band has some phenomenal players including Joel Savoy, a Grammy winner and 10-time Grammy nominated Cajun fiddler from Louisiana, as well as Mike Bub, one of Nashville’s pre-eminent bass players.”

The roots of bluegrass music dig back to the 1930s, and it began thriving in the rural American south shortly after the Second World War. This beloved genre combines elements of old-time mountain music, square dance fiddling, blues, gospel, jazz, and other popular music. Much like jazz, bluegrass allows performers to improvise and take turns playing lead. Bluegrass bands typically consist of four to seven performers who sing while accompanying themselves on acoustic string instruments such as the guitar, double bass, fiddle, five-string banjo, mandolin, steel guitar, and even the Dobro.

“The festival is a unique cultural experience with organized and spontaneous jam sessions occurring in the campground all day and into the night,” said Remington. “We create a 24/7 village atmosphere where people listen to, learn and share bluegrass and old-time music in the oral tradition from which it sprang. It is highly participatory with free instrument and dance workshops in flat-footing, contra dance and square dance.”

The festival’s signature Saturday night square dance features The Black Rabbit Rounders and caller Paul Silveria. There will also be a special event on Thursday evening from 7 to 9 p.m. giving music lovers to the chance to meet up, mingle, and enjoy such bands as the darling Quebec-based band Veranda who played last year’s festival and are known for performing in both French and English. The special Thursday event is open to both sponsors and pass holders with Thursday camping only.

Those looking to lend their ears to the three days of tremendous toe-tapping talent can purchase full-weekend passes for $160 and those 17 and under attend free with an adult. Saturday passes are $100, while Sunday prices are $30.

“We keep Sunday prices low for Father’s Day to encourage attendance by those unfamiliar with our two genres of bluegrass and Appalchian ‘old-time’ music,” said Remington. “Camping is plentiful, and day parking is free.”

The festival will feature weekend workshops that may be either instructional or non-instructional as well as tiny concerts which may either be intimate or all-star jams with audience interaction.

The Unfaithful Servants are the first major act to hit the stage on Friday evening at 6 p.m. and are back for a second show on Saturday afternoon. Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper are one of the headlining acts on Saturday and are back again for a second show on Sunday afternoon. Cleveland was born blind and nearly deaf, and his inspirational personal story of overcoming adversity is the subject of a documentary film. Recognized 12 times as “Fiddler of the Year” by the International Bluegrass Music Association, Cleveland has been featured in both the New York Times and on NBC. To see this year’s festival full line up and purchase tickets

“We are honoured to have Grammy winner Michael Cleveland, he is widely considered the bluegrass fiddler of his generation,” said Remington. “Vancouver bluegrass radio host Rob McGregor recently referred to us as the most amazing bluegrass festival that has ever existed in western Canada. I hope we can live up to such praise, and that our attendees all agree.”

About the Author: Chadd Cawson

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