Windborn: “Calm in Chaos” album release

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This past weekend at Serenity saw a sold out crowd for Windborn’s recent album release, “Calm in Chaos.” A true labour of love in the making, and over two years since he penned the songs following immense heartbreak and life altering change, the album has arrived in a form much different than the original concept.

After touring relentlessly to and from each corner of this beautiful province and beyond, the songs emerged and evolved in new ways in response to how they sounded and were received live.

The concept of the album was this: he wrote a letter. This letter encapsulated the feelings and changes he was going through. He then sectioned the letter into song titles, and the blueprint for the album was born.

In the end, Windborn has achieved what many attempt, a sincere representation of his live show.


After seeing Windborn perform for the fifth time in the last year, I can say that not only does his live performance get better with each show (as one would only hope), but the healthy amount of curious cynicism I held after hearing how he planned to record the album on his own was shattered upon first listen to it in my truck stereo on the way home from the show.

Jeff Pike, aka Windborn, is truly one of a kind. The uniqueness in his style of music is uncanny. As is commonly said by many who have been introduced to his music over the years, it is almost unbelievable that one person can create the sound that he does. The physical coordination it entails alone is constantly impressive.

Armed with an acoustic guitar, kick drum set, looping pedals, and a variety of percussion additions, Windborn is an amalgamation of genres, styles and sounds that equates to beautifully crafted music that gets under your skin unlike anything else.

It helps that the artist himself is ridiculously easy to be around who has this lets-hang-out-everyday-and-have-a-good-time kind of vibe. Not only that, but his generous spirit and commitment to the establishment of Serenity as a recognized and respected live music venue in BC has been directly observed and appreciated by many.

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Windborn is an artist who can’t tell you what chords he is playing, if any, but who literally inhabits a constant state of experimentation in creating sounds that become his music. In addition, he remains meticulously conscious of what audiences respond to and can alter his sound on a dime to fit the feel of a room. His album release show at Serenity also happened to be venue owner Shirley deVooght’s birthday, coincidentally along with many others who have become longtime Windborn fans and supporters. The night was one big celebration, including a song or two where he threw out shakers and tambourines (and maybe a disposable kazoo or two) to the crowd, much to his regret later. You just cannot anticipate the power of a passionate fan and a kazoo (yes, I am talking about you Lisa). This is not even touching on the corny pointy birthday hats and full-on paper-bagged bottles being passed around in front of the stage throughout the night. No question, it was a party, and Windborn gave a performance worth celebrating.

Along with playing every song off the new album to the Serenity living room packed to the rafters, Windborn included a few glimpses into fresh material from his writing sessions on the road, which prove that there is an unending supply of art yet to be born from the heart and soul of this special artist. Throughout his 2+ hours show, we were promised that everything we had come to love about his live performance would be waiting for us on the album…and it was.

I know online downloads continue to be the mainstream way of acquiring music, but if you can get a hold of a physical copy of Calm in Chaos, it is well worth it.  The album cover is a custom designed envelope with a Windborn seal and includes lyric sheets for each song, quite the labour intensive presentation for an independent artist.  The writing, music, producing, recording, mastering, and design has all been done independently, as in all by himself.

It is difficult to imagine how the album will sound to anyone who has not experienced a Windborn show live, but from the perspective of someone who was able to play it within hours of seeing the songs performed a few feet in front of me, I can say without a doubt that the album allows me to experience his live show again and again in my own home. For a fan, there is no better gift than that.

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Album highlights: Of Calm: a truly beautiful exposition of the heart that gives me chills each time I hear it; Heaven: this simple, yet profound lyrical commentary on the existence of the afterlife draws you in and holds you close; Swim For the Lighthouse: a track that lives up to its song title and takes you on an undeniable journey of reflection, joy, hope and forging ahead, which in many ways sums up much of what Windborn represents. Honourable mention goes to track 5, the hidden creatively titled Third Intermission, (which continues his trend to include an instrumental track for the third album in a row), it is the perfect jam to get lost in, a foolproof measure I lean on more often than not.

Windborn performed at Serenity Performing Arts Centre on November 28, 2014.

Aside from a few private shows in December, Windborn will be back touring in January before his month long hiatus to enter the world of fatherhood. We wish him and his beautiful love all the happiness in the world as they begin this new chapter in life, and we look forward to the music that will surely be inspired by what lies ahead.

Stay up to date on his touring schedule, stream the new music, and read his latest blog posts at

Photos courtesy of Steve Mechem.

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The “What” and the “Why” behind the words…

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A few artists have joked with me over the last year and a half about my writing style. They laugh about the moment they initially read my post and feel great about themselves because of all the things I have written about them, but when they talk to fellow artists who I have covered in the past, they come to a conclusion that I write nice things about everyone and somehow feel like what I wrote about them is no longer as special. I have never understood this. For one, I don’t proclaim to be a music critic, so no one should expect to read anything negatively critical regarding someone’s music, but in the same breath, I don’t intend to write pieces that are “nice” either. My intention is to write true reflections of what I feel and experience. This is achieved in how I approach each show before they start. If I was attending a concert in order to critique each aspect of a performance, my writing would sound a lot different. But before I even step foot in the venue, I have already decided that I am going to enjoy myself, that I am going to take something meaningful from the artist, and that I am going to spend my time focusing on their creative energy. Although there is a common thread of support and encouragement, my pieces are focused on showcasing their unique characteristics and what they have shared of themselves through their music and conversation.

The purpose of starting my site was to highlight independent artists and a unique small town venue in the heart of BC where audiences can experience live music in an up close and personal setting; Serenity Performing Arts Centre. I truly believe the physical and spiritual environment that has been cultivated at Serenity is instrumental in allowing me to approach each show in the way that I do. There is a comforting sense of belonging and acceptance that is constantly present which provides a safe place to get lost in. To lose oneself in music is a glorious thing. I don’t mean letting loose as much as I mean letting go of any loads you are carrying in terms of stress and expectation, and allowing yourself to sink into an abyss where you can examine, reflect, dream and desire. This is getting lost in music. This is where inspiration is born. This is what I write about.


~ Heather

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Matt Epp


Matt Epp came to us on a Western Canada house concert tour with his beloved wife and newborn daughter. Although born and raised in Crystal City, Manitoba, his experience touring the globe as a singer-songwriter has altered his identity as a Canadian, but not in the way you may think. He has a perspective and world view that does not necessarily identify with his birthplace, or anywhere for that matter in the sense of having one true home. There is a place he is from, and family to return to, but he shares a way of life that creates a sense of home wherever he is at any given time, in any given corner of the world. He is the living, breathing idiom of “Home is where the heart is.”

Having said all of this, the music is fantastic, not that anyone needs me to tell them that, just take your pick at the reams of articles, reviews, interviews, accolades, collaborations, 8 albums and countless tours that patch together the career to date of Matt Epp.

However, it doesn’t take long to discover that his music “career” is not at the forefront of his life. His most recent immersion into fatherhood has most definitely altered his focus and created a heightened emotional sense as parenthood tends to do, but his relationship to his music and why he does what he does is much more profound, which I will touch on later.


His show at Serenity was beautiful for many reasons. The audience was a dead heat split between regulars and newcomers. It is always interesting to see how house concert audiences are going to mesh, and what type of energy is going to be created between the artist and the crowd. On this night, for much of the first set you could hear a pin drop. Not so much in an awkward sense, but more in that everyone was incredibly invested in what Matt was sharing, and were feeding off his calm spirit. After the mid-break when the crowd had a chance to mingle and get to know him over homemade cheesecake and wine, things started to loosen up and there was an apparent shift heading into the show’s second half.

Matt began to show more of his fun loving side, his smile became a bit wider, and his laughter contagious. Inviting us all to become his back up singers for his song “Met Someone” sparked something and had the crowd showing enduring commitment until the last note. A great storyteller, his lead in to “Where Does It Go?” shared his encounter with a dancing grasshopper that coaxed out the song’s melody as he watched the setting sun on some steps in Spain. It is a great story. His planned ending to the show was emotionally wrought, as he performed the poetic “There Shall Be Peace” off his recently released album “Luma” (appropriately named after his child). After mounting applause, the crowd was left quiet and still until one voice kindly requested, “One more song?” There was an immediate resonating agreement from the room and his response was quite the treat. Matt playfully shared his unrecorded tune “Valentine” (you can find the video on YouTube) that had the crowd in stitches as we giggled along to his account of a childhood sweetheart turned heartbreak song of redemption. Pure bliss.


So yes, the music, the performance, all superb, as would be expected from a Juno award winning songwriter (okay, so maybe he didn’t technically win for “When You Know”, Serena Ryder did, but he co-wrote and recorded it so we arguably see it that way). But as is with most shows here in the Serenity house, it was the time shared afterwards around the kitchen table and washing the dishes by hand in the middle of the night that provided a deeper glimpse into the heart and soul of an artist whose message was clear as day.

For although Matt Epp may not fully embrace a physical place of belonging, he has created one of the spirit, a place he carries with him and invites others to join wherever he may travel. This “place” is Amoria, a state of intention to love and serve others. This metaphysical state was embodied by every interaction he extended to those attending his show. For those of us who stayed to listen to his philosophical and spiritual foundations into the night, there was a soulful sharing of his passions, fears, and love for his family, his fellow human beings, and above all else, God.


As someone who has skirted my way in and out of faith and spiritual beliefs, the short time spent with this one man left quite the impression. As my reflections deepened, the brief connection shared with him as a person revealed a deeper inner peace and reverence for the love that God provides. There is not the space to expand on this here, yet it holds profound relevance to the essence of Matt Epp.

Matt Epp is an artist whose music and presence has the ability to be a catalyst for a transforming experience. Heartfelt gratitude is due for having him share his artistic journey with us. It is critical that he, and other artists, are acknowledged for the goodness their life’s work brings to the world. The value music provides to those who receive it is immeasurable, whether we fully comprehend its worth or not. Here’s to the continual healing that music can provide for the human spirit, and to those who dedicate their lives to create it.

Matt Epp performed at Serenity Performing Arts Centre on November 21, 2014.

He concludes his Western Canada house concert tour on December 6, 2014 in Vancouver, BC.

Matt and his family will be heading to Europe for a spring tour that begins in Germany starting April 2015.

To stay up to date on his touring schedule, links to album downloads, social media feeds and more, visit his website at

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Sam Weber

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This past Saturday night I experienced the live solo performance of singer-songwriter Sam Weber. An experience it was indeed.

Sam Weber’s music has been on my playlist for the last year. I caught wind of his sound through some of his friends and fellow artists who have played up this way and name him among their top recommendations.

Upon the re-release of his debut album “Shadows In The Road,” word came through that he was booked to play our local venue as part of his fall tour and my anticipation has been building ever since. I was intrigued to say the least at what his live performance would reveal, but I was also a bit nervous. His sound has this honest quality to it that I was immediately drawn to, but his artistic brand is often marketed in a way that suggests a certain intensity. I was completely prepared to face a somewhat guarded, brooding individual, but any inclinations of him being at all withdrawn immediately dissolved as he greeted me with a friendly boyish smile and a sincere warmth of heart in the quaint home setting of Serenity Performing Arts Centre. This is why live music is so important; to feel the energy of an artist in the flesh is something you cannot recreate on an album, in a video, photo shoot or written article. You can see, hear and feel glimpses, but there is nothing comparable to the real thing.

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The evening’s torrential rain and dense fog influenced the relatively small crowd at our remote venue tucked away down an unlit dirt road. However, everyone in the audience was genuinely interested in the music that Sam had come to share. Within the first few seconds of his opening song, there was no question we were in for something incredibly special.

Not that this came as much of a surprise. His mounting accolades include a scholarship to the Berklee College of Music, a feature in Guitar Player magazine, an honourable mention in the 2013 International Songwriting Competition, and being signed to Cordova Bay Records…just to name a few. Sam Weber has also been producing a steady stream of up and coming independent artists who are turning to him for his impeccable ear to help them develop their own sound and unique quality, a feat he has been able to achieve for himself.

After the show I told Sam I had never seen someone perform their music in such a kinesthetic way. It was captivating. To see an artist be so completely in his music where the expressions on his face and every movement in his body communicated nuances in each song was mesmerizing to behold. It was emotional and moving and at times jarring. There was no disconnect between him and his music. It was one of the realest performances I have ever seen; real as in there wasn’t any performance at all, just pure communication and connection. Amid his intricately crafted songs, Sam shared his light-hearted spirit with the audience, showcasing his sweet personality through brief anecdotes and stories that created a perfect balance of energy on stage.

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Born in the early 90’s, Sam is part of the latter Generation Y who bring a perspective our world has yet to experience; the first young adults of our time who have spent their entire existence immersed in the information highway, with answers to anything at the click of a button, and whose youth is synonymous with a rapid acceleration of technological devices that connect them (or disconnect them depending on how you look at it) with others in a myriad of ways. Having spent time with a growing number of artists from this demographic, I can tell you despite what mass media tragically chooses to highlight, the future is promising. Not only does Sam represent a growing number of socially conscious young minds, but he is also someone who is able to rationalize and dissect the difference between what is real and what is not when it comes to the smoke and mirrors of the music industry. At 22 years old, he is savvy, bright, intuitive, endearing, and genuine. As part of this first wave era his perspective is highly evolved when it comes to his approach to making music. Sam simply relates that because there is the ability to easily edit anything and everything at their fingertips, many in his generation are starting to reject the very technology they have been raised to epitomize. How’s that for perfect irony among today’s youth. A philosophy of integrity, honesty and exercising a meaningful artistic voice is reflective in every aspect of Sam’s work, including his songwriting, musicianship and performance style.

Citing his major musical influences as Joni Mitchell and Bruce Springsteen, it is highly apparent that he has a strong commitment to creating authenticity in his music that he can represent on stage.

Putting his own stamp on boldly chosen covers including Fleetwood Mac’s “Say You Love Me” and a rare rendition of esteemed Canadian producer Daniel Lanois’ “The Maker,” he made clear statements about his songwriting taste and the range of styles he can comfortably navigate.


Sharing that he is constantly writing and has high volumes of songs ready to share with audiences, he admits promoting an album on tour can be challenging when he is eager to perform new material over songs written and recorded in months and years past. Although the average record company may prefer artists stick close to their album’s content, no audience anywhere is going to mind hearing the variety of crafted tunes he is capable of performing on any given night.

Inducing feelings of passion, self-reflection, resolve and the pursuit of happiness, Sam Weber’s essence filled the Serenity living room and provided something for everyone to stew over. From a widowed emergency response worker putting her feet up for the first time in weeks, to a husband and wife who are full time working parents sharing tender affection throughout the show, the moments he created were immeasurable in their importance.

When it comes right down to it, Sam Weber is a deeply inspired songwriter and musician whose music resonates with the mind, body and soul. To steal a quote from fellow west coast artist Rolla Olak, “Dude has the muse somethin’ fierce.” Enough said.

Album highlights: “Right-Hearted,” his show opener that captures his life on the road and heartfelt sentiments; “August,” the album’s first single with an intro hook that sticks in your head for days and a stunningly beautiful tone from start to finish; and “Burn Out,” a song that sounds like a simple introspection upon first listen, yet after subsequent plays reveals a more complicated commentary on the mutual struggles of the human condition. To add one more for good measure, his live performance of “Don’t Hurt” brought me to tears, so naturally it’s my new favourite track.

Sam Weber performed at Serenity Performing Arts Centre on November 8, 2014.

He will be touring throughout BC until early December. Check out his homepage for show dates, links to album downloads, social media feeds and more.

Joining him on tour is the enchanting songstress Kirsten Ludwig. We had the pleasure of enjoying her company, however we were not one of the shows where she was slated to perform. If you plan to be at one where she is, count yourself lucky.

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Rolla Olak: Solo House Show

It’s officially house concert season at Serenity; a time to connect through music and relationship and build a stronger sense of community.

Returning to the venue for the third time in under a year, Rolla Olak performed a solo show, a departure from playing with a full rock band, but we didn’t mind one bit.

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Rolla has become a beloved icon of sorts for the Serenity crowd. Following his first visit here last winter while on tour with Willhorse, venue owner Shirley de Vooght was mesmerized by his talent and spirit and made a commitment to support his career. He returned to play an outdoor show in the summer, at which time Shirley asked him to join the bill for Harvest Fest 2015 to which he enthusiastically accepted.

With a gracious demeanor and humble nature, you’d never guess the guy was signed to Universal Records with a band in his youth in Toronto, or that he continues to write for major artists and record labels across Canada and the US. Rolla is a unique soul whose music represents the qualities that have come to be appreciated by his fan base…genuine, strong, tender, bold, honest, straight-up rock.

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Arriving off the highway literally minutes before his show was set to start, Rolla and his electric guitar charged up the audience immediately as he opened with “Waiting For You,” a catchy love tune he released for purchase last October that caught on immediately and was featured by many music blogs and sites, not to mention highlighted during his time as a top 20 finalist in Music BC’s 2013 Peak Performance Project.

Including the audience as active participants in his show, he led sing-a-longs, foot-stomping grooves and rocked out ballads that had the crowd all smiles and warmed with affection for this long-haired, bearded young man with an old soul.

Throughout his performance, Rolla motioned around the stage to what he referred to as his “phantom band”; it was very charming. You could almost hear the rest of the band during different parts of a song; whether there was a natural break or an amped up chorus. His performance of “Heart That Won’t Let Go” off his debut album “Western Heart” was especially interesting to watch him play solo as the track on the album is so heavily weighted by instrumentals, but he easily filled it with his voice and guitar alone.

Along with playing songs off his first album, Rolla shared his new music with us that he will begin recording next month for his sophomore albums. Yes, that’s right, albums. He will be recording two albums of original material, one with a harder rock edge to it than the other. Recently receiving a grant from The Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent on Records (FACTOR) to assist with the costs of recording, Rolla is in the final stages of organizing his production team that will include engineering by the legendary Colin Stewart (The Hive Creative Labs) at his new destination studio on Vancouver Island. If all goes as planned, we can expect to have Rolla’s new album playing in our homes come Spring 2015.

With a timeless sound and an energy that puts you at ease instantly, it’s a favour to yourself to spend any amount of time in the company of Rolla Olak and his music.


Additional show highlights: “Karolina” – His performance of this first-rate track off his debut album was smooth as silk; “Lifetimes”  – A beautiful thought provoking song worth waiting for on his new album; and a few covers that were grand in their execution, most notably Bruce Springsteen’s “State Trooper” and a stunning rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Girl from the North Country.”

Rolla Olak performed at Serenity Performing Arts Centre on October 17, 2014.

For those in the Vancouver area, you can catch Rolla on Thursday nights at The Main (corner of East 26th Ave & Main Street), a residency sponsored by Persephone Brewing Co.

Advance tickets are on sale now for Serenity’s Harvest Fest 2015 (September 11-13, 2015) with early-bird tickets already sold out. Rolla Olak and his band will be headlining Friday night.

Visit for links to music downloads, live shows, social media feeds, and more.

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Peak Performance Project Showcase #1: Jon Bryant, David Newberry and Good For Grapes

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For this small town girl heading out for a night in the big city, this show couldn’t have fulfilled my hopes any more.

Having seen each of the night’s headliners perform before, I was curious if the environment of the “competition” would impact their performances and what they would choose to highlight from their repertoires.

Jon Bryant took the stage first and immediately greeted the audience with his unique charm as he spoke to the crowd without a mic to set the tone for his personal performance and bring everyone closer. For anyone who has been to a Jon Bryant show, you will know that he is incredibly intimate and hands on with the audience; he has an ability to connect in a way I have seen few others do while on stage in the right setting. Opening in a venue like this is typically a tougher slot for a singer-songwriter as people are filing in and just getting warmed up for the night, but Jon kept his cool, held his own and even graciously invited his fellow Peak finalists to the stage to share in a rousing arms linked acoustic sing-a-long of Stan Rogers’ “Northwest Passage.” For a moment he made a downtown club feel like a living room and gave all of us a taste of what the Peak Performance Project Bootcamp may have been like (aside from the nightly pool parties and zipline extravaganzas). Undeniably, this east coast boy with a gentle heart is impossible not to adore.
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David Newberry is a treasure. After seeing him a little over a year ago perform more of an acoustic set, his albums have been playing steadily in my home ever since. With his latest EP “Desire Lines” garnering him increased national attention, it was a moving experience to watch him play with a full band and see his music come to life in such a remarkable way. His performance was exquisitely planned as he built on the audience’s growing energy with each song. Highlights were his original “Observer” that had the crowd glued to every note, and the finale performance of his recently re-recorded and released single “Slow” was the fitting pièce de résistance. Simply put, he had my heart in his hand the entire set (and entire night to be quite honest).
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Good For Grapes. My goodness. This was the fourth time I’ve seen them in just over a year, and the first seeing them as their evolved incarnation which now includes drummer Will Watson and cellist Alex Hauka. The cello was a genius move for the band as it lends itself beautifully to their sound. Not only that, having the added touch of inviting multi-instrumentalist Greg McLeod to join them on stage for a few fiddle and trombone medleys was the candle on the cake (speaking of which, how fun was it that it was lead guitarist Graham Gomez’s birthday!). At the end of the day, the band blew the roof off the place with a performance that was executed to perfection. Their song line-up was just the right blend of old and new, as they dispersed crowd favourites they have mastered with some touching new songs (like “Time and Time Again” written by lead singer Daniel McBurnie for his sisters that stripped away much of their instrumental fanfare and featured their sometimes hidden beautiful harmonies) and an off-the-charts cover of “The Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats which was easily the best surprise of the night. I’m not going to lie, I will have an eternal soft spot for this band which goes back to the beginning of starting this site, but putting the personal back story aside, Good For Grapes never disappoints a live audience, and if the crowd’s reaction to their performance was any indication, forget the Horse, 2014 is the year of the Grape.

Jon Bryant, David Newberry and Good For Grapes performed at Fortune Soundclub on September 18, 2014.

This was the first of four showcases as part of BC’s 2014 Peak Performance Project.

To stay up to date visit where you will find links to these artists and the rest of this year’s top 12.

Photos courtesy of Creative Copper Images, Peak Performance Project BC and David Newberry’s facebook page (thanks David).

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Serenity Harvest Music Festival 2014

Magic (noun): A quality of being beautiful and delightful in a way that seems remote from daily life (Oxford Dictionary).

That pretty much sums it up. In all honesty I should stop right there, because attempting to summarize what was seen and felt by the people who attended Serenity last weekend is a feat impossible to achieve. However, if providing even the smallest glimpse into the collective experience helps to entice others to discover the community, talent and energy this hidden gem is attracting, all will be well.

Serenity owner and operator Shirley de Vooght had a vision, a vision that was motivated by many of the artists who she has come to love like family. She had a desire to bring back a select group of musicians she has “harvested” throughout the year at house concerts to headline a 3 day music festival on her property. The 1st Annual Harvest Music Fest was her dream and did it ever come true.

For starters, Mother Nature was definitely on our side. The week leading up to the festival saw daily down pours, but for the three days and two nights on the acreage, we experienced sun, sun, and more sun. Summer came back in all its glory much to the delight of festival goers and all of the beautiful children that adorned the grounds with their laughter, dancing and tireless energy.

At night, the sky glowed as we were lucky enough to experience the eve of a full moon for the duration of the festival. To have the night sky mural on the main stage be reflected in the natural backdrop of the festival itself was a sight that left many in awe of the surrounding environment.

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Campers began arriving as early as Thursday to set up, with midday Friday seeing the steady flow of arrivals. By 6pm, Campground A was full to capacity and the night’s line-up was the perfect combination to open the weekend’s festivities.

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Brodie Dawson opened the festival with her sweet, pure vocals that had everyone under her spell alongside her bandmates Christy Vanden and Blaine Dunaway who nailed absolutely everything. Brodie’s voice carried beautifully across the vast open fields, while the moon began to slowly rise overhead. Vanden’s grooves on the Stratocaster guitar and Dunaway’s mastery of fiddle and cello were not only enjoyed during their show, but the three of them were mainstays at the nightly bonfires enjoyed by those who stayed awake into the early morning hours to discover what can happen after dark when you get a group of accomplished musicians together.

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Next on the line-up was Windborn. For those of us behind-the-scenes, his performance was extra special. Jeff Pike of Windborn was the catalyst behind the idea of hosting the festival and has been instrumental in the development of the venue itself. Not only did he organize the Kickstarter campaign this last year that finally gave owner/operator Shirley de Vooght a new roof for her home, indoor stage and artist housing, he also helped to install the roof over five very hot summer days and constructed a new drum riser for the stage the day before the festival started. Amazing. Needless to say, Windborn is a part of this place and when he plays on that stage, there is a familiarity and nostalgia wrapped into every lyric as if the trees are humming along. His ability to solely own the main stage with his guitar and kick drum continues to astound as his unique sound fills the vast space with ease.

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Cod Gone Wild closed out the night like only they can…with the highest amount of energy possible. They are truly a band that people talk about for days afterwards. You just can’t help but move when you listen to them. Andrew Mercer, Anjuli Otter, Roy Kawano and Chad Carter make up this dynamic foursome. People of all ages (including lots of children!) were dancing to their hearts content well into the night to this modern Celtic band’s flare. Anjuli always has the crowd in fits of laughter with her hilarious banter, and her internationally renowned fiddle playing never fails to blow people away. Not only was their performance a crowd favourite, they also provided the entire lights and sound for all of the bands at the festival. They did an impeccable job and were consummate professionals. Based on their long standing relationship with the venue and undeniable appeal, they will be returning next year and we could not be happier.

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As everyone headed back to their campsites following the show, the bonfire was a blaze with people beginning to congregate there shortly after the stage lights went out. Long after the last child had been laid down to sleep, the fireside jams carried on beyond 2am as people danced, sang, laughed and shared in the joy of friends new and old. This first night was filled with high spirits and anticipation for what was still to come.

The sun shone bright early Saturday morning, with the heat intensifying as the day progressed. For those needing the sleep, it was a day of rest and relaxation with options of taking advantage of one of the on-site vendors such as a pretty pedicure or hot stone relaxation massage from Serenity’s resident dance fairy Arden Melinda, or a private reading from Clearwater’s renowned psychic Erica Von Kcaat. For the families who were up bright and early with their children no matter how little sleep they got, there were activities planned to take part in such as hay rides and farm tours up the road at the Aveley Sheep Ranch, and a Children’s Art Garden with crafts, face painting, storytelling, and karaoke on the garden stage.

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Music started up again at 3pm with Cruel Young Heart. This Vancouver based pop band brought the FUN! They were the perfect choice to get the day going with their youthful energy and dance beats. The band was incredibly interactive with the audience, coming off the stage and sharing the mic with our smallest audience members who were mesmerized by their sound and look. Made up of James Blackmon, Drew McKay, Andrew Blackmon and Chelsea Lang, they have a real pulse on the current radio market with heavy influences from 80’s pop. Unfortunately they couldn’t stay to share in the rest of the festival and get to know everyone better, but they left a great impression and we were sad to see them go.

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Next up was North Country Gentlemen, a blend of men with strong faith-based roots, some of whom have stuck with the path, others who have rebelled against its influence. One of the weekend’s greatest quotes came from them during their set when if recalled correctly Ryan McAllister mused, “I feel like this is the place where hippies and rednecks co-exist peacefully.” This was met with roaring laughter as he hit the nail on the head regarding our community’s demographic. The harmonies created by the foursome of McAllister, JJ Shiplett, Barnaby McRae and Jeremy Friesen were humbly achieved as they played each song as if they were in the comfort of their own home. That is part of the magic of Serenity, everyone is given the freedom to relax and feel accepted. The country flare of their critically acclaimed tunes provided the perfect soundtrack to kick back and bask in the late afternoon sun.

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As North Country Gentlemen’s set was coming to a close, Devon Coyote and his band arrived following an earlier gig in Kelowna. They were met with a warm welcome as they brought along their loved ones to share in the remainder of the weekend. It is always wonderful to see musicians not only bring their partners, but also their parents. There is something about a guy on stage calling out to his mom or dad that just never gets old, and when Devon did it, it was a standout moment.

Devon Coyote has a presence and stage appeal that gets better and better each time you see him perform. Devon and his long time bass player D’Arcy Booth have played Serenity multiple times over the years, and as his success has steadily grown, his shows continue to expand in breadth. We were his third show in less than 24 hours, yet he delivered one of the purest and freshest performances of the festival. This guy has it in the bag. Reunited with one of his original and favourite drummers Rod Anderson, Devon sounded tighter than ever with his dominating Blues Rock edge. It should come as no surprise that he is getting increased recognition, including opening for Blue Rodeo and George Thorogood this past summer, and for 54-40 in November. The bigger the stages he plays, the bigger his sound and ability gets. The Serenity family can’t wait to see where he goes next.

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Not to be outdone by his friend and musical comrade, Greg Drummond took to the stage as darkness had settled in and the glow sticks began to make their nightly appearances. Greg and his band have also been regulars on the venue’s lineup over the past few years. He has earned a place in the hearts of many with his uplifting folk rock sound, and his rise in the BC music scene has been cheered on every step of the way by a growing fan base. Greg and his band (Michael Lothian, Mike Meroniuk, Greg Mcleod, and Alanna Pearce) performed their array of eclectic instruments including accordion, keys, electric guitar, bass, trumpet, mandolin and drums. Coming off months of practice and recording sessions for Greg’s sophomore album, they gave the audience exactly what they were looking for, and the adoring crowd immediately called for an encore that they graciously provided. They were also one of the few bands who camped out at the festival the entire weekend, which was appreciated by festival goers who have come to love Serenity for the camaraderie created between the audience and the artists.

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The night’s finale was a highly anticipated one for many of the venue’s regulars who influenced the decision to have this particular artist headline the second night. JJ Shiplett & The Red River Rebellion played one year ago to the day on the Serenity stage to its largest crowd to date at the time, which helped Shirley decide to host a festival the following year. It was the performance JJ gave then that solidified having him come back to close out the festival. He is raw, real Rock to its core. The guy just lays it all out on the stage, with his tortured soul and bad boy image stealing hearts each note at a time. Joined by bassist Greg Peace and Nate Giebelhaus on drums, JJ proved he cannot be tamed, with his wild red hair, quick mouth, and brooding voice that digs deep into your soul. For the last few songs, he held the stage solo without the band, playing some of his new material that is soon to be released on his sophomore album. Still relatively under the radar, JJ Shiplett is one to watch as his music is ready to resonate with the masses. Of course, underneath that exterior lies a tender heart, and Shirley has a piece of it. One of the weekend’s touching moments was when JJ brought her up on stage to publicly thank and recognize her for all of her efforts and support.

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For his encore set, JJ spontaneously invited members of the other bands to join him on stage where they created an instant super group. They played a rendition of The Band’s classic “The Weight” that put the crowd in a frenzy and included accordion, trombone, drum and tambourine solos to name a few. To take a line from today’s pop-culture vocabulary, “It was epic.”

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Saturday evening drew to a close as had the night before, with a roaring bonfire and beautiful voices filling the starry sky. On this night, the mood was softer, more intimate, as everyone had come to know one another more deeply, and the recognition that tomorrow would be filled with goodbyes was looming. As the hours drew on, the music became sweeter, and the circle huddled closer, not only to get the last of the fire’s warmth, but to soak up each moment we could of each other’s company. It must also be mentioned that many a musician not featured on the festival line-up were “headliners” at the nightly bonfire jams. In particular, Nils Loewen on cello (who also provided the official festival photography and videography), as well as his brother Dan Loewen on guitar and vocals led some of the most memorable jam sessions of the weekend. Accomplished Merritt based artist Cassandra Dolen also graced our festival with her presence and donated one of her beautiful original walnut oil paintings. She too lent her angelic voice to our campfire concerts. Music festival mainstay Doug Koyoma joined our Serenity family as our volunteer gate keeper, and his deep, soulful voice and sing-a-long rounds were dearly appreciated. An honourable mention must also be made to Greg Drummond’s “fill-in” bass player, Greg Mcleod, who came along with a multitude of instruments he showcased including fiddle and trombone…the nickname “Super G” stuck instantly and I’m fairly sure there is a Facebook fan page in production as we speak.


If that was not enough, by midday on Sunday, the main stage was packed with multiple artists re-creating the nightly bonfire jams only amplified. It was the perfect way to end off what was truly an exceptional experience.

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After all was said and done, with a few hundred people gracing the grounds over three days, it was heart warming to see how respectful festival attendees had been with little to no garbage being left on the campsite grounds and every piece of property still in one piece and in working order.

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Special thanks goes out to Tacos`n`More, our delicious food vendor who fed us extremely well and generously throughout the weekend. And of course as always, our endless gratitude is given to Shirley de Vooght for dedicating her life and property to creating a place where experiences like this can occur.

On behalf of all of us on the Serenity team, a heartfelt thank you is due to everyone in attendance who created the magic that defined the 1st Annual Harvest Music Fest. See you next year!

Photos courtesy of Shirley de Vooght, Steve Mechem and Nils Loewen.

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