You belong here.

Belonging. Isn’t that what we all want? Whether it is within our family, friendships, jobs, or communities, finding a place to belong in this world is worth its weight in gold.

This is the essence of Serenity. From the first time I sat on that acreage and heard the music spread across the pasture and echo off the mountainside, I knew I was a part of something incredibly special. Every time I climb down those stairs into the cozy living room for a house concert, I feel as if I could curl up and stay for days. It feels like home.

There is a safety that washes over me. Expectations disappear. I revert to the most at peace version of myself. Quiet, observant, introverted, sponge of emotion, thoughtful, reflective. I just take it all in without needing to be anything other that who I am in that moment. It is equal parts freeing and nurturing.

We celebrated venue owner Shirley de Vooght’s birthday this past weekend. Everyone came dressed in red flannel. Windborn performed and donated all of the proceeds from the ticket sales back to the venue as a fundraiser. He knows better than most the labour of love this place has been. He has spent countless hours helping to repair buildings and assist with construction. The fundraiser was timely to help support the mounting fees from SOCAN that have been pouring in recently. Shirley spoke in length to the reality she is facing as a small independent venue owner being forced to pay up to SOCAN in order to not be faced with legal action. It is heartbreaking for those of us who see how selflessly hard she works (even through being diagnosed with leukemia and going through chemo last year),  knowing full well that any profit she might make from a show goes directly into the costs of keeping up the venue which houses and feeds the artists when they are here. Her hospitality and the experience artists get when performing here have earned Serenity such high praise and appreciation among touring musicians that a number of bands based in Vancouver are hosting a concert fundraiser for the venue on February 18 at the Imperial Theatre. This shows what an impact Shirley and Serenity as a whole has made on the independent music industry in BC.

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After Windborn’s house concert the other night, a group of regulars remained after the show to visit and celebrate Shirley’s birthday. We played the infamous Serenity champagne game which includes passing around a bottle of champagne and sharing a favourite memory or thankful offering before taking a swig and passing it on. Looking around that circle of 20 people I was amazed. School teachers, a bus driver, a homemaker, a farmer, a corporate business manager, some retirees, a musician, a social service worker, a mechanic, a few high school students (no, they didn’t drink, the teachers happen to be their parents), a veterinarian…and the list goes on. This cross-section of people in our community may never have connected and yet now are so intertwined with each other that we consider ourselves part of a ‘Serenity family.’ Who knew deciding to attend a music concert one day could lead to something like this.

Shirley continues to be driven by a vision to create a place where music heals, delights, entertains, connects and inspires love for others and love for oneself.

Thank you Shirley for holding space for us. Here’s to you.

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Windborn performed at Serenity Performing Arts Centre on November 26, 2016. Find him on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Windborn/119928271351346

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Harvest Fest 2016

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It has been one week since this year’s third annual Harvest Music Festival at Serenity. I have been dragging my feet on this piece because once I write it down I won’t be able to relive it in this amount of depth again.

To describe this festival equates to the type of experience you have at a close family wedding…intimate, friendly, fun, safe and full of love.

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The fact that the festival takes place on the private property of venue owner Shirley de Vooght provides a homegrown quality that you just can’t match. Every ounce of this event is crafted by her hand and those that she holds in her inner circle. Serenity is Shirley and Shirley is Serenity…you don’t have one without the other; this place is as personal as it gets.

This year we faced some not-so-perfect weather moments which was new as in previous years it has been hotter than a mid summer’s day. However, the bouts of rain didn’t dampen spirits. People got creative and took care of one another, then the skies would clear at just the right moments and provide relief.

14352343_10210010210193199_6232368022359217555_oFriday night opened with North Saanich based Sam Weber and his band. Weber’s pace was just the right recipe to ease us into the weekend. Having been across this country over the past year touring his new album ‘Valentina Nevada,’ Weber and his band performed a polished set that had everything we were looking for as the festival opener including Weber’s renowned guitar skills, gorgeous melodies on keys and some of the best lyricism we would hear all weekend.

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Next up was crowd favourite and Harvest Fest alumni Greg Drummond. Basically this guy could sing the ABC’s and the Harvest Fest audience would be fanning all over him. Drummond and his band delivered their staple folk’n’roll sound with tunes that have people dancing and singing along immediately proving why they have been given a place on the line-up each year. Mike Meroniuk’s mandolin mastery is always a huge hit as are Michael Lothian’s trumpet solos. Drummond conjures up what we all love most about this place and his performance reminded us why we come back year after year.

 

 

Night one closed out with the one and only WiL. I had heard about his live performance for years and it didn’t even compare to what it was actually like watching him. There were multiple moments where it almost didn’t seem possible that he was making those sounds come from an acoustic guitar. Needless to say he lives up to his homepage ibreakstrings.com. The guy was on fire. 14257512_10210010215193324_7037579019649197238_oAccompanied by Keith Gallant on drums and Lena Birtwistle on keys, he lit up the stage with his fun banter and explosive playing that left us all in complete awe, including creating sounds unheard of before as he slap-played his acoustic guitar like it was a Dobro, having many in the crowd immediately referencing the film “August Rush” (YouTube it). I for one was so entranced by his performance I couldn’t even get out of my chair. It was hypnotizing. His new EP ‘Songs’ was released this very same day (get it!) which made his appearance at the festival extra special. For someone who has been at this for decades, toured this country from one end to the other and back again and played stages large and small, WiL’s appearance at our festival meant a lot and his performance will not soon be forgotten.

The rain on Friday night kept the campfire shenanigans to a minimum, but thanks to brothers and avid musicians Nils and Dan Loewen, they kept it warm with jubilant music for those ready to brave the cold and wet conditions. The Loewen brothers have become integral components of this little-festival-that-could, with Nils being the weekend’s official photographer and Dan getting the campfire sing-a-longs going each night. Dan also played a big role in the Freedom Arts program offered for the children of the festival this year that ran throughout the day on Saturday.

My main role with the festival is to coordinate programming in the Children’s Art Garden. This year we brought in musicians Angela Roy (vocals/percussion/musical director) and Steve Gosselin (stand up bass) of band Barefoot Caravan from Vernon BC who provided their ‘Freedom Arts’ program where they taught children songs with a variety of percussion instruments, and led a songwriting workshop that had the children write their own original song accompanied by Dan Loewen on guitar and Gosselin on stand up bass. 14264232_10153892263797957_6340461199564990173_nThe children performed their song on the main stage Sunday morning to the delight of their families. This was a welcomed addition this year and it was incredible to see the confidence built in the children and the pride they felt during and after their performance. As a parent, it was a highlight of my weekend to see my daughter move from not being sure she wanted to participate in the program at all to being one of the lead singers who had an immediate love of the microphone.

14224765_10153892264057957_5063203348999395826_nThe art garden also included mural painting on the fence, watercolour painting, face painting, colouring and a wand-making craft. It is always a space full of creativity, laughter and fun during the day on Saturday that keeps the children busy as their parents recover from the night before and the musicians get prepared to perform in the afternoon.

14352318_10210010219153423_2629599418993012513_oFirst up on Saturday was Jason & the Diatonics. This group who has been keeping a low profile over the past year was a nice way to break us into the day with their acoustic-pop sound and fun, cheeky lyrics. They hung out for a good portion of the weekend which is always a nice compliment. Serenity is known for encouraging artists who are still finding their footing and striking the balance between following their artistic dreams and making a living. Here’s hoping Harvest Fest motivated Jason & the Diatonics to keep their foot in the door because they are a special band with their own unique style.

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Windborn performed next. For anyone who knows anything about this venue, Windborn is almost synonymous with Serenity. He has been a part of building this place for years (literally building it, he has done a lot of the construction and roofing on the property) and even lived here for a stint writing music during a major crossroads in his life. Typically performing solo with a set up that includes a kick drum and loop pedal, he surprised all of us as his set included not only his past duo-mate Nils Loewen on cello, but also Cod Gone Wild musicians Roy Kawano on bass and Chad Carter on drums who backed him for the entirety of his set. It was incredible. windborn-01To hear Windborn’s tunes with a full band was a gift to those of us who have been listening for years and appreciate his unique artistry and creative mind. What he has been able to create on stage by himself has always amazed us, but to see his songs brought to life in a new way with other musicians was satisfying as a listener. And nothing beats Nils’ accompaniment on the cello…it brought back memories of when they used to tour as a duo and reminded us all of the magic they create together on stage. Here’s hoping this is just the beginning of what’s to come for the dynamic evolution of Windborn.

Rounding out the afternoon was the insanely talented trio She Could Be Trouble. Blending the talents of Tracey Riley, Brodie Dawson and Christy Vanden, who can hold their own as solo artists any day of the week, the result is nothing short of perfection. Their exquisite harmonies, mad guitar skills and all around vibe gave us one of the most memorable performances of the festival. It is no surprise that this group has been receiving rave reviews and award nominations this past year as they have been touring the country, along with releasing their first collaborative album as a trio, ‘Nineteen Hours.’ She Could Be Trouble are pure entertainment with a roster of tunes a mile long thanks to combining each of their personal anthologies and a live show that hits all the right notes.14362546_10210010224113547_3105863389217485100_o

After a dinner break that included massive rain storms and sent more than a few tents flying and people scrambling to stake down their shelters, the skies cleared just in time for the evening’s first set with Brent Tyler.

14362594_10210010331316227_485323085971705375_oI imagine every review ever written about Brent Tyler references the juxtaposition between his towering size and delicately tender music. But it is exactly this that makes him so memorable and adored. His presence both on stage and off is undeniable. brent-tyler-02Not only his physical self, impossible to miss in a crowd as he casts a shadow over top of all of us, but it is his kindness, silliness and the laughter that omits from everyone around him that makes up the folklore around this gentle giant. He performed as a duo with band mate Jory Kinjo, serenading us all into the festival’s final night. Heralded by his colleagues across the country, Brent Tyler is a sought after singer/songwriter and his time at Harvest Fest proved nothing less.

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After being warmed up by Brent Tyler, we were ready to get all hot and bothered by Devon Coyote’s rock’n’blues. Returning to Serenity for the first time since his appearance at the first annual Harvest Fest, this band brought the audience to their feet as we sunk our teeth into the gritty performance that had all the elements the audience had been craving. Devon Coyote is made up of lead singer/guitarist Devon Bjarnason, bassist/multi-instrumentalist D’Arcy Booth and drummer/percussionist Rod Anderson. The trio have been a solid band for the past few years and it shows. Their live performance is dynamic, raw roots rock with blues soul that gets right into your bones. When Devon gets on that lap steel you get lost right along with him. High energy with an intensity you can feel through and through, Devon Coyote brought the rock that we had been waiting for.devon-coyote-13

 

It isn’t Harvest Fest without the mainstay band of this festival, Cod Gone Wild. Not only do they wow as an evening closer every single year, they are on-site for the entire weekend providing lights and sound for the festival. 14258295_10210010227633635_2907249077166456994_oTheir modern take on traditional Celtic tunes gets everyone up on their feet as they maintain an energy unmatched from start to finish. It had been one year since seeing fiddler Susan Aylard perform with them live for the first time and since then their cohesion as a band has fused perfectly. Knowing this was the last show we would see with longtime drummer Chad “Rhino” Carter who is moving on from the band in mid-October was bittersweet, but it forced us all to take in every second to remember the magic that comes from this combination of musicians performing some of our country’s most historic music. Led by Andrew Mercer, whose Newfoundland roots fuel every step of the band’s development, we are all eager to see what Cod Gone Wild does next.cgw-09

cgw-12Saturday night’s bonfire was much more in step with what we are used to as the sky became perfectly clear and the stars shone bright. Many of the musicians from the day’s line-up took a turn sharing their favourite cover or two and igniting that sense of community Serenity has come to be known for. A special thanks to each and every one of you for taking that extra time to connect with the festival goers around the fire through sharing in a mutual love of music.

 

We all woke up to blue sky and sun for the festival’s final day. The warm air was a welcome gift as we spent the morning and early afternoon lounging in the sunlight taking in the remaining performances.

The Freedom Arts program opened the morning as the children performed what they had written the day before. Such a sweet addition to this family-friendly festival.

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Joal Kamps and his beautiful (and very pregnant) wife Lauren performed as a duo after touring and performing together over the past year since trying it out at our festival last year. Their connection and deep love for one another shines through with each note. They are truly a captivating couple to watch, equally humble as they are stunning. 14258166_10210010232273751_1853518129596947087_oLauren’s simple vocal harmonies and mandolin melodies added such weight to Joal’s award winning songs as they brought an authentic folk singer element to the festival. Expecting their first child in just a few weeks, they made it to Serenity just under the wire before they stop traveling (thank goodness for those of us who also greatly anticipate Lauren’s jewelry line ‘Flint & Feather’)!

Closing out the festival was Kelowna’s HOT KNOX. Between the blue sky, warm sun and knowing it was the last band to perform at the festival, HOT KNOX had my full attention and were the best surprise of the entire weekend. This band is all about the good vibes. I felt like they transported me to the coolest beach party on the planet. 14257576_10210010232713762_4385472016873301933_ohot-knox-12

From their original tunes of love, friendship and good time hangs, to their unique covers of a few top 40 favourites, this 5 piece (plus good friend Devon Coyote who joined them on stage as an additional guitarist) is an eclectic blend of modern pop and vintage rock. Referring to themselves as a jam band, there are no plans to record or tour heavily in their future as they embrace the pure enjoyment of playing together when they find the time between their individual varied lives which include a Pro beach volleyball player, retiree living in Mexico for half of the year and a producer for an event management company.

After the traditional all artist band jam took place and campers began packing up their sites, a handful of us remained. Forming a circle with a glass of champagne, we toasted Shirley, each other, the artists, the audience and another memorable year of connection through music. It’s a beautiful thing.

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Harvest Music Festival took place September 9-11, 2016 at Serenity Performing Arts Centre.  Click on the following links to connect to the artists who performed at this year’s festival.

http://www.samweber.me

http://www.gregdrummond.com

http://www.ibreakstrings.com (WiL)

http://www.facebook.com/jasonandthediatonics

http://www.facebook.com/Windborn-119928271351346/

http://www.shecouldbetrouble.com

http://www.brentyler.com

http://www.devoncoyote.com

http://www.codgonewild.com

http://www.joalkamps.com

http://www.facebook.com/HOT-KNOX-386028478198511/

http://www.barefootcaravan.ca

The 2017 Harvest Fest line-up is already in place and the super early bird tickets are almost sold out! Call 250-676-9456 or email serenitymusic88@gmail.com to get your tickets while you still can!

Photo credits courtesy of Nils Loewen, Steve Mechem and Jamie Holloway. Special shout out of thanks to the festival vendors this year…a little bit of everything from Erica Von Kcaat’s psychic readings, handmade clothes, jewelry and gifts from ‘Mystic Dreams’ and ‘Second Nature’, UniTea’s yummy breakfasts and lattes, world class meals from Hop’n’Hog’s food truck ‘The Piglet’ and Shirley’s famous Serenity cheesecake!!

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Luca.

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I have met a lot of musicians over the past three years since a series of events drew me in to the world of independent music in BC, a place filled with people who enlighten me about myself and the world in new ways with each passing day.

Every time I write about an artist after a show, I do my best to describe the feeling or particular account of our meeting, highlighting the memories of our conversation and their performance that are hardest to shake from my mind.

Each musician I have had the pleasure of spending time with are unique, with their own talents to share, stories to tell and way in which they connect.  I purposefully write from a place of gratitude and appreciation for each artist I come into contact with.  I make a concerted effort to identify and celebrate the best parts of a person and their music that has been revealed to me.  Yet, because of this, it is difficult to set apart someone in particular when it is well known that I write from a positive perspective for everyone.

These few paragraphs are a necessary preamble for what I am about to attempt in writing about Luca Fogale.

Luca.  This name is destined to be widely known as being synonymous with music that connects people to places inside themselves that they yearn to know.

I worry that every attempt to describe the feelings that have flooded my system because of his artistry and kindness will be trivialized by words.

For three years I have followed his burgeoning music career.  I have had the pleasure of being in his company multiple times over this period and experienced first hand a human being who is capable of connecting in the most genuine way.

When Luca released his first full length album ‘Safety’ on July 1, I was floored.  I knew how talented he was, I had seen him perform and had appreciated his first EP ‘Paths,’ but what he has produced on this album is a body of work that has limitless emotional fuel to catch fire.

Listening to him speak about the time he took to make it, how he meditated over each bar, altering the smallest of pieces, to eventually create a complete work of art, it is still one of the greatest wonders of the world that music gets made in the first place.

To hear his growth as a songwriter, composer, vocalist and musician on this album is what I appreciate the most as a listener.

He poured everything he had into it, to the point that he would be happy to never listen to it again.

It delivers on every level.  Each song tells a story that can be understood in its own unique way by each individual who listens.  His lyricism, though personal and gripping, has the ability to translate into a form that resembles any one person’s experiences and feelings.

Although he shared the basis of a selection of the songs from his perspective, it does not change how I interpret them while listening, the imagery that enters my thoughts, the memories they conjure, the feelings they raise.

Isn’t this the truest benchmark of art when shared, that the creator and their own muses are no longer central after the emotional baton is received and treasured uniquely by others.  Because art is the purest tangible gift available to us.  What we receive because of its creation is beyond comparison.

What I have received from Luca’s music is a sense of the depths of my ability to feel, that there are no limits to what I have the capacity to be moved by.  It is whether I am brave enough to go there.  He pushes me to think deeper, investigate the hollows of my heart and be as strong as possible to search and reconcile what excites my soul and what damages it beyond repair.

The fact that I was provided the opportunity to plan a few shows for him this past weekend hasn’t quite sunk in.

From a historic Okanagan fruit orchard, to my rural community’s art gallery, both evenings were incredibly special.  Luca’s gracious nature was felt by everyone in attendance.

14199520_10154308335170491_7944726625777999201_nAt Paynter’s Fruit Market in Westbank, BC, Luca began the show among the orchards, with the audience seated just above him looking out over the fields and rolling valley hills. Framed by the fruit trees and standing atop packing pallets, the scene was spectacular.  As a storm rolled in hard and fast at the close of his first set, we moved everything under cover in the market, adorned by hanging flower baskets and a hand painted mural on the interior wall, while the rest of the sides were open to the air as we listened to Luca perform and the rain poured down on the roof above us.  The crowd moved closer to one another, with those in the front getting as close to him as they could, sitting right at his feet.  14184567_10154308349295491_3114049219644440257_nThe backdrop was a red tractor adorned with lights.  He tantalized us with the stories behind some of his songs and his gratitude for our attendance.  It was an especially touching night for the venue’s owners as the Paynter family had attended a celebration of life that afternoon for one of their family members, Geoffrey Paynter, who had passed away from brain cancer after being diagnosed just over a month ago.  Geoffrey was a prominent community member with roots that ran deep; his contribution to the community and his place in the Paynter family will be sorely missed.  Without knowing this, Luca spoke about how he is often asked to play funerals and shared his experiences observing how incredibly special and moving it can be to see families come together to celebrate the lives of their loved ones.  The synchronicity in that moment was something to behold.

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In Clearwater, BC at the local art gallery, it was a small crowd that included my dear friends and their three young children.   By the end of the first set their youngest son was asleep in his father’s arms.  By the end of the second, their daughter had drifted as well, with their eldest son cuddled up nearly there. Luca had lulled them to sleep with his voice, which is no surprise as it is one of the most comforting sounds I have ever heard. Surrounded by angelic sleeping children and a handful of people from our small community, we shared in an evening of beauty set among local art and soft lights (and delicious baked goods brought by the attendees to share).

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Apart from performing his own material, Luca covered Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You.” There is no doubt in my mind that Joni would be as much in awe to hear him sing it as the rest of us were.  His vocal range and connection to her brilliant lyricism gifted the song a deserving performance.  It is always enlightening to learn about the music that inspires a musician themselves.  Knowing the extent to which Luca connects to Joni Mitchell’s songs gives you a clue into his heart and soul.

And what a heart and soul it is.  Truly unmatched among us.

 

Luca Fogale performed at Paynter’s Fruit Market in Westbank BC on September 3 and at the NTAC Art Gallery in Clearwater BC on September 4. He is currently on tour across Canada until early November, taking him all the way to PEI and back again. Visit http://www.lucafogale.com for links to album downloads, social media feeds and more.

 

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Folk Road Show: A brotherhood with a global family of fans

I often wonder about the timing of things. Whether it is meeting a certain person or a particular occurrence, ‘timing is everything’ as the saying goes.

Last summer I stayed at a lake house for a week and spent one night writing about the Folk Road Show who I had recently seen perform at Serenity Performing Arts Centre.

One year later, here I am at the same lake house reflecting on the same band (I saw Folk Road Show perform almost two weeks ago in Kelowna).

14046022_10157230232630577_5472390648414283722_nThe timing of this only just occurred to me as I sat down to write in my journal tonight. I re-read the blog piece I wrote about them last summer and remembered sitting in this exact spot recalling our conversations shared and the impact those first impressions of them had on me. A year later and my affections for them have only grown.

When I read that Folk Road Show were commencing another Canadian summer tour  I immediately contacted one of my editors at BeatRoute to pitch covering it and got the green light. To read that piece which was published in the August issue of BeatRoute magazine, click here: http://beatroute.ca/2016/08/15/international-collective-of-songwriters-forge-lasting-bond-at-folk-road-show/

Of course, with any writing assignment I had to leave out many details, some of which were my favourite parts of my conversation with Benjamin James Caldwell when chatting with him from his home in Australia leading up to their tour. For starters, his description of their mutual admiration for Canadian singer/songwriter David Newberry basically made my year. “He is an absolute genius,” said Benjamin. “Not a day goes by that David Newberry is not mentioned when we are on tour together.” This extends to writing songs about Newberry and also referencing Newberry’s song titles in their own song lyrics. The sharing of this solidified that these guys are my kind of people, the type who indulge in and deeply appreciate the pure brilliant lyricism of a fellow artist.

There is something so damn feel-good about this band that it’s almost hard to describe in words, which says a lot coming from me. As Benjamin shared, “we are just a bunch of musicians who really like touring and get along well” (and happen to compliment each other perfectly on stage and rip your heart out with their harmonies). But being around them the other night got me thinking about why I feel such affection towards many of the touring musicians I have met over the years.

On this night in particular, I was with my mom and sister. It was the eve of my mother’s 65th birthday and my sister and I had taken her away to spend some quality time together. That evening we hired a photographer to capture some images of the three of us at a local garden and down at the beach and then we went out to Fernando’s for some exceptional Mexican food and music. Being greeted by the hugs, smiles and stories from the band made the night incredibly special, including having a song dedicated to my mom which made her entire night.

Folk Road Show put on one hell of a performance. Seeing their growth together over the past year was thrilling, especially the addition of drummer Nick Petrowich who is hands down one of my favourite musicians on the planet. Nick takes their sound to a whole new level, every song felt like an anthem of folk music. From Dominique Fricot’s unmistakable voice that I could listen to on repeat for a lifetime, Pieter Van Vliet’s trombone solos, Olaf Caarls’ sweet harmonies and Benjamin James Caldwell’s multi-instrument showcases, each song built at just the right time and kept the audience hungry for more. It’s also worth mentioning the Dominique transformed himself for a very unique performance of R Kelly’s “Ignition” that sent the entire room into hysterics of awe-filled joy. It was ‘epic’ if there was ever a reason to use the word. Adding to the fact that the boys of Devon Coyote were in full swing in the audience, include Devon himself who crashed the stage to play tambourine for the tune “Helena.” Devon shared with me that it is his favourite track off their new album, “I just keep playing it over and over again!” he said with much enthusiasm.

14125149_10154274266315491_677268564004475959_oMore than anything else, it is the sense of connection, almost like family, that you get from the Folk Road Show, but a family that is fleeting, so you need to get in all the love you can before they’re gone.  It’s a sentiment I deeply relate to, and is why I think I gravitate so strongly to many of the touring musicians I have met on the road.

I grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba surrounded by extended family. 21 first cousins for starters and many aunts and uncles who provided us with endless love and a sense of belonging.  It was bliss.

My mom’s closest sister moved to BC when I was 6 for the warmer climate which the doctors thought would be better for her health. We spent every summer visiting her and my cousins after they moved. When I was 10 we made the decision to move so they would have family closer to them. My aunt died just a few months after we arrived.

It was the first time I experienced what death really meant for those left behind.  Since then, I have said goodbye to other family members including both sets of grandparents and another one of my mother’s sisters, all who were incredibly close to us.

Even though my family is spread out now throughout the country, when we come together for family events, the ties that bind us remain strong and we make significant connections in small amounts of time.

Folk Road Show create this same sense of family with each other and those around them. It is the shared knowledge that you only have a few hours together that drives the moments to be more meaningful, to skip the small talk and get right down to the feelings that lie just beneath the surface. There isn’t time to waste.

And isn’t that one of the greatest lessons to learn in life. It doesn’t pay to wait to tell someone you care about them, to give someone a compliment or to share a word of affirmation and encouragement. To give love is also to receive it.

14138084_10154274265145491_4417010477715238377_o.jpgThank you Folk Road Show for providing such a beautiful evening of music and energy to share with my family. You have my heart.

Folk Road Show performed at Fernando’s Pub in Kelowna, BC on August 22, 2016 as part of their Canadian tour.  They released their first studio album on August 23, 2016 through Classic Waxxx Records.  Their Canadian tour concludes in early September and their European tour begins in October.

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The Wild Romantics

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Sometimes nights unfold in ways that are not able to predict that can take you by surprise and remind you what you love most about the world.

The Wild Romantics performance at Serenity brought with it an energy that carried on until the early morning hours that sent us to sleep under a blanket of stars. The history and reputation of the band’s fronting duo of Aleisha Kalina and Evan Miller proceeded their visit to the acreage. Over the past year in particular their name has been mentioned by musicians traveling through or on our social media feeds. Countless accolades from trusted sources, including booking agent Todd Menzies of Menzies Music Productions, were automatic cues that they were a band to take notice of and when Menzies called Serenity to book them for the tour, venue owner Shirley de Vooght didn’t hesitate.

The venue doesn’t host many shows in the summer months as de Vooght is busy operating her B & B full time and preparing the grounds for the three day Harvest Music Festival in early September. All the reason why this particular show had much anticipation leading up to it for Serenity regulars.

What we got was a performance filled with passion, aesthetic appeal, excellent musicianship and did I say passion? The Wild Romantics have evolved from their folk roots into a full fledged rock band, complete with their slick black-clad handsome backing band, the gorgeous fronting duo of Miller and Kalina have established an image of a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde. Evan Miller with his wide-brimmed hat and long black locks, looking like he was born on stage and Kalina with her golden hair, striking face and moves that will get anyone all hot and bothered…it is virtually impossible to keep your eyes off of her. From her husky, bluesy voice and ability to enchant everyone within a five mile radius, Kalina is a force to be reckoned with. Miller’s guitar mastery and their combined vocal harmonies produce an electric combination, which is exposed even more when performing a few songs as an acoustic duo without the band.

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The fun back story of the two, whose chemistry is not only electric on stage, but off stage as well (they are a couple) is that they went to the same high school in Ladysmith but never knew each other because of their age difference. Kalina is 4 years older.

They had both been in the high school improv program in Ladysmith, and they continued performing and being involved with the artistic community in University, including Kalina going on to study theatre and dramatic arts. Their names became known to one another and through mutual friends had an opportunity to perform together. Their worlds collided and there was no looking back .

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Although both had been musicians in their own right, it was not until they met that they gave each other the inspiration and support to write songs to perform together. It didn’t take long for them to decide on pursuing their music and to form a legitimate band. Over the past few years things have been moving at a steady pace, including being awarded a spot in the Top 12 of BC’s 2014 Peak Performance Project. During this time they also recorded their first EP, She Could Tell with producer, and fellow Peak alumni Cory Woodward. Since that experience they have only been growing stronger and faster, putting together a band that rounds out their evolving sound and fuses perfectly in terms of personalities touring across the country. Jarred Bolen on bass, Rory Koese on guitar and Eric Banerd on drums round out the band that not only rocked the stage like long-time pros, but gave us one of the best after show hangs in a long time (much of which is impossible to describe out of context, but these guys let loose and turned into a modern, yet much better looking, interpretation of the Three Stooges including half-naked wrestling matches, hilarious nickname reveals and drinking the oddest concoctions imaginable in one cup. I will not confirm that the star of much of the hilarity centered around one individual.  Okay, his name starts with a J, but that is the only hint I am giving). Having heard descriptions of their collective personalities and observed them myself over the course of the night, Kalina’s reference to her and the rest of the band members sitting on a continuum of the anxiety spectrum was the most interesting, with one end being paranoid and organized (which has been extremely helpful to the band) to the other end being forever laid back and relaxed (equally as helpful). I will leave it open to ponder who lies where.

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It is clear that although diverse, they have hit a sweet balance that allows everyone to play their part and contribute in ways that add to the greater good of the band’s well being. With a plan to record their full length debut album this Fall and Winter at Blue Light Studio in Vancouver with producer JP Maurice, the Wild Romantics are more fired up than ever for what their future holds.

With intense drive and a clear vision of who they are as people and who they want to be as performers, this band is ready to take on the world one show at a time.

Their six track debut EP She Could Tell is available now. From the tender, hypnotic folk ballad “India Lee,” to the up tempo, automatic sing-a-longs like “Who Ya’ Foolin’” and “A Monday in May,” it is an automatic go-to album. And from what we heard of their new material at the live show, their full length album is sure to be worth waiting for and then some.

 

The Wild Romantics performed at Serenity Performing Arts Centre on August 5, 2016. They are currently on tour across Western Canada. Visit www.thewildromantics.com for links to their EP, social media feeds, tour dates and more.

Photos courtesy of Shirley de Vooght. 

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Damn Fools open the outdoor concert season at Serenity

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Damn Fools.  These guys just get everything about rock music. It doesn’t matter how many people they play to, they give it everything they have, every time. After decades of friendship and a handful forged as a legitimate rock band, they are more dynamic than ever together on stage and are in the midst of recording their second studio album.

Performing the first outdoor show of the year at Serenity, the gorgeous acreage was lit up with the energy they brought to the show. Lead singer Mike Twining is a force of nature. His style and dynamic stage presence grabs the audience instantly, while their vintage sound and cohesiveness on stage as a band keeps the audience engaged from start to finish.

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Each of the members have their own distinct presence, which they highlight throughout the show while emphasizing their collective strength as a band. This will also be reflected in their upcoming album. “This album has been much more of a collective effort than our last,” shared lead guitarist Andrew Twining. “ Mike (Twining) and I brought the initial ideas forward but the band has really contributed in the evolution of the songs.”

df 3 may 2016 What stood out the most at this show was their new material by far. They have kicked it up a notch in the tempo department with hooks and choruses that have you singing along in no time. “One main focus for us has been groove. We want people dancing when we play and noticed where the gaps were left from our last album that needed to be filled,” said Twining (Andrew).

 

This had been the first live show they had played in almost 8 months. Their time in the studio together showed. It is always encouraging to see a band a year later having made such significant strides and show confidence and increasing bliss together on stage, it energizes the fan base in a huge way. Just last night they played the main stage at Vancouver Craft Beer Week at the PNE grounds alongside a lineup of some of the city’s favourite local talent, a great way to head into the summer for the band.

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For a band made up of individuals who are coming into their own, falling in love, getting married, establishing personal goals, and figuring out what they stand for in regards to social and political issues, their music reflects this time in their lives and brings the listener along for the ride.

Standout performances of the night (all new tracks on the upcoming album): “All My Love” sounds like a song that has always been on your playlist, it gets stuck in your head immediately; “Struggling” gets under your skin and has such a deep groove feel, beyond easy to dig; “Give It On Up” was their last song of the night, they absolutely killed it and was the perfect choice to end the show on a high.

Damn Fools performed at Serenity Performing Arts Centre on May 28, 2016. They are currently recording their second studio album at Studio Downe Under in Abbotsford, BC.

Photos courtesy of Steve Mechem.

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Lydia Hol glows

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It has been over a month since I have written anything or thought about writing for that matter. The reasons why I haven’t aren’t important to discuss here, it is the reason I am now that is worth mentioning.

Over a week ago I had the pleasure of seeing Lydia Hol perform for what felt like the most exclusive house show in years at Serenity Performing Arts Centre.

The night began with special guest Larissa Tandy of Australia who recently moved to Vancouver. Hol had invited Tandy to join the tour which she gratefully accepted, if for nothing else than to see parts of BC for the first time. “This is the farthest North I have ever been!” shared Tandy. Her stripped down tunes of family tales, long distance love and her fun-filled spirit provided a strong intro.

After a short break Lydia Hol took to the stage. From the first note that left her lips I was transfixed. Even though there were only a handful of people in the living room, not only was her performance sublime perfection, her graceful appearance reflected an artist who could have been singing in a concert hall. Her respect for the listener humbled her instantly while elevating her to great heights, so much so that venue owner Shirley de Vooght offered her a place on the 2017 Harvest Music Festival bill immediately following the show.

12970843_10154053305268428_3789559381786773799_oHol was accompanied by Alex Hauka on cello (Good For Grapes; Wooden Horsemen) who provides a depth and beauty to every piece of music he comes into contact with, and Leathan Milne on guitar, a solo artist in his own right whose talent and dedication to authenticity is just as cool as his name. She met both Hauka and Milne in the 2013 Peak Performance Project, both men had entered supporting other musical endeavours and over the years the three have remained steadfast collaborators with each other. Hauka and Milne’s support of Hol’s music was tangible, you could tell they were there because they believed in her and embraced the opportunity to play music that was clearly as enjoyable to play as it was to listen to.

In the midst of planning her first European tour, Lydia Hol was brimming with excitement about what is to come for her and her music career.

While on stage she emoted a presence that was both intoxicating and freeing. One moment I would have my eyes closed lost in the music and the next I would be glued to her on stage as she swayed with the melody or moved her hands as if conducting a symphony.

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The pureness to her music and performance style provided an intimate and endearing experience as an audience member which was exactly what I needed at that moment.

A few months ago I reviewed her new album Heading North for BeatRoute magazine. You can read it here. http://beatroute.ca/2016/02/11/lydia-hol-heading-north/ After the show she provided me with a physical copy of the album as a gesture of thanks.

The thanks are all ours Lydia.

 

Lydia Hol performed at Serenity Performing Arts Centre on April 6, 2016.

Visit her website at http://www.lydiahol.com/ to stay up to date on her tour schedule, links to social media feeds and more.

Photos courtesy of Shirley de Vooght.

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