Music is one of the only true universal languages.
No matter the country or culture music is shared from pole to pole and in every hemisphere.
Music festivals have become a gathering ground for music lovers to share their passion, swoon over favourite musicians and experience new ones.
Starbelly Jam began in the late 1990s after a group of Crawford Bay locals decided to throw a party.
Since then it has hosted big names like Ron Sexsmith, Blackalicious and Michael Franti.
As fans and musicians prepare to descend on Crawford Bay next Friday, there seems to be a palpable excitement and anticipation building.
The Cave Singers
“I feel like the crowds at festivals are usually pretty excited and joyful,” said Pete Quirk of Seattle’s The Cave Singers. “We came to [the Kootenays] to play in the woods at Little Fest. It was just amazing… I’m very excited to come back to that area. I believe we’ll be staying in a tiny cabin. The people there are just crazy awesome.”
Quirk had first heard about Nelson from an “older punk couple” who had made it their home.
“They were these expatriates that had moved from America and I remember sitting in this kitchen that had a picnic table in it and they were just talking about Nelson and I thought ‘I want to go there sometime,’” he said.
The Cave Singers are a folk-country band forged out of the musical passion of Quirk, Derek Fudesco and Marty Lund.
The three had become well known in the Seattle music scene after playing in bands like Pretty Girls Make Graves, Hint Hint and Cobra High.
If you’ve heard of any of these bands, the one thing you’ll notice is they aren’t folk nor country.
“I think it just sort of happened on it’s own but once we realized that it was fun to do, then it was a conscious decision to go with it,” said Quirk about how the trio came to their sound. “I’d never really sang before, I used to scream or do more of an aggressive British-style singing. It was different and we were ready for something different.”
Quirk, Fudesco and Lund had known each other from the Seattle music circuit.
“Lund and I worked at the same bar for a little while,” said Quirk. “The band sort of began when Fudesco lived at a house, and I needed somewhere to live, so I moved in there.”
Fudesco and Quirk were both playing music in the house.
Both were recording on 4-tracks and eventually began collaborating.
“Collaborating sounds so serious but what we were really doing was goofing off and drinking beer,” said Quirk. “That’s how it started, we were writing little country-folk jams just for fun.”
Since the debut of their first album Invitation Songs, The Cave Singers have gained international acclaim.
“I was so into what we were doing that I was so appreciative and humbled by the fact that people enjoyed it,” said Quirk. “Any time you do something and people like it and respond to it, and want to use it for their own means like a soundtrack for their lives, it’s unbelievable.”
The Barr Brothers
Montreal’s The Barr Brothers are new to the Kootenays.
“We played in Salmon Arm at the Caravan Theatre. We haven’t played near there other than that show,” said Andrew Barr. “I know there are bears there, and I know that the people are supposed to be some of the most relaxed people on the planet.”
The Barr Brothers are made up of Andrew on drums, Brad Barr on guitar, vocals and keys, Sarah Page on harp and Andres Vial on keys, bass and percussion.
“It was always in the front of our mind,” said Andrew about becoming a musician. “It was the only thing really that we every considered.”
The Barr family wasn’t particularly musical.
Their dad tinkered around on the guitar, but their uncle was a blues musician.
“He was kind of that hobo, beat poet, musician who lived in Oregon that we’d hear stories about and were intrigued by,” said Andrew. “I think my dad kind of lived vicariously through him.”
There parents gave the brothers instruments to try out including one year at Christmas where they received an electric guitar and a drum kit.
“I ran right over to the drum set and started bashing away and then we found out that the drums were for Brad and the guitar was for me,” said Andrew. “For a year or two we were reversed where I was taking guitar lessons and Brad was doing piano and drums and one day when our personalities made more sense I was more of a drummer.”
As soon as Andrew had the sticks in his hands he became passionate about his new craft.
The brothers had played in other bands, but The Barr Brothers took shape after the two moved to Montreal.
“I moved to Montreal about eight years ago, first before Brad did. I moved there to be with a woman who is now my wife. Brad followed suit and he got an apartment in the Plateau,” said Andrew.
While Brad was sitting in his apartment he would hear Page practicing the harp through his wall.
“I think one day he had this idea of what would it sound like if we put these instruments together,” said Andrew. “He had kind of introduced himself to her before. He wrote a song with what she was playing once and met her that way.”
Brad and Page performed together as the opening act for fellow Montreal musician Patrick Watson, which led to a vision of a band incorporating the harp and guitar.
The Barr Brother’s performance at Starbelly will be their first in area.
“First of all I’m just looking forward to being in that part of the country where the air is fresh and the trees are big,” said Andrew.
“And just building a relationship with that part of the country and that is what we do. We tour around and I think the festival is a great opportunity to meet a bunch of people who wouldn’t otherwise have ever heard of you but all of a sudden you’ve made some fans and there is a reason to go back.”
Jeff Crosby and the Refugees
Jeff Crosby is no stranger to small towns.
Growing up in Donnelly, Idaho (population: 150), Crosby learned the importance of classic songwriting and musicianship.
“I think the first album that I ever bought was that Crosby, Stills and Nash album with Wooden Ships on it,” he said from a band rehearsal in Los Angeles where he now lives. “It would be between that one and Paul McCartney’s Wings record. It’s kind of funny because I was a skateboard kid but that’s kind of what my mom made me listen to constantly. I would be skateboarding and all my friends would be listening to punk rock and I was listening to Paul McCartney and they all thought it was a little weird.”
Even though his family didn’t have a lot of musicians in it, Crosby picked up the guitar when he was 16.
“I’d always written poetry and stuff and when I started playing guitar it was pretty natural. I started writing songs right away,” he said.
Shortly after Crosby started playing, a local band made up of older musicians, decided to take him under their wing.
“They thought I was pretty good so they started taking me out and letting me play gigs with them,” he said. “They sort of showed me the ropes and how to get on the road and make a living.”
While Crosby may call the big city of LA home now, his music is still rooted in his upbringing in Idaho.
“I think that’s what kind of propels my music and that’s really an obvious difference with my music and the music that I see and the people that I play with here,” he said. “It almost feels like somewhat of an advantage. It makes for really interesting songs. You have this wild transformation when you go from this tiny town playing folk music with these older fellows in this hat shop in Donnelly, Idaho, to this club off of Sunset where everyone is so cool it’s gross.”
The Daniel Huscroft Band
For Langley-based musician Daniel Huscroft, next weekend’s performance at Starbelly Jam is a bit of a homecoming.
Huscroft was born in Creston, just down the road from Starbelly.
“I am excited,” he said. “It’s my favourite time of year to comeback. It’s pretty exciting to come home and especially to play some music.”
While Huscroft is a guitar player and singer/songwriter now, his musical roots are in classical music.
“Pretty much if you were born into my family you had to play violin, so when I was a kid I played violin,” he said. “We had a little family band and we all fiddled, my two older sisters and my brother. My brother became an auto mechanic, but my two older sisters are still musicians as well.”
When Huscroft was a teenager, he realized that playing Vivaldi concertos wasn’t “really cool.”
“I was like every teenager who hears some Led Zeppelin and wants to be a guitar player,” he said.
Huscroft played guitar with American singer Sarah Kelly and went on to write music for her first two major albums.
With Grammy nominations and experiences playing with some of his musical heroes like Slash, Huscroft decided to go solo.
“It wasn’t until 2010 that I decided I wanted to do my own solo stuff,” he said. “So far that’s been my greatest music endeavour because it’s been so personal. I do miss playing in a band so now I’m getting a band together and we’ve toured a bit and I’m going to bring that band to Starbelly when I come.”
Huscroft recently played up in Kaslo over the Canada Day long weekend, but has never played at Starbelly.
“I’m looking forward to the people that are just so free in their dancing that they are able to dance without any inhibition,” he said. “They are so free in how they dance out in the Kootenays and the earthier people. I’ve always tried to do that and I guess I’m not a dancer, maybe I’ll learn something out there.”