Deep in the heart of the mountains on the western shore of Kootenay Lake midway between Nelson and Nakusp is the small and charming town of Kaslo. Well-kept Victorian storefronts fill the narrow main street, and the sky and mountains are interrupted only by a few sailboats.
We were visiting for the Friday night show of the Kaslo Jazz Etc. Fest which kicked off a weekend packed with jazz, blues, folk, rock and even a little electronic music. Parking behind the lovely Kaslo Hotel, we walked down toward the floating stage. It was a beautiful sunny day, and from the crest of the hill you could see the stage and the treed seating area where spectators were setting up their blankets and chairs.
Just inside the gates merchants sold bright recycled plastic lanterns, summer dresses, and toys and games for adults and kids. Nearly a dozen food vendors offered everything from Indian to Greek, crepes, bratwurst, and sushi. Stomachs rumbling, we decided to put the blankets down first and come back for a bite.
Just as we came on to the beach area to claim our blanket space for the night, The Crackling began to play.
After a riveting and rocking open number, front man Kenton Loewen remarked that the band was used to playing in dark basements and clubs so playing on a floating stage moored to a lush green mountain was a new and unique experience.
“I don’t know what’s more beautiful,” he said, “what you’re seeing or what we are seeing.”
He was not alone in this observation. Every performer on stage that night was overcome and remarked at least once by the natural beauty surrounding them, and the hundreds of happy spectators who filled the natural amphitheatre.
The Kaslo Jazz Etc. Festival prides itself on its small, intimate feel where performers and spectators can come together and share a unique experience. Dan Mangan took full advantage of the opportunity, stirring up the audience into singing the refrain from Robots, then getting down into the crowd to play his guitar through the singing people. It was one of those exceptional moments of live performance when everyone present knows they are taking part in an unrepeatable and unique experience.
As the sun began to sink behind the crowd, the few clouds floating overhead blazed pink in the oncoming night. Behind the stage, the kayak patrol kept the water clear of boats sailing to and from the marina and a few ducks flew over the stage. It was the end of a fantastic afternoon and the start of a great night.
By the time Delhi 2 Dublin took the stage, everyone was on their feet and ready to dance. Even so, the crowd was respectful and kept their feet off the crazy quilt of blankets that covered the ground. The Vancouver band’s high energy performance was contagious and got everyone moving to their infectious beats. With an eclectic high-energy blend that incorporates tabla, fiddle, sitar, dhol and electronic beats, the music was irresistible.
The night came to a close with an encore that had all the festival kids dancing on stage. At the end, the stars shone out across the sky and guided the contented festival-goers home.