Last weekend’s Starbelly Jam, the annual music (and everything else) festival held in the small community of Crawford Bay, was an intimate festival that felt global. Or maybe it was a global festival that felt intimate.
Solar-powered sushi trucks shared lots with “fatty burrito special” booths; acts from around the world traded off on both of the ground’s stages. From the high school of Cranbrook to the civil war of Sierra Leone, the musicians that brought their talents to the popular event came from a wide range of backgrounds and musical aesthetics.
With the height of the summer season now on us, festivals become the best new way to experience music and interact with others, and though they are relatively small festivals, Starbelly and its peers (think Slocan’s Unity Festival, or Fernie’s Wapiti) have something special going on. Just ask The Good Ol’ Goats, a band of teenagers from Cranbrook who have exploded onto the Canadian independent music scene after winning runner-up in CBC’s Searchlight competition.
“It was the best. The most fun I’ve ever had,” said Nolan Ackert, the band’s frontman.
“The crowd was so responsive,” added Angus Liedtke, the banjo/guitar player. “When I asked them to sing along, they sang along!”
Outdoor festivals like this one are especially important for a group that’s still too young to legally enter many of the establishments they’re booked to play.
“When we play bars we have to have a liquor-free area to sit in when we’re not playing,” lamented fiddler Angus MacDonald.
“The second we get off stage, we gotta go right there,” added Ackert.
“Halfway through our set I had to ask someone to just escort me to the bathroom,” jokes bassist Theo Moore. “It makes it tough, but it’s doable. And it gives us the experience we need for when we’re able to get drunk with the rest.”
While mega outdoor shows like Coachella and Sasquatch will always get the big name draws, the amazing festivals all around the Kootenays provide an environment of community that the big ones can’t, without sacrificing any talent. These are places where the bands will gladly join in with the crowd after their sets to groove to sets by Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars or headbang to The Pack A.D. Fresh young faces like the Goats can entice a whole field into hollering and foot-stomping. Local youth dance group, Slava Doval’s DanceFusion, can gather an audience to rival rapper Aesop Rock’s.
The Goats’ Nolan Ackert said it best: “All in all, it’s been a gooood day.”
To jump right into the festival spirit, check out Unity Festival this weekend in Slocan City where Starbelly favourites The Boom Booms and Shane Philip will be playing. You can also catch the Good Ol’ Goats at Wapiti Festival in Fernie on August 9 and 10.