Music lovers young and old come out to Starbelly Jam in Crawford.

We should all be so Lucky

Crawford Bay's Starbelly Jam Music Festival offers a unique musical experience that is suitable for music lovers of all kinds.

If for no other reason at all, you should go to Starbelly Jam for the lost kid announcements, which are frequent and as the weekend wears on, increasingly amusing.

“We got a little boy here named Lucky,” said the very excellent Denver-based singer Nathaniel Rateliff from the Moonbelly stage last year. Lucky looks to be five or six and hasn’t seen his parents in almost as many hours,”

Kids and parents get separated at Starbelly like socks in a dryer.

“If Lucky’s your boy come on up here and claim him.”

Inevitably kid and parent are reunited and the show goes on, and what a show it is — every year. This little festival boxes way above its weightclass, drawing musicians from all over the planet and putting them in a setting I can best describe as family oriented and truly Kootenay-esque.

It started as a whim.

In the late 1990s a half dozen or so locals from Crawford Bay were sitting on the nearby (clothes optional) Starbelly beach, talking about throwing a party. A party with bands and organic food, perhaps even a few vendors to sell hand-made wares.

Starbelly was born.

In 1999 they held their first Jam with a few hundred people at Crawford Bay Park in a “celebration of song, spirit and Kootenay culture.” Lester Quitzau was the only real “name” player and a one day pass cost $12. Everyone agreed it was a happening little event that was duly marked on the calendar of people on the East Shore and just beyond.

Then in 2001 someone pulled a few strings and signed up an emerging guitar playing, counter culture type named Michael Franti. Those hundreds turned into thousands. This little festival became a medium-sized festival overnight and a must for Kootenay music fans whose tastes drift beyond the mainstream.

“I think people come here first and foremost because it’s a family festival, artistic director Lea-Rae Belcourt tells me.  “You can bring your kids, it’s safe and they have a great time, but number two is the music. People just trust Starbelly Jam to pick great bands.”

Yes they do.

Last year alone I found myself dancing madly to the frenetic hip hop and soul of The Coup from Oakland, lost in the trance-like beauty of Siberian folk (Namgar) then dancing again to a killer surf-Tuareg band out of west Africa (Bombino). That’s just one afternoon, and the whole time my two kids were by my side having a blast. Those types of days just don’t come often enough.

Sadly the general economy and a forecast of rainy weather were hard on Starbelly Jam last year, like a lot of Kootenay music festivals (Littlefest in the Slocan Valley and the Nakusp Music Fest won’t happen this summer at all). But the slow year hasn’t affected the quality of the players at Starbelly. The Barr Brothers, Cave Singers and Ivan Neville alone have me signed up for this year’s Jam.

Come get lost with me in this beautiful little festival.

We should all be so Lucky.


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