Tools of the trade at the 2019 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Photo by Terry Farrell

Tools of the trade at the 2019 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Photo by Terry Farrell

Everything you need to know about Vancouver Island MusicFest – July 8-10, Comox Valley

Vancouver Island MusicFest executive producer Doug Cox says planning the first live festival since 2019 has not been without its challenges, but the product coming to the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds July 8-10 will prove to be worth all the hurdles.

“There have been an unbelievable number of headaches and changes and surprises – it’s probably been twice as hard for us as it’s ever been, to put this together this year, but we can’t wait to get down there, and get it going,” he said.

“I think people are in a different mindset now, and I think a lot of people are just really looking forward to being a part of the MusicFest community again. We’ve been through a lot in the last couple of years, and I think that part of it is going to be more moving than any of us expect.”

Cox said some of the collaboration shows being curated will be extraordinary.

“The women’s blues revue on Friday night (Shakura S’Aida’s HER Majesty, main stage, 10 p.m.) I think is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime show. I’ve been in constant contact with Shakura and her artists and they are all really excited about this, so I think that is going to be a real special one,” said Cox. “The daytime Indigenous session that we have, hosted by Chief Wedlidi Speck (Wi Walsga’makw – All Tribes Together; 11:45 a.m. Saturday, Grierson Stage) is going to be really interesting. It features Kanatal from Taiwan – a group of Indigenous Taiwanese people representing four different Indigenous tribes in Taiwan – as well as all the other Indigenous performers at the festival, sharing stories and songs.

“There’s a bunch of them, really… collaborations put together exclusively for MusicFest.”

Check islandmusicfest.com/schedule/ for more details.

Tickets still available

As of June 30, the festival was approximately 80 per cent sold out. Cox said had it not been for the lifting of COVID restrictions, the entire weekend would already be sold out.

“Ticket sales have gone very well,” said Cox. “We originally set our budget for 75 per cent of capacity because of COVID, and once they loosened up on the rules we were able to open up to full capacity. So we are actually past our original (target).

“Tickets are still available for single days, or weekend passes.”

For tickets, visit islandmusicfest.com

The campsite is sold out.

Barn Stage to be used

When MusicFest executive decided to go ahead with the 2022 festival, there were still some COVID 19 restrictions in effect. With that in mind, Cox decided to remove the Barn Stage – the only indoor stage – from the festival schedule.

Since that time, COVID restrictions have been lifted, and the Barn Stage is back in business, which is a good thing. Cox said the lifting of restrictions and addition of the indoor stage was more a case of good luck than good management.

“I’d like to say (COVID restriction being lifted) was the reason for it, but what really happened is I overbooked,” he said, laughing. “It’s funny, we have been programming this festival for all these years and it just works to get a certain number of performers. So I wasn’t really thinking about that when I booked the festival, I just booked. Then I realized I couldn’t even give everybody the full opportunity to have the festival experience without that very important stage. It just wasn’t going to work for the performers without having that stage. I couldn’t ask people to come here and just do one (performance) – that’s not really the MusicFest experience. And a lot of people love the barn, because it’s the one indoor stage we have – so if it’s raining or really hot, it’s an opportunity for people to get a break from the weather.”

Expanded liquor licence

For the first time, the liquor licence at the Vancouver Island MusicFest will cover the majority of the site.

“You won’t be allowed to take alcohol down to the Woodland Stage or the Crossroads Stage, because we want to protect the river, but the Grierson Stage, the Grassy Knoll, and the barn is fine,” said Cox, who does not expect any issues. “I know most of the festivals who have done this the past couple of years, it actually works out better, because the people that tend to feel the need to go into the beer gardens and slam down three or four beers aren’t going to do that. It’s just a more open, almost European kind of thing. We will still be watching people a lot, but we are not anticipating big problems. We have always been very strict about checking IDs and such… We do not encourage intoxication, and we won’t tolerate it. We never have.”

Take your seats with you

Attendees are reminded to be respectful of others, when it comes to seating. If you plan on leaving an area, take your seats with you. Empty chairs not only frustrate fellow festival goers, but they are also not an appealing sight from the stage.

“If you leave your stuff there and you aren’t there, we are going to let people sit (in those spots),” said Cox. “We have a hospitality crew that will go in and remove people’s stuff that has been sitting there unattended for (extended periods). That’s part of the culture of folk festivals. It’s respect not only for other people, but for the musicians as well. Nobody wants to play to a field of empty chairs.”

How to get there

Festival goers are encouraged to take the shuttle bus service to the concert site.

Shuttles run from the Comox Presbyterian Church (725 Aspen Rd., Comox) and from the Driftwood Mall in Courtenay (2751 Cliffe Ave., both on perpetual 25-minute loops.

Buses run constantly each day; Friday from 2:30 p.m.-1 a.m., and Saturday/Sunday from 8:30 a.m.-1 a.m.

The cost is $4 per passenger, per ride. Kids 12 and under can ride for free.

There is limited parking availabel at the Comox Valley Sports and Aquatic Centre. Please note Saturday 6 a.m. – 1 p.m. there is no parking at the Sports Centre due to the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market.

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Vancouver Island MusicFest takes place at the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds, July 8-10. Terry Farrell photo