Let the announcements begin.
The Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds will become ‘music central” July 8-10, as thousands of festival-goers will descend upon the Courtenay area for the 2022 Vancouver Island MusicFest.
Executive producer and artistic director Doug Cox promises an eclectic collage of local and imported talent, as evident with his first lineup announcement.
Returning to MusicFest are Canadian folk legend Ferron, and New Orleans jazz/blues/gospel vocalist John Boutté.
Edmonton country-punk staples Jr. Gone Wild will make their MusicFest debut, as will Nigerian Afrobeat musician Femi Kuti and his band, The Positive Force.
Capping off the first round of announcements is a special performance by the British group The Blues Band.
Not only will MusicFest be The Blues Band’s only Canadian appearance, but it will also be the band’s farewell show.
Cox was thrilled to have landed this act.
“If you read the individual bios on these guys, they are the who’s who of the history of the blues in England,” said Cox. “Tom McGuinness, who is in the band, was in Eric Clapton’s first band, called The Roosters. Dave Kelly introduced England to people like Howlin’ Wolf and John Lee Hooker. Dave has come to our festival three times… and loves our festival. I’ve been trying to get him to bring The Blues Band. He was planning on coming this year, and told me that The Blues Band was doing their last-ever farewell tour in England. So he got in touch and said, ‘Hey, what do you think of this? What if The Blues Band comes to your festival and does their last ever concert right there, at MusicFest.’ So I just love when stuff like that happens at our festival.”
Canadian folk icon
Ferron returns to MusicFest for the first time in 24 years, but she has played Courtenay much more recently than that.
“We did a show with her at the Native Sons Hall just before the pandemic,” said Cox. “She is absolutely one of the icons of the folk world, and also the iconic lesbian folk singer – probably the biggest champion of gay rights there is in the folk community. And she is also a phenomenal singer/songwriter.”
Ferron will be bringing well-known Vancouverites Darryl Havers and Chris Nordquist.
“Ferron is one of the best and I am really thrilled that she is coming to play,” said Cox.
Cox described Jr. Gone Wild as “the ultimate prairie rock and roll band.”
Jr. Gone Wild was formed in 1982 and put together half a dozen albums in the next 13 years, before disbanding in 1995. The group reunited eight years ago and in 2021 released its latest album, Still Got The Jacket.
“I think it’s pretty exciting that they are coming because for me, there’s no other band that represents ‘prairie rock’ as well as they do,” said Cox. “And they are thrilled to be coming too. They are old road warriors.”
This will be Boutté’s third appearance at MusicFest, and his first since 2007. For those unfamiliar with the name, he’s the voice of the theme song to the HBO show Treme.
“John is known as the voice of New Orleans, that’s what they call him – and I am thrilled he is coming back,” said Cox. “He is honestly one of my favourite singers in the whole world. It’s been a while since we’ve had him, but he is coming with a phenomenal trio of musicians from New Orleans. So he will be doing some of his own stuff, as well as songs from The Great American Songbook.”
Femi Kuti & The Positive Force will have people dancing to the beat.
“Femi Kuti is the son of Fela Kuti, who a lot of people would consider to be the father of Afrobeat,” said Cox. “Femi is Fela’s oldest son, and he sort of passed the Afrobeat torch to Femi in the early-1980s.
“This is a real Afrobeat band, in regards to its size, and the music that they are playing. I don’t think that we have ever had a real Afrobeat band in the festival before. We have had African music, but this may be the first actual Afrobeat band. So I am really excited about them. It just doesn’t get any better.”
Cox said to stay tuned for many more announcements as the weekend approaches.
“I know that there is only one female artist announced today, but I am making a real point of having as many female artists as male artists. We are also going to have more B.C. artists than ever before, and there will be more Canadian artists than artists from any other country this year. People will see that as we start to spill out the lineup a little more.”
Ticket for the 2022 Vancouver Island MusicFest can be purchased at islandmusicfest.com