The creative director of the Big Time Out is using words like “mellowest,” “loveliest,” “uplifting” and “positive” to describe this year’s scaled-down festival.
After weeks of uncertainty, the two-day festival found a new home this year at Ash Berry Farm on Royston Road, just beyond of the Village of Cumberland boundaries.
Farm owners Don and Louisa McClellan gave up about three acres of their strawberry farm to the Big Time Out Friday night and Saturday after Cumberland council heeded an RCMP recommendation to deny the Cumberland Village Works application to hold the festival at Village Park due to security concerns.
Creative director vig Schulman says this year’s Big Time Out reminded them of their first festival in a lot of ways.
“From my perspective, it was the loveliest thing we’ve done since 2005, which was the first one,” he said. “It was the mellowest event by far. Artistically, it was stunning. The feeling of this event and the layout … it created a very warm, organic vibe.”
Louisa McClellan says seeing their farm turned into a music festival was “pretty unbelievable.”
“It was just fun,” she said. “My kids just had so much fun. I think considering the last-minute change in venues … I think it was pretty amazing.”
But while having the festival was fun, McClellan does think it should have been in Cumberland. She and her husband are the new owners of the Waverley Hotel, and she feels businesses in Cumberland suffered from not having the Big Time Out in the village.
McClellan says they started to feel really stressed out on Thursday right before the festival, and they still don’t know what the fallout will be, but their neighbours were “fabulous.”
“Basically, Royston rescued The Big Time Out, and I hope the residents of Royston feel appreciated because they stepped up,” she said.
McClellan missed Bedouin Soundclash’s performance Friday night because she had to put her three boys to bed, but she could hear them from the house, and she says other highlights were the Boom Booms, Kim Churchill, Dub FX, Emily Spiller and Wil.
“I just love seeing raw talent like that,” she said. “It was amazing seeing that and seeing all the kids.”
On Monday morning, McClellan felt happy with the way festival-goers treated their home.
“Once we gave the permission, we had to let go,” she said. “You can’t stress about anything. We just made the decision we couldn’t control it afterwards.”
The scaled-down Big Time Out did not have a beer garden as in past years, and the crowds were monitored, as Cumberland Village Works did not need a permit if fewer than 1,000 people attended.
Schulman says the vendors really liked the event and did really well, and the artists were very happy to be there.
“As an event populated by young people in the 19 to 25 range, they came and they were totally stoked,” he said. “It was a different kind of thing in its entirety and more where we want to be artistically. Ultimately, we had no naysayers in terms of the people who were there. We appreciated the involvement of the RCMP, who made sure if anything cropped up, they were right there to handle it. The police were there to do their job, and they did it well. We were very impressed.”
Schulman says that with their new location, there was less chance for people to sneak in and less tailgating.
“This was probably the most respectful crowd we’ve had,” he said. “We felt a lot less under the microscope. I think we had four fence jumpers compared to 500 last year. I’m really stoked it happened with so much love and care.”
Schulman says there were some citations for open alcohol on the streets, and there were some parking issues, but the festival went well overall, and he heard from some of the neighbours who said they appreciated the care and concern that was shown to them.
“Hats off to everybody in the neighbourhood who really helped,” he said.
For Schulman, this year’s Big Time Out had lots of magical moments.
“I so loved the Boom Booms,” he said. “They really encapsulated a young band communicating with the audience,” he said.
Schulman has seen Bedouin Soundclash many times over the years, and he says Friday night’s performance was the best show he’s seen them put on.
Schulman was impressed by aerialist Maddy Dunnett, who performed Friday night. She has performed at a Solstice event and at last year’s festival.
“It’s just beautiful to see someone who’s kind of grown up with her craft at our events,” he said.
The most touching moment for Schulman was when the McClellan family was introduced to the crowd Saturday night.
“The crowd was so enraptured,” he said. “There was lots of pressure on them from the RCMP, from the CVRD … they rose to every challenge. That was a magic moment when the crowd put a face to who was hosting the event.”
Without a beer garden, Schulman noticed that more young families stayed all night.
“I’ve not seen such a dramatic difference in how people respond to music, especially at the end of the night,” he said. “No families I’ve talked to were uncomfortable. I feel like a couple things combined to make this conducive to families with young kids.”
Schulman hadn’t spoken to the CVRD yet on Monday, but in general, he felt the patrons were really respectful, and he says in general, the neighbouring farms said they had no problems.
“There were a lot of beautiful moments we didn’t expect,” he said. “It was a little easier for people to just relax. There was no major rowdiness at all. For this year, this was a really positive, uplifting solution to the challenges we were having for the last three weeks.”
The Comox Valley RCMP did not have to deal with anything earth-shattering or dramatic during the Big Time Out, according to Const. Nicole Hall.
“We did have some liquor infractions,” she said. “We dealt mostly with stuff off-site. We had some extra resources, and they handed out tickets where needed.”
Some vehicles were towed because they were parked illegally.
“Other than that, it was nothing out of the ordinary for a Friday and Saturday night,” said Hall. “Some of the neighbours may have a different opinion, but from what was reported to us, it was pretty much maintained by the officers who were there and the people who were running it.”
Derald Lewis, manager of bylaw compliance and special investigations for the CVRD, says the Big Time Out went quite smoothly.
“From a bylaw perspective, it went really well,” he said. “As far as bylaws, there were no major issues. We haven’t had any complaints at all.”
The CVRD attended the event Friday and Saturday night to monitor the noise and count the crowd and worked closely with the RCMP, explained Lewis, adding they also worked closely with the organizers and told them exactly what their concerns were.