Before Vancouver Island MusicFest took over the exhibition grounds on the weekend, the Comox Valley hadn’t seen a drop of rain in weeks. But other than the ground, the rain didn’t appear to dampen the vibe at the 21st annual event.
“It certainly didn’t dampen the spirits of everybody,” marketing manager Susan Wood said. “Our MusicFesters are hearty folk. They were under tarps and blankets and having a good time. We do live on the West Coast, so rain is something we are all used to. As they say, while it wasn’t the best of situations, it certainly didn’t change how much fun everybody had. And the music was still wonderful.”
“Thank you to the audience for accepting the rain and sticking with us the whole weekend,” executive producer Doug Cox added. “It was amazing. As a performer, I’ve played at a lot of rainy festivals, and I’ve never seen spirit like that just stay. As the producer of the festival, it was amazing for us that we just kept going, and everybody realized how badly it (rain) was needed.”
As always, the weekend featured an eclectic array of musicians from various parts of the globe — some obscure, some familiar. Lyle Lovett and his Large Band headlined Friday, bluesman Buddy Guy closed things out Saturday, and Graham Nash of the famed Crosby, Stills and Nash, accompanied by Shane Fontayne, performed Sunday as the sun was setting over the fairgrounds.
“Graham Nash just played it,” Wood said. “I was so impressed. For two fellas’ and a couple of guitars, they filled that bowl beautifully.
“Overall, I’d have to say it was a wonderful festival. There were no issues of any significance, other than a bit of mud. The kids loved the puddles.”
MusicFest couldn’t happen without the 1,300 volunteers who tend to the gates, stages, food and other aspects of the gathering. This year’s environment crew did their best to keep feet dry by filling puddles with dirt.
“We’ve certainly seen a decrease in our heat-related illnesses today,” said first aid co-ordinator TJ Moore, who has volunteered eight years at MusicFest. “We’ve kind of switched a gear to water-logged feet. We had our share of heat strokes over the past couple of years, but I think everybody this year is welcoming the rain with open arms.”
The first aid crew includes paramedics and volunteer first aiders who largely deal with things onsite – which takes the burden off St. Joseph’s Hospital, Moore notes.
Over the years, a common injury he’s seen at MusicFest — be it cold or hot weather — is foot injuries such as blisters and cut feet.
This year, Moore attributed fewer ambulance incidents to the weather.
“Cooler weather means less ambulances, typically,” he said. “I think we’re fortunate the public is wanting rain. I think they’ve opened up their arms and said, ‘Bring it on’.”
The welcoming attitude was evident in the haiku tunnel, a new feature that was filled with pieces of cloth containing verses penned by patrons. One read as follows:
Thank you sky water
Soak the drought dry desert land
Quench our tired bones.
“I think it was received really well,” Wood said.
She didn’t have the numbers Monday, but Wood said the festival was nearly sold out.
Cox noted that the concert bowl was packed each night.
“Musically I was thrilled with the lineup,” he said. “But the most important thing to me is the community of people who put the festival on. That’s what makes our festival so beloved and so unique. There’s lot of times we could add to the financial success by changing things. It’s not really what it’s all about.”