The first major musical act announcement for the 2016 Vancouver Island MusicFest will serve as a check off the bucket list for many music fans.
Closing the show on Day 1 of the three-day multi-genre celebration will be one of the most respected and loved songwriters in the industry: John Prine.
Since breaking into the country/Americana scene in 1971 with his self-titled debut album, Prine has produced in excess of 20 albums, and is a three-time Grammy Award winner.
He has been compared to the likes of Bob Dylan and his songs have been covered by Bonnie Raitt, Johnny Cash, George Strait, and others.
“As a singer/songwriter, he’s about as good as it gets,” said MusicFest artistic director and executive producer Doug Cox.
“He’s really right up there like Johnny Cash.”
Prine’s attraction transcends generational barriers, which is what makes him such an ideal fit for the family-friendly ambience of MusicFest.
“One of the things I found really exciting is when I told our volunteer co-ordinator, Amy James, who is in her 30s, that John Prine was coming, she flipped out … he’s one of the people she has always wanted to see come to this festival,” said Cox. “So his music carries from my kids all the way up to my mom.
“When it comes to Americana music, he’s right up there with The Band and people of that level. A lot of folks would put him in their list of top five singer/songwriters of all time, so I am thrilled that we got him, because it has taken years of trying.”
So many years, in fact, Cox had given up hope of ever bringing Prine to Courtenay. Prine’s handlers were insistent that he would never be able to attend MusicFest, as long as the event was held in July.
“I guess he goes on holiday in July, so we were basically told we would never get him, because our dates collided with his holiday dates,” said Cox. “But it turns out that now his kids have all grown up and moved away and he is now willing to postpone his holiday for a week so he can come play our festival.
“I’d given up. I thought we would never get him, and for me, he is one of the bucket-list performers for MusicFest. I mean there isn’t anyone in the country music scene or the Americana scene who does not tip their hat to John Prine. He is the absolute royalty of those scenes.”
His songs are often stories, and he is considered a master at the craft.
“He kind of wrote the book on how to write a certain kind of song,” said Cox. “That kind of first-person narrative. There’s just nobody better than him at that type of songwriting.”
Prine will have his full band accompany him for the show in Courtenay.
Without dropping any more names, Cox teased some of the announcements still to come.
“I am dying to announce some of the other acts we have coming. There are some young ones coming this year. We have two big acts that are going to excite the youngsters.”
Cox said to expect those announcements in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, the islandmusicfest.com website will be announcing new acts on a daily basis.
Adult, senior and student weekend passes are also available to order on the website at the early bird rate of $149, $139 and $89, respectively.