First timers, emerging artists, youthful exuberance – there is plenty new to celebrate at this year’s Vancouver Island MusicFest.
There are artists who are new to the festival. Some are new to the industry. And some are relatively new to the world.
All of them can be seen, along with a multitude of festival favourites, national and international talent, as Black Press streams the entire 25 hours of programming, July 9-11.
“People think the term ‘emerging artist’ means young, but that’s just not true,” said MusicFest executive producer Doug Cox. “There are so many people, from baby boomers on down, that decided later in life that they wanted to start performing, and there are a lot of them that are quite good. So ‘emerging’ doesn’t mean young, necessarily.”
Angel Forrest, while not new to the industry, is new to the Comox Valley. The Montreal blues singer ended up on Hornby Island throughout the entire pandemic, and was just nominated for a Juno Award – her first such nomination in her three-decade-long career.
“She’s sort of a Janis Joplin-type singer – just a powerhouse,” said Cox. “She’s new to the festival.”
Some other festival first-timers include the Quadra folk roots band Willow – an all-female quartet; L∞PS, a duo out of Kamloops; and Kentucky Eileen, another group from the Interior.
“Kentucky Eileen are a phenomenal bluegrass band out of the Okanagan,” said Cox. “They will be playing with Dirt Road Opera, which is kind of a harmony-strong group, reminiscent to me of Crosby, Stills & Nash.”
Caley Watts, a young singer/songwriter from Bella Coola, will be performing as part of the Indigenous Showcase curated by Leonard Sumner.
“I really think she will be making some waves in the world, once people know about her. She’s pretty special,” said Cox.
A Comox Valley gem, Easy Street, will make their MusicFest debut.
“We shot them out at 40 Knots Winery, and it was beautiful,” said Cox.
From the “young to this world” perspective, Parksville blues phenom, 14-year-old Liam Docherty will, in Cox’s words, “blow people’s minds.”
The self-proclaimed ‘red-headed blues boy’ has been performing publicly since the age of seven, recorded his debut CD at 13, and has shared the stage with such Canadian blues masters as David Gogo, Ken Hamm and five-time Maple Blues Award winner for Piano Player of the Year, David Vest (who is also in the line-up this year).
“I can’t wait until people can actually see him in person,” said Cox.
“He’s not just a blues guitar player; he’s a great songwriter, and he’s playing pieces of music by people like Tommy Emmanuel, and Tony McManus, who are two of the finest players in the world, and he is just nailing it. He’s also a phenomenal Celtic guitar player. He blows me away; just a super talented kid.
The youthful talent is not limited to the front of the camera at the festival.
Doug’s son, 16-year-old Devon Cox, has been integral to the production of the online event, taking care of the bulk of the film editing.
“He has been a huge part of this,” said Doug. “Devon has saved our butts numerous times. Mike Sutcliffe has been doing the sound for the whole weekend and myself and Devon have been the main team for filming, along with Cresslynn (Brodhagen), our location manager. Mike and I are almost lining up to ask Devon questions at this point in time as we are going through the editing phase. Honestly, we couldn’t have done this weekend without him.”
Vancouver Island MusicFest – The Virtual Edition runs Friday, July 9, 7-11 p.m.; Saturday, July 10, noon-11 p.m.; and Sunday, June 11, noon-9 p.m.
For a full list of performers, and their showtimes, go to islandmusicfest.com