Doug Cox wanted some assurances that his headliner would specifically draw the under-30 crowd to Vancouver Island MusicFest this year.
So he did what any 50-something artistic director would do: he asked his daughter for her opinion.
“When I asked her if there was one Trews song that stuck out for her, she said no. She said she knew a whole bunch of their songs,” said Cox, of the group that will close the Saturday main stage schedule.
Most Canadian music fans do. The Trews have cracked the Canadian rock top-10 chart 13 times in their first 12 years together.
“I think they really fit into the festival philosophy,” said Cox. “I think that people who are fans of the festival will be able to relate to what they do. They are a little bit rockier than a lot of the things that we have booked, but they have the roots.”
The Trews dominated the Canadian charts in the mid 2000s, with back-to-back certified gold albums, and a couple of No. 1 hits.
Their first full-length CD, House of Ill Fame, had the single Not Ready To Go, which reached No. 1 on Canadian rock radio, and was the most played song of that format in 2004.
House of Ill Fame also contained the singles Tired of Waiting, and Every Inambition, and led to the band’s first two Juno Award nominations – for New Group of the Year in 2004, and Single of the Year (Not Ready to Go) in 2005.
Their follow-up album, Den of Thieves, was equally successful, spawning the singles Poor Ol’ Broken Hearted Me, So She’s Leaving, and their second No. 1 hit, Yearning. The album was certified gold in 2006.
The band used the 2007 Grey Cup pre-game show as an opportunity to premiere their first single from their yet-to-be-released third CD, No Time For Later. The CD was released three months later, and the single, Hold Me In Your Arms, first played at the 2007 Grey Cup in Toronto, spent nearly four months on MuchMusic’s Countdown, peaking at No. 1.
No Time For Later also contained the hits I Can’t Stop Laughing, and Paranoid Freak, and led to two more Juno nominations, for Album of the Year, and Group of the Year.
I Can’t Stop Laughing was the 10th Trews song to crack the top-10 on Canadian rock charts. They’ve had three more since then.
They released the live album Acoustic – Friends & Total Strangers in 2009 and Cox said that was the premise of how the band was originally pitched to MusicFest – in an acoustic vein – but he said that won’t be the focus of their MusicFest set.
“I said no, I didn’t want to disappoint the fans. If people are coming to see the Trews, they are expecting to see the full-on band. So they are going to do some acoustic stuff, but they are going to do their whole electric show.
“And they are also going to do some of the daytime stuff at the festival , so that’s pretty cool. I don’t know the guys personally, but they strike me as real musicians who want to get in the trenches and want to play with other people. They … get excited by festivals.”
Their fourth studio album, Hope And Ruin (2011), followed and peaked at No. 9 on the Canadian album charts.
The Trews have opened for some of rock’s biggest names, including the Rolling Stones and Robert Plant.
The Trews have also collaborated with another big act in the Canadian music scene, who will grace the main stage on Sunday at the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds.
Serena Ryder will return to MusicFest, to play on the final day of the three-day festival.
Ryder made an appearance on The Trews’s fifth full-length album, the 2014 self-titled CD. The song In The Morning features Ryder on vocals.
“She played MusicFest in 2003 … she was just a totally green, bright-eyed kid. I remember she hung out in the campground with our board of directors, in the campground, partying away with everybody,” recalled Cox. “She endeared herself to a number of people in our festival, just because she is such a lovely person – very approachable. “
Ryder has been a mainstay on the Canadian music scene since her teenage years. She released her first of five CDs, Falling Out, in 1999 at the age of 17, and has already amassed six Juno awards, including Best New Artist (2008), Songwriter of the Year (2014) and Artist of the Year (2014).
For Cox, Ryder’s return is a “full circle” moment. He has followed her career from the time she played the Woodland Stage at the 2003 MusicFest, to her present star status.
“For sure – I’ve been following her the whole way, and it was really wonderful to see her become so popular,” he said.
Cox said one of his favourite Ryder works is the album If Memory Serves You Well, which is primarily an album of Ryder covering other Canadian songwriters.
“It was kind of a tribute to older music – she did Good Morning Starshine, from the movie Hair; she did You Were on My Mind (Sylvia Tyson) and Sisters of Mercy (Leonard Cohen),” said Cox. “That record really grabbed me as a young artist who really paid attention to her roots in music. And I really admired her for that.”
Another act of note, coming to MusicFest this year is Australian guitarist Tal Wilkenfeld.
Wilkenfeld is a female bass player who has played with such legends as Jeff Beck, The Allman Brothers and Chick Corea.
“She is just stunning – the jazz people and the Jeff Beck fans are just going to freak out when they hear she is coming,” said Cox.
She will be bringing her own touring band.
The Vancouver Island MusicFest runs Friday, July 8 through Sunday, July 10.
Weekend passes are available at islandmusicfest.com
MusicFest camping passes go on sale March 1 at 8 a.m. (online only).