Walk Off The Earth will be headlining the Friday lineup at the 2018 Vancouver Island MusicFest, July 13-15. Photo supplied

Walk Off The Earth returning to Vancouver Island MusicFest

Juno award-winning group to headline Friday lineup at Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds

When Scott Helman announced Walk Off The Earth as Group of the Year at the 2016 Juno Awards, Ryan Marshall and his bandmates momentarily thought they were being pranked.

“We had him on tour with us for our European and U.S. tour that year, and we became good friends with him,” explained Marshall in a phone interview with The Record. “He was presenting the [Juno Group of the Year] award. So we were hanging out before the show and he came up to us and he said, ‘Hey, if I pull the thing and it’s not your name, I’m just going to say your name anyway…. I’m going to declare you guys the winners no matter what.’

“So if you watch the video, when he [reads the winner], he pauses for a sec, then says, ‘It’s Walk Off The Earth,’ and we are all in the stands thinking, ‘Did he actually just do that to us?’, And then we look at him and he gave us the nod as if to say, ‘I’m not joking. It’s really you.’ But there was a pause there for a moment.”

There will be no such confusion when they are introduced at the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds on Friday, July 13.

That evening, the stage will be all theirs.

Walk Off The Earth returns to the Vancouver Island MusicFest, just five years after wowing the crowd in 2013.

MusicFest executive producer Doug Cox does not typically go back to the “headlining well,” for his concerts.

He broke that policy last year, when Emmylou Harris and Bruce Cockburn were available.

This time around the decision was even easier. It was the band that approached him.

“We have had more requests to have them back than any other band in the history of the festival,” he said. “And they love the festival. They actually got in touch with us and asked if they could come back, because they had great memories of being here.”

Marshall said Walk Off The Earth’s broad appeal is easy to explain.

“Whether it’s our original music, or one of our covers, it’s catchy, it’s hooky, and it’s something that all ages can really gravitate to.”

That broad appeal makes Vancouver Island MusicFest an attractive gig for bands like WOTE. It’s a family-friendly festival.

Marshall said the ambience of MusicFest is another big draw.

“It’s a beautiful setting; you can’t beat that. It’s a beautiful part of the world,” he said. “I think West Coast people are just generally happy, and easy to be around. They aren’t as high-strung and as crazy-going as us over here in the Toronto area, and there’s just a great appreciation for music there. “

The fact that a band of WOTE’s pedigree would request to play MusicFest is a testament to how the festival is run.

“We are like a small-town festival that’s run like a big-town festival, and I think performers really appreciate that,” said Cox. “One of the things that we do, I think better than most festivals, is we really take care of our performers. Walk Off The Earth is a real family-oriented band, they bring their babies with them… so they were really quite pleased with the feel of the festival.”

As for their show, what can the crowd expect?

“When we play live, we like to involve the crowd,” said Marshall. “Our live shows, we’ve always tried to make them…a party. We want everyone having a great time, everyone having fun.

“We just want everyone to feel the music, and have a good time. That’s really what we have always tried to accomplish.”

The 2018 Vancouver Island MusicFest runs July 13-15 at the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds. Early-bird tickets are available online at islandmusicfest.com/tickets/

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