LukeFest attracts powerhouse lineup

Feb. 13 concert pays tribute to Saanich musician who died in fire

Terry and Maurice Rachwalski and musician Devin Venoit are behind LukeFest 2016, a memorial concert to celebrate musical diversity and collaboration in honour of Saanich’s Luke Rachwalski, who died in January 2014 at just 22 years old.

For Maurice and Terry Rachwalski, the first annual LukeFest music festival is shedding light on just how many musicians and bands are based in Saanich.

Their eldest son Luke was 22 when he moved to Montreal in 2014 with his band of Gordon Head-based musicians, Canvas. The progressive jazz-rock band was just finding its “fit’ when tragedy struck. An early morning fire swept through the apartment building Luke lived in, killing Luke, 22, and an unnamed 18-year-old women, on Jan. 9, 2014.

Luke died by asphyxiation, leaving his bandmates and the music communities of Victoria and Montreal in shock. Two years later, LukeFest is shaping up to be a night of musical musical collaboration that wasn’t happening otherwise, which is just the thing Luke would have loved.

LukeFest is Feb. 13 at Alix Goolden Hall.

“He was all about collaboration and sharing musical ideas,” said Devin Venoit, a Gordon Head resident who graduated from Lambrick Park secondary with Luke. “He was ‘the guy in the library with a guitar,’ always playing and teaching others his songs. You’d hear other [kids] playing Luke’s songs on the guitar at the beach, Luke would teach them.”

Rachwalksi sang in Canvas with drummer Venoit, and guitarists James Fraser and Peter Ransford. The crew was a cast of characters, no doubt about it, says Venoit.

The plan to move to Montreal was in the works for a while before it happened in 2013. For the trip, they outfited a short yellow school bus for the tour across Canada. Rather than set up gigs along the way, however, they rigged the school bus so the band could play while manager and go-getter Rudy Schwabe drove.

“We’d be playing away when we pulled into a gas station and people would just look at us,” Venoit said.

When they got to Montreal, the city was a better fit for Canvas’  progressive jazz rock sound than the West Coast, ska-centric scene of Vancouver Island, Venoit said.

“We played a lot of shows, we played Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern, and we found a scene out there,” he said. “Not all of us wanted to come back right away, we didn’t know what to do, but we did.”

Venoit will be joined in the LukeFest house band with Kady Savard from LegUp and Sex Weather, Ransford, who’s now with 9Volt Whiskey, George Anstey, guitarist from Saanich metal-band Scimitar, and keyboardist Marty Schoeps, among others.

“I really think there is an uncovered music scene here in Saanich, it’s one of those things that people don’t realize,” says Terry, Luke’s mom.

The Rachwalskis have benefited from an A-list of members from the Greater Victoria music scene. Atomique, Daniel Lapp, Rocktography, the Victoria Conservatory of Music, Guitar Pal, Tartan Group and more have all contributed.

Lapp is the artistic director for the evening, setting the solid lineup.

“We can’t thank Daniel enough,” said Maurice, Luke’s father.

Same goes for Atomique’s Nick Blasko, who told the Rachwalskis what to do, and how to do it, Terry said.

Among the features of the evening is the VIP package, a chance to rub shoulders with Bill Henderson of Chilliwack and the other performers during the Rock Star portion of the night.

“The VIP package is $100. You get beer, wine, food and select seating and a three-month subscription to Guitar Pal’s online lessons,” Terry said.

Most important is the theme of musical mentors such as Henderson and Mike Demers of The Lonely, a Roy Orbison tribute band, who’ll work with up-and-coming performing musicians.

Proceeds will go towards the Luke’s Gift scholarship fund for young musicians to attend Chwyl Family School of Contemporary Music (Luke wasn’t one for classic styles), and to Luke’s Legacy, a songwriting concept in which young songwriters get an opportunity to further their musicianship through songwriting workshops with experienced professionals.

The Saanich Braves junior B hockey team, captained by Luke’s brother Jack, will provide the ushering services for the evening.

For tickets or more information visit lukefest.ca.

 

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