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Vancouver Island MusicFest: where the world's best come to play

Few roots music events consistently hit the mark in the manner of this Comox Valley staple
As We Speak: Béla Fleck, Zakir Hussain, Edgar Meyer, feat. Rakesh Chaurasia

From a patron’s point of view, few roots music events in this part of the globe consistently hit the mark in the manner of the Vancouver Island Music Festival does.

Looking at a checklist that includes categories that range from accessibility to the appeal and beauty of a site, to artist appreciation and great workshops, the VIMF receives gold stars in every facet of a lengthy list.

With the 30th anniversary of the event coming at us in less than two weeks, anticipation for this long-time attendee is exciting, and for any number of reasons.

Zeroing in on this year’s line-up, there are a number of artists playing at the event who are guaranteed to deliver world-class performances. Consider that we will not have many opportunities to catch some of these artists again, certainly not at this event or any other festival or concert being produced on the Island or the lower mainland.

Considerations in luring artists to Vancouver Island have long included, the state of the Canadian dollar, touring availability and the fact that many of our roots music pioneers and stars are getting older or have passed on. But the good news is that the VIMF line-up continues to draw major artists as headliners.

Banjo master Bela Fleck, who plays main stage Friday is simply one of the most important artists of our time, and he’s collaborating with musicians who also fall into that category.

Fleck has been honoured with a staggering 17 Grammy awards. Then there are his bandmates: Indian percussion master Zakir Hussain has won three Grammy awards and bassist Edgar Meyer has seven, reminders that this project, with flautist Rakesh Chuarasia, sits in a creative stratosphere reserved for few.

Lucinda Williams, another winner of multiple Grammy and Americana Music Awards is creating some of her finest work to date, as is guitar genius Leo Kottke, who has served 55 years of stunningly unique recordings and performances. Take a listen to the recent duo albums he’s created with Phish’s Mike Gordon for starters.

It’s apparent the depth of the 2024 line-up stands with some of the best we’ve witnessed over the years. That’s saying something when one peruses the VIMF archives that are dotted with names like Bonnie Raitt, John Prine, Little Feat, Ry Cooder, Roberta Flack, Los Lobos, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Mavis Staples, Graham Nash, Joan Armatrading and k.d. lang.

Add on to the 2024 list, folk music darlings the Milk Carton Kids, and the globally renowned Canadian artist Daniel Lanois, whose innovative production guided U2 and Emmylou Harris, and we’re once again anticipating a cross-section of astounding sounds to be found under one beautiful cultural bubble throughout a weekend.

Holger Petersen, long-time host of CBC Radio’s Saturday Night Blues and founder of Stony Plain Records is another Albertan who makes the trek to VIMF annually.

“As a festival veteran and former festival producer, it’s my favourite event. There is always a top-quality line-up, and I’m always discovering new favourite artists as well as being exposed to certain genres for the first time. The magic is often found at the workshop sessions, it all makes this a festival everyone in the valley should support and be proud of.”

Volunteers who always greet us with smiles, great sound crews, the main stage backdrop of a beautiful forest, and like-minded patrons, have all been on the checklist year in and year out. It’s no wonder roots music fans of all kinds travel from all over B.C., the Pacific Northwest and Alberta to attend VIMF.

The Vancouver Island Music Festival runs July 12 to 14, in Courtenay, For tickets and more information, visit