A 2021 Wonderment performance by Cameron Bandshell. Cameron Bandshell after dark takes on an otherworldly feel with large screen video projections and lighting effects. (David Bodrug)

Wonderment Festival Aug. 4-7 showcases marriage between tech & art

Wonderment artistic director, David Bodrug, is confident the 2023 edition of the free live electronic music festival will be the most memorable and entertaining to date.

The pilot event took place in Vic West’s Banfield Park in 2016, driven by the vision that experiential and ambient electronic music has universal appeal given its prominence in film and TV — and inspired by the iconic U.S. Burning Man festival.

This year will see the eighth edition of the festival, offering “free music in Victoria’s gorgeous park environments,” Bodrug said.

The programming will also draw more from the 1960s-70s and electronic music legends such as Wendy Carlos, Tangerine Dream and Krautrock.

“Live electronic music performances on hardware synthesizers capture the public imagination in a much different way than DJ’d performances,” said Bodrug. “There’s a general curiosity around technology where it intersects with art — and Wonderment has provided an environment for people to share in that curiosity and reduce the barriers between artists and their audiences.”

The 2023 festival will return to venues including Fisherman’s Wharf Park and Songhees Park Plaza, with new visual elements and night-time video.

“One of the joys of Wonderment has been the element of discovery with those who are unaware of its taking place. We’ve always eschewed traditional festival infrastructure like marquee tents and stages with stacks of speakers.

“At some sites, we’ve gone to lengths of hiding speakers behind the natural foliage, and we try to keep the artists on the ground with the audience so it’s easy to see what they’re doing.

“There’s a non-commercial nature to Wonderment that’s similar to Burning Man, and it requires the audience to come prepared (bring food, water, sunscreen & insect repellent) and also to pack out whatever you pack in – and minimize garbage! In not providing food and drink, the festival benefits all sorts of local businesses in the neighbourhoods around the parks we use.”

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Wonderment is inspired by Ontario’s Harvest Festival, The UK’s Big Chill, Terraforma in Milan, and Germany’s Love Parade — along with ambient/leftfield electro-acoustic music such as that featured in Colin Stetson’s scores for movies like Hereditary and The Menu, added Bodrug.

Two of the standout artists this year will be Lisa Bella Donna & Hannah Epperson, performing at Beacon Hill Park Cameron Bandshell on Aug. 6.

“Lisa, in addition to her recorded work, is quite prolific as an online performer and educator,” said Bodrug. “She works with Moog Music Inc. and shares a similar lifestyle to Vancouver Island performers, living amidst spectacular nature (in her case, the Appalachian mountains). Lisa is a great example of ambient music from a purely electronic perspective, playing analogue synthesizers and sequencing them with hardware in real time.

“Hannah Epperson was awarded second in the B.C. Peak Performance Project in 2013 and quickly became a celebrated act within BC’s summer festival circuit. In 2018 she moved to Brooklyn, working with dance and theatre groups, and touring the U.S. and Europe.

“Hannah captures the electro-acoustic perspective in her approach to the violin. Coming from a singer-songwriter approach, Hannah constructs phrasing and effects with the use of a looper pedal that records her violin, synthesizer and voice. Hannah delivers a poignant performance, with rich poetics and a down-to-earth reflective perspective.”

Bodrug is also excited about the Indigenous showcase on Friday, Aug. 4, featuring Edmonton’s Matthew Cardinal and a new project from Vancouver’s Tsimka and Michael Red.

Wonderment runs on B.C. Day Long Weekend from Aug. 4-7 in Victoria public parks. To learn more, visit wonderment.ca



An audience shot highlighting the accessibility of Wonderment festival in 2022. (Quinn Dawson)