Victoria’s new three-day folk festival, FolkWest

Fills the void that was left when the ICA folk festival shut down in 2006.

  • Aug. 17, 2011 5:00 p.m.

Local musician Oliver Swain is the artistic director of Victoria's new folk festival FolkWest, happening Aug.19-21 at Royal Athletic Park

Victoria was left with a void after the Inter-Cultural Association Folk Festival shut down for the last time in 2006. But that void is no longer, it will be filled by FolkWest, Victoria’s new three-day outdoor roots music festival, running Fri. Aug. 19 to Sun. Aug. 21 at Royal Athletic Park.

But this new folk festival isn’t modeled after the old one, which was the Island’s largest outdoor event and drew upwards of 125,000 people. This new festival promises to be a celebration of local music, alongside a few international acts and some top notch Canadian talent, a dedicated children’s entertainment stage, plus food and artisan festivals.

“At least 50 per cent of the music is local,” says Artistic Director Oliver Swain. “We have an incredibly vibrant art community here and it was really easy for us to pick great bands from Victoria to perform. Not to mention their support in getting this festival off the ground.

“We’re a music festival first,” says Swain. “Our primary focus is putting on an absolutely mind-blowing show of music. Once that was created, we wanted to include some of the many great artisans we have in the community. It just seemed like a natural fit.”

Headliners include Polaris Prize shortlisted musician Ron Sexsmith, legendary roots rock artist Barney Bentall, American string band Joy Kills Sorrow, Ruth Moody of the Wailin’ Jennys, and folk favourites and Victoria ex-pats Fish & Bird.

Local acts offer a wide variety of sound from the delicious bluegrass of The Sweet Lowdown, the danceable klesmer of the Yiddish Columbia State Orchestra, the stacked lineup of folk instrumentalists from The Bills, the acapella harmonies and asymmetrical rhythms of the Balkan Babes, the traditional dress, instrumentation and vocals of the Salish Dancers, Oliver Swain’s scifi-chamber-folk-rock-odyssey-grass, and the boisterous traditional eastern European brass of Bucan Bucan, among others.

Bucan Bucan is playing the main stage at RAP on Sat. Aug. 20 and later that evening on the night stage at Logan’s Pub across the street.

For those who have never seen Bucan Bucan live, the roaming eight-piece is neither klesmer or oompah, “I think our latest consensus is eastern European party band,” says Chris Logan, who plays the accordion. “People should expect fun— if you have a heart beat. We’re not your regular elevator band.”

Bucan Bucan doesn’t spend much time on the stage, instead they prefer to meander through the crowd, delighting their audience with their rambunctious rhythms, bouncy brass and old world style.

“We were thinking about what we would look like if we were riding a caravan,” says trumpet player Kirsten Wright. “We chose a 1920s feel with sequence, hair pieces, mustaches and that classic black and white look for the men.”

Bucan Bucan is excited at the chance to play this budding local festival and add some variety to the lineup.

“I grew up here and used to play and dance at the folk festival in Centennial Square. It was so communal. It’s great that another grassroots festival is coming in. I also love that they booked us as a no-grass band,” says Logan.

The Lower Island FolkFest Society was formed to present, promote and preserve traditional and contemporary folk music and regional cultural traditions. It received official status in May, 2010. The society is 100 percent volunteer run and it’s funded by sponsorship, memberships, donations and community support.

“We have about 250 volunteers now and we’re trying to get that number up to 300 before the show,” says Swain.  “We’re so inspired by the support from the community at all levels.”  Go to the facebook event page to find out how to volunteer. M

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