Here on Vancouver Island, we’re extremely lucky to have a diversity of summer music festivals available to us without ever having to leave the rock we call home. And with this balmy spring weather teasing us with thoughts of summertime revelry, it’s hard not to get antsy for what lies ahead. Whether you’re a seasoned festival-goer getting ready to take this year to the next-level, or an unashamed newb counting down to the proverbial popping of your festival cherry, we can all agree: there are reasons aplenty to rejoice the coming-of-the-season.
Aside from the added bonus of not having to fork over your hard-earned cash for the ferry, Vancouver Island festivals do a mighty fine job of showcasing the spectacular surroundings that abound from north to south, and everything in between. From boogeying at Tall Tree Festival atop Brown's Mountain in Port Renfrew, to taking in the splendour of the West Coast at Tofino's Otalith; from cooling off in the Cowichan River at Rock of the Woods, to savouring the intimate charm of Cumberland's Atmosphere Gathering, there's something truly special that happens when nature and music come together in perfect synergy.
While plenty of big-name performers have headlined on the rock over years past, perhaps what makes the Vancouver Island festival experience so special is the support for local talent. Just because Jon and Roy, Jesse Roper and Current Swell have become festival mainstays doesn't make it any less exciting to see them perform. Quite the opposite, in fact, with the enthusiasm for these and other familiar artists generating a kind of potent pride and excitement amongst the crowd.
It may be true that music festivals in general beg a special kind of boldness when it comes to fashion, but no place other than our very own Vancouver Island can make Blundstones and sequins (or feathers) (or neon) (or onesies) looks so downright sexy. Part of my excitement over the chance to photograph last summer's Tall Tree Festival with the West Coast Live team was in fact about getting to capture the outstanding ensembles, with the weekend's floral headdresses, gold lamé and fringed-everything not failing to disappoint. And though a part of me has been too self-conscious to join the bedazzled ranks, this year I've bravely resolved to wear whatever the fuck I want!
And as if the fashion alone weren't bodacious enough, this same creativity seeps into every blessed aspect of the festival experience. Overnighters seek to make their campsites as eye-catching and mind-bending as possible, while local vendors peddle a medley of uniquely crafted food and wares. Likewise, from Wishing Tents to oversized dream catchers, festival organizers put special care into the touches that leave a lasting impression and have you going all, "That was cray!" (Part of my interest in seeing this year's Atmosphere Gathering, in fact - apart from swooning over girl-goddess Frazey Ford - is my yearning to witness and capture the unique embellishments that make this event so enticing.)
When it comes down to it, we're all just a little bit (or alottabit) proud of this place we call home, and we want to celebrate this pride together! This sentiment of community can perhaps be summed up in one of my fondest festival memories from Rock of the Woods circa 2014, when late into the evening of the first night, an unexpected drum-circle-freestyle-battle broke out amid the buzzing festivities, with rock idol Jesse Roper leading the melody. We all stood elbow to elbow, crowding and intimate, in one of those hazy, dreamlike moments that imprints on you with remembrances of, "That was so cray!"
And so, shall our paths cross this upcoming festival season, let us celebrate together the specialness of the moment, and rejoice in wearing whatever the FUCK WE WANT!