Three summers ago is when I first embraced the true music festival experience by spending a weekend in July camped out at the Rock of the Woods music festival in Duncan, B.C. As far as festivals go, Rock of the Woods is what's come to be known as a "boutique" event, offering concert-goers a more intimate setting rooted in a strong sense of community and relationship (to the forested surroundings, to one another and to the performers themselves). I recall hearing after the festival, in fact, that dredging of the on-site river during the event's clean-up turned up only one rusted beer can that had plainly been discarded long before the weekend's festivities.
This fact speaks to the very nature of Rock of the Woods: the whole festival is imbued with a special kind of pride and privilege that undoubtedly stems from it very nearly having been cancelled on account of neighbours' complaints. For now – and until 2018, according to the temporary-use permit issued by the local government - Rock of the Woods will continue to woo attendees in all its grassroots glory.
And woo it did! Our Rock of the Woods experience started off with volunteers directing traffic into the grounds, with the ongoing spectacle of bro-after-bro surrendering his not-so-stealthy stash of liquor to the brawny crew guarding the entrypoint serving as quality entertainment.
We were fortunate to be able to take our camper van to the festival, providing us with a cushy little haven to settle into. The campsite itself is set atop the festival grounds, and while the (ratherish steep) trail leading to the stage had us complaining about the trek on more than one occasion, the distance created a perfect buffer when it came time to try and gain some much-needed sleep.
My memories of the festival meld together into a kind of sunny euphoria (partly on account of the blistering heat, and partly due to the ample ration of daytime ciders), punctuated by fond remembrances that made Rock of the Woods 2014 a one-of-a-kind, first-time experience, including:
Lining up for the loo behind a couple of girls and insecurely thinking how fantastic they looked in their boho-chic attire (and how drab I felt in my own outfit choice), but then bonding over the fact of it being all of our first-ever genuine festival experience, and feeling substantially less insecure about the whole ordeal.
The peculiar contrast of rapper Bubba Sparxx and crew arriving in a chrome-embellished, pimped-out Escalade set against the rustic backdrop of rural woodsiness.
Sitting in a golf cart (?) on our first night with a random stranger, marvelling over the brilliance of the stars and mind-blowing expanse of universe!
Watching The Roper Show ignite the crowd with some serious shredding of Yukon Girl, exciting one fan so much her shirt popped off!
Receiving a handful of C.D.s from a borderline-overzealous aspiring-D.J. who'd travelled all the way from England and who assured me he'd be taking the stage in a year or two's time, "just wait and see."
Sharing a vegetable tray with our campsite neighbours, and said vegetable tray inexplicably tipping over, with an unfortunate spatter of ranch dip landing on the camp chairs.
Seeing badass duo The Pack AD take the stage on Night 2 and basically slay the gathering with their enviable take-it-or-leave-it fierceness.
Savouring the cool reprieve of the Cowichan River - an eagerly-welcomed luxury that takes the Rock of the Woods locale next-level, particularly in instances of scorching July temperatures and next-day fatigue.
Watching, intrigued, as the members of Nanaimo-based techno group Top Men constructed a veritable robot city of cardboard before our eyes, later to see the aforementioned city annihilated during their raucous performance.
The smiling volunteer who turned the task of picking up drink cans into a legitimate art-form, never once wavering in her keen commitment.
The impromptu, latenight Jesse-Roper-drum-circle-turned-freestyle-rap-battle I know I've already mentioned in articles past, but which deserves to be regarded as a Rock of the Woods 2014 highlight.
While I've not had the occasion as yet to attend a larger-scale festival (think Pemberton or Coachella or Outside Lands), truth be told I'm admittedly not overly determined to make it happen. For although I know these jumbo-sized festivals regularly blow peoples' minds with their colossal infrastructure and elaborate pyrotechnics, there's something really unique and profound about taking part in a boutique festival like Rock of the Woods.
Not just in experiencing the performers in a more participatory way, or feeling connected to the natural setting as an extension of the remarkableness that abounds, but in creating a memory that feels as uniquely yours as it does part of something bigger and more profound. So that although it may lack the outlandish production budget allotted by more far-ranging festivals, your Rock of the Woods experience is guaranteed to make you proud to be part of the festivities.