Pat Blythe – FriendFest, FunFest and MusicFest
In my July 15 column I promised to regale you with stories of my trip and of course share all those snaps I took….and there were one or two. …and so my travelogue begins….
It’s Wednesday, July 8, I’ve managed two hours sleep and it’s now the ungodly hour of 4am and I’m staggering around the house preparing to head to the airport, Vancouver bound. (Who booked this 7am flight anyway!?) A friend of mine would refer to this as “getting up at the crack of a sparrow’s fart.” My eldest has gamely agreed to play chauffeur and we make it to the airport in record time. Only insane people are up this early, they’re just not on the roads yet (except us). Bag checked (another $25!), body-checked (everything I’m wearing is apparently signaling aliens) and coffee-checked. Ready, set, nap!
I pass the time snoozing and taking pictures of clouds with a few really excellent Westjet “ad” shots, all through that eeny weeny portal they call a window. Landed precisely on time! How often does that happen? In fact, I’m so on time my ride has not yet arrived and at 9:15am in Vancouver, it’s hot AND muggy. Welcome to the dog days of summer, Ontario style. Greg finally pulls up in his little Sunfire and off we go, heading to Coquitlam and the small area of Maillardville on the south slope of the city. History lesson: formerly the site of Fraser Mills, the mill owners, finding a need for additional manpower, recruited 110 French Canadian mill workers from Quebec. With the arrival of a second group a year later, the small French community of Maillardville was born, becoming the largest Francophone centre west of Manitoba. Maillardville celebrated its 100th birthday in 2009 and my friend Greg Simpson lives here.
The Good Karma Cafe
The following day we leave on our great adventure. First stop, the ferry to Nanimo leaving from Horseshoe Bay. It’s a gorgeous, hot, brilliantly sunny day and we’ve missed the ferry by mere minutes. It’s now a 2.5 hour wait. Not the most auspicious of beginnings but we make the best of it. A small, hippie-style, totally vegetarian restaurant, The Good Karma Cafe, is doing a booming business. It appears we weren’t the only ones to assume there is a hourly ferry. Captive audience. Did I mention it’s hot….sweltering actually. The car’s air conditioning system….wait for it….roll down the windows. My kingdom for an icecube.
Horseshoe Bay ferry lineup
Finally!! We’re all on board. Ferry ride….smooth. Food….could be better. Breeze….glorious. Scenery….gorgeous! From Nanaimo we head to Qualicum Beach to visit friends I haven’t seen in eons. Regan and Janice Myers are old Toronto friends from many years ago. Regan is an incredible keyboard player (he still has his Hammond B3) and is currently a designer of custom, accessible homes. Because of his own disability (he is wheelchair bound due to polio) Regan has an intimate understanding and appreciation of how challenging it can be to live comfortably while trying to accommodate your disability. He consults, provides assessments and gives workshops and seminars. He can be reached at solutions@accessforall. …and yes, he still plays. It was great to reminisce, share pictures and reconnect. Leaving Qualicum Beach Greg and I are now off to dine, visit and stay the night at Wanda and Jim Sinclair’s home in Parksville. Wanda, Greg’s middle sister (Greg being the eldest of three siblings) is the hostess with the mostess. A fine dinner was prepared, a great visit and a sound sleep in a most comfortable bed. Greg is consigned to the trailer where he can watch TV and apparently snore in peace.
July 10 and we’re off to Courtaney and the Vancouver Island Musicfest. We arrive before the festival gates are open so decide to roam the streets of Coourtaney. Oh my, look what we’ve found. I don’t really need anything but, okay, let’s take a look around. While I’m perusing the music bins, Greg is have an great chat with the owner so I take my time. I walk out with four CDs. This was not in the plans but what a saunter down memory lane. Purchases….Dusty Springfield, John Denver, The Yardbirds and…..I can’t remember. An odd mix but a good’un.
The next shop we find (such a welcoming town)….and no, we didn’t go in but I couldn’t resist taking a pic of the sign. Actually, the store was closed but their window display….it was interesting….’nuff said.
Heading back to fairgrounds we now wait in line for the gates to open. It’s a long, long, long line. Musicfest takes place at the local fairgrounds and there are a number of stages scattered throughout the grounds — The Barn, The Grassy Knoll, At The Crossroads, The Woodland Stage, The Grierson Stage and the main stage which is called The Concert Bowl. At the core are the usual suspects — food, crafts, clothing, paraphernalia, etc. We toured the site and “picked our battles” deciding to spend our time bouncing between The Barn and The Concert Bowl. Maggie Bell, David Kelly and Lyle Lovett and His Large Band (with Francine Reed) played The Concert Bowl, while Amos Garrett, Geoff Muldaur, Barney Bentall and The High Bar Gang, and David Gogo played The Barn. The music was incredible and I went nuts with the camera. The island is filled with hippies — old hippies, young hippies, rasta hippies, chic hippies, hippy hippies, wannabe hippies, baby hippies, hopeful hippies — this event was a congregation of every conceivable hippie type to be found anywhere. Average age….58½. This was great!! There was some serious music appreciation going on here.
Hundreds of old 45’s were melted and hung from the trees as decorations around the Woodland Stage
Barney Bentall and the High Bar Gang
Shari Ulrich, Barney Bentall and the High Bar Gang
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(a backyard warm up for the 2015 Musifest)
Shari Ulrich and Barney Bentall
Whiskey Train – David Gogo
“I did a short European tour with Robin Trower a few years back and always enjoyed his playing. This goes back to his early days with Procol Harum and we tried to combine the original with a bit more 70s Trower on the back end. I cranked my Gibson SG through my Vox amp and some Fulltone effects pedals, including the Soul Bender…. full on guitar solo madness!!” ~ David Gogo
…and His Large Band
What Do You Do – Lyle Lovett and His Large Band (David Letterman show)
Amos Garrett and Geoff Muldaur
Sleep Walk – Amos Garrett and Geoff Muldaur Vancouver Island MusicFest 2015
….and the reason for my trip, Maggie Bell
In My Life – Maggie Bell
Time to head to the Best Western Plus Austrian Chalet in Campbell River, the closest hotel I could find to Courtaney at the last minute. Fab rooms, great people and it came with breakfast. My kind of place. The next day it’s off to Telegraph Cove….and it’s raining. Really raining. In fact, it rained the entire weekend so apparently we picked the perfect day to attend MusicFest. Saturday and Sunday would have been a mud bath. The rain tapered off and eventually stopped by the time we reached Telegraph Cove, long enough for us to enjoy our entire half-day visit before heading back to Campbell River for the night. A three-hour drive and it rained all the way back.
Up bright at early (I arise somewhere between 8am and 9am, Greg is usually up and having his first coffee by 7am). I am NOT a morning person and no amount of cajoling is going to change that now. We have a long drive to Duncan where we are going to see The Sarah Smith Band perform at the local Duncan music festival. It’s still raining. Lovely!
Next stop, Coombs and Goats on a Roof Market. Oh, what a market. Hundreds of varieties of BBQ sauces alone. There wasn’t a product they didn’t carry, international imports and local products. Dry goods, fresh fruit and veg, decorating bibs and bobs, smoked paprika, 50 different flavours of balsamic vinegar, teas from places I’ve never heard of, a restaurant and deli, ice cream stand, as well as a pizzaria and trattoria, and of course, the goats. They keep the roof well trimmed. No lawnmower required. The market grew organically over the years, beginning in 1973 as a roadside fruit stand. The market was created by Kristian and Solveig Graaten, who emigrated with their children from Norway in the 1950s. Growing up in the small community of Lillehammer, Kristian was inspired to include a sod roof in his design of the market as many Norwegian homes that are built into the side of a hill use a sod roof as an extension of the hill. “With the help of sons, Svein and Andy, and son-in-law Larry, Kristian unwittingly began to build what would become perhaps the most famous sod-roof building in the world.”
Surrounded by food, we decided a little sustenance would be in order. I noticed directly behind Greg was a classic Wurlizter jukebox. I couldn’t resist. Somewhere out there is another famous picture (or is it a famous dude) in a picture propping up a Wurlizter. In fact, I do believe the shot even made it to a record cover.
On to Duncan and the 39 Days of July music festival. It pours rain more on than off all the way. Arriving in good time, we check into the hotel and then make our way over to the old railway station to hear Sarah Smith. I’m hearing her whole band for the first time and I’m excited. It’s wonderful to see familiar faces and always lots of hugging. I meet the infamous “Longevity” John, a close friend of Greg’s from London. John is instrumental in finding and booking the talent and putting the festival together. Also brought to you by the Duncan Cowichan Festival Society and a number of community sponsors, the 39 Days of July is literally 39 days of “‘free to the public’ musical treats in a festival atmosphere in downtown Duncan” running from June 26 to August 3.
Greg Simpson, Longevity John and Ken Ross (bass player Sarah Smith Band)
The Sarah Smith Band is on at 7pm and finally, the rain has stopped. It is in fact a beautiful evening. Sarah’s lead guitar player is stuck in Calgary (all flights out were cancelled) so she is lead singer AND lead guitar tonight. They put on a fabulous show! The crowd loved them, people were dancing and singing, the band had fun and the sound was excellent (thank you Tim). What more could you ask for. Sarah works her particular kind of magic with the crowd and we all fall in love. She even had three young fans up dancing on stage for the last tune of the night. What fun!!
Dancing Queens (Supporting band members L-R – Ken Ross on bass, Matt Varey on drums and Sarah Smith on vocals and lead guitar)
I Need To Know – Sarah Smith
Tim the sound man
After the show Greg and I head over to the Duncan Showroom owned and run by Longevity John. This place is amazing. John is a collector of stuff and memorabilia — you could spend a week in there one day just wandering around checking out “the stuff”. I love “stuff” stores. My sons will tell you the last thing I need is more stuff. We’re all trying to get rid of it but we all end up with more, not less, stuff. The showroom comes complete with a sound stage, a “blow your mind” sound system, snack bar and smoking deck out back. We listened to one song by Bill Durst called All The Blues in the World over that sound system. In a word, magnificent! I got so lost in the song I didn’t want to come back.
All The Blues in the World – Bill Durst (The Duncan Showroom 2014)
The men congregate out on the back deck for a smoke or two….and it wasn’t tobacco. Next thing I know, they’re all looking at the clouds picking out whales and dolphins. I joined in and found a TRex (I put it down to second-hand inhaling). The cloud watching goes on for a while and it suddenly dawns on me there are four grown men, standing on a back deck at sundown, gazing up at the night sky unknowingly slipping back into their childhood if only for a few moments. It was both hilarious and poignant.
Both Sides Now – Joni Mitchell
The following day Greg and I toured around his home town of Sidney and strolled around the streets of Victoria, stopping at Roger’s chocolates to purchase a few boxes of their famous Victorian creams, and a look-see through the incredible Empress Hotel. We head to the ferry docks and our boat ride back to the mainland. Smooth sailing we’re back home in Coquitlam in no time. A fantastic five days on Vancouver Island. If you need to chill, I highly recommend it. Many, many thanks to my good friend Greg Simpson for playing host and chauffeur (I don’t drive standard), sharing good conversation and providing an excellent choice of road tunes. Maggie Bell has come full circle from that original introduction 40 years ago and I thank her too.
All photographs by Pat Blythe except The Good Karma Cafe, The Goats on a Roof, and Bob and the Wurlizer
Wikipedia, Greg Simpson, YouTube, Goats on a Roof
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In “real” life Pat Blythe has spent the past 32 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry. After an extended absence Pat is now heading back to the GTA clubs, immersing herself in the local music scene, tasting what’s on offer, talking to people and writing once again — sharing her passions and her deep love of music. Together for 34 years, Pat also worked alongside her late husband Christopher Blythe, The PictureTaker©, who shot much of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda and the Imps, Plateau, Buzzsaw, Hellfield….) as well as national and international acts, Currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, Pat is currently compiling a photographic history of the local GTA music scene from 1975 to 1985. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES to dance!