Nakusp Music Festival
July 16-18, 2010
By Donna Mair
Nakusp is the center of the universe. Seriously. A friend was on a flight to France years ago and the stranger in the seat beside him got chatting, asked his name, and when my friend told him his unusual name, the next question was – is your dad ‘so and so’ from Nakusp?
Nakusp might be mispronounced, hard to find on a map, but it’s no secret any more. Nakusp hosts one of the best outdoor summer festivals out there. And just so you know, Nakusp is in South Central BC situated between Revelstoke and Castlegar to the north and south. Nakusp can only be reached by ferry if you are travelling from Vancouver, as it’s on the east side of the Arrow Lakes, and so this jewel is a well kept secret. And a place of stunning vistas in the summer months – what better backdrop for a weekend music fest!
This year’s lineup had some heavy hitters – Darby Mills and the Headpins, 54-40, Randy Bachman and Fred Turner , The Mudmen, Default, The Trews, Bif Naked, Rude City Riot, Doc Walker, Eric Burdon and the Animals, and many more of course, and the weekend was nearly a blur of great music from many generations and genres – a smorg of music for a music lover.
Darby Mills/HeadPins – I wasn’t a big fan of Headpins back in the day but then, what did I know? Youth is often less discerning than the wisdom that comes with age. Darby might be 20 yrs older, and, as she joked when returning from a short break mid-set, “no longer able to play a full set without a washroom break”, but she’s still got that phenomenal voice. The strength and range staggered me and she still has the moves. Her rapport with the audience (of all ages) was great to watch and the band was spot on. I was happy to be reintroduced to their tunes.
54-40 – I’ve seen this Vancouver staple band three times over the last 5 yrs and they never disappoint. They may not be flashy, but their musicianship is solid, their timing is impeccable, and they can literally read each other’s thoughts by body language and a look; they’ve been together as a band for 30 yrs and it shows. Past favourites were performed (Ocean Pearl, One Gun, Baby Ran, and my favourite, Casual Viewing , and many more) and the band literally filled their 90+ minute set with hit after hit. I left the photographers pit to watch the finale from the sound booth and soak in the ambience of the audience belting out the last chorus as the festival closed down for the first night.
Rude City Riot –I learned about this band from following the CFOX Vancouver ‘Seeds Competition’ and although they didn’t make it to the next round of voting, they intrigued me, so when I heard they’d be at Nakusp I had to be sure to fit them into the weekend schedule of events. With 7 members – trombone, sax, keys, and guitars/drums this Ska band were energized despite the overwhelming mid-afternoon heat. The opening song saw a very spotty audience which quadrupled before the closing bars and by the third song, the field was jam packed with people drawn by the sound and motion of the band and fans up front. Pure entertainment – glad I had a chance to experience it.
The Trews – Seeing a band live often changes my opinion of them and no different for this 4 time Juno nominated band from Nova Scotia. I went in a sceptic and came out a fan with an appreciation for how this and interacts with their audience – giving it all they had but having obvious fun while they shared their music with the masses. Something else that impressed me was finding out this band does a lot of charity work, giving back whenever they can to many different projects. Kudos from a new fan!
The Mudmen –Ah, the Mudmen. All I knew about this band going into the festival was they had a bagpiper! No idea what to expect and I was a little taken aback when two bald Scotsmen in kilts jumped onto the stage amid a typical rock band. But no ordinary Rock and Roll was this! A mix of Celtic, Punk, Pop and Rock infused the melodious squawking of bagpipes, expertly played by a humorously grimacing Sandy Campbell and his equally talented brother Robbie. Filling out the band were Troy Spinney bass, Alex Maletich guitars, Mordy Harrock lead vocals, and a very crazy Dylan Broda on drums. The set was intense, unusual, a ton of fun to watch, sing and dance to, and it was over too soon. The Mudmen are also one of the few bands who came out to mingle with fans after the show, signing autographs and posing for pictures – and yes I did tell drummer Dylan Broda that he was crazy (in a good way) and he was tickled pink.
Bif Naked – what can I say about Bif? We all know that she’s gone through breast cancer and come out of it strong and determined. The afternoon of her set was incredibly hot and I heard a couple of the venue people concerned for her endurance in the hot sun, but she made it through her 90+ minute set with a good amount of energy. Billed and introduced as the ‘Metal Princess’, some fans voiced their disappointment when they realized the show was acoustic, but as I knew that, it wasn’t a shock to me. The acoustic set afforded Bif to show case her incredible vocal abilities and she had command of the situation in no time, belting out many of the songs from her new album, The Promise, as well as old favourites. The performance was strong and emotionally charged, especially as Bif shared some of the history behind the songs (something I very much am interested in hearing) in between singing them. She may not be jumping all over the stage as days of old, but Bif has managed to reinvent herself and prove that she’s more than a pretty face – the girl oozes talent.
Default –this is the one band I was really looking forward to seeing, and I was sorely disappointed. Often I’m given a photo pass when I attend shows, and allowed up front to shoot from the ‘pit’. It was no different with this show, however, from the get-go I noticed that the band was not connecting with the audience. They trotted out the hits of course, but there was little eye contact, no smiles, no pointing to people in the audience – it seemed like they were just there to do the job and little else. As I snapped photos it was even more apparent they weren’t in the mood – each band member would notice me with my camera and back away instantly, retreating as far back into the stage as possible to avoid the shot. This carried on for a few songs until I chose to pack up my camera and head to the back of the audience to watch – and reconfirm that indeed the show seemed rote. What can I say? They rocked, but they didn’t connect.
Doc Walker –so Doc Walker is a country band but really… they’re almost Rock and Roll… or Country Rock. A combination of their own songs and a few cover tunes tossed in (including some BTO and Kim Mitchell ) had the audience rocking with the boys for the entire set. High energy, gregarious, smiling and laughing with the fans, kicking and tossing back the endless array of beach balls that landed on the stage from the general admission area – this band really goes out of their way to make it a fun evening for all. And they were 2 minutes late getting on stage… why? Giving back… doing a one off charity appearance backstage. No wonder they’re up for 8 CCMA Awards this year, including Fan Choice Award.
Bachman Turner –It was my great privilege to meet Randy Bachman and Fred Turner and to be allowed to take photos of their set – not just the first three songs as what most shows allow, but as many as I wished. Randy Bachman is a quiet, seemingly introspective man, Fred Turner is very much polar opposite with (I think) a wicked sense of humor – very much seems to be the sort who would love a good practical joke especially if he was the perpetrator!
The show was stellar. So many songs have been hits over the years that to list them all would be a daunting task. Suffice it to say this is no ‘oldies’ act. Randy’s guitar work is second nature and still innovative, and Fred can belt it out of the park vocally. It took them both about two songs to really open up to the audience – a minor sound issue with Randy’s equipment was resolved quickly which allowed him to let loose and just enjoy. The evening progressed to bigger smiles and more interaction from the duo– both with each other and the other band members, as well as the audience. At one point Randy played his guitar with a drumstick and didn’t miss a note much to our delight. As the notes of the last song faded amid cheers and applause, it was mind blowing to realize I’d just watched two of Canada’s Rock and Roll Legends tear it up. No better way to end the night than that!
Watch for an updated photo gallery with images of the bands on RockStar Weekly.