Rock of the Woods music festival looks to the future

With Rock of the Woods 2015 now in the books, promoter Dave Bain is already planning for next year.

With Rock of the Woods 2015 now in the books, promoter Dave Bain is already planning for next year.

The process that led to this year’s event — the fifth time Rock of the Woods has been held in the Cowichan Valley — was an onerous one that left organizers with precious little time to put the festival together. Regardless, it still went over well with the crowd and with other stakeholders. Bain says there were no noise complaints from neighbours this year, and that other interested organizations only had positive things to say.

“We’ve had rave reviews from the CVRD, RCMP, the fire department,” Bain said. “It was great to see the volunteer fire department, the RCMP, the bylaw officer really take ownership of the festival and support it by helping us make sure we were successful in our mandates.”

Although some naysayers were concerned about safety at the location in Sahtlam alongside the Cowichan River, the lone medical emergency at the four-day event in late July was a bee sting.

As he did last year, Bain offered free tickets to people who live near the festival site, and more than 30 took up the opportunity.

“They all loved it,” Bain said.

Many festival attendees remarked that it was also the best year for musical talent, with performers ranging from well-known Canadian groups like Gob and The Dudes to up-and-coming American acts like SISTERS and Motopony to a host of Vancouver Island bands.

In most cases, the performers enjoyed the event as much as the audience, and could frequently be spotted in the crowd, taking in the other acts.

“All the bands had a good time,” Bain said. “I’ve had emails from at least 12 of the bands, and a lot of them weren’t expecting what they got in terms of recepetion.”

When all was said and done, cleaning up the site was easy, thanks to the festival-goers taking it upon themselves to keep tidy.

“Teardown took no time at all,” Bain said. “Everyone cleaned up after themselves.”

Bain has often talked about how Rock of the Woods is about building a community, and the way everyone at the festival acted was proof that the community is coming together.

“I can’t say enough about about the volunteers, the patrons, the staff,” he said. “Everyone does it for the festival. They’re there for a greater good, and that was really evident this year.”

Among those who checked out the festival for the first time this year was CVRD Shawnigan Lake area director Sonia Furstenau, who took her family to the event for one evening.

“It seemed very well-run,” she said. “It seemed organized. I was surprised to see lots of other families with young kids.”

Furstenau said she is “a bit sensitive to noise” and felt it was loud in the stage area, but found that wasn’t the case once she got away from the natural amphitheatre where the music is played.

“When we got up the hill, we couldn’t really hear anything,” she said.

Furstenau isn’t sure she would go back to the festival, but not because of her own experience there.

“I’m probably more folk than rock, but I would recommend it for other people,” she said. “It seemed to have a nice vibe.”

CVRD chair and North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure also attended an evening of the festival, and was pleased with what he saw,

“I was certainly impressed with the security,” he said. “I showed up neat and tidy, and they still checked out my car and opened the trunk.”

Lefebure also liked the setup of the festival grounds and the fire-prevention plans.

“There were some fire concens expressed [prior to the festival], but the site is fairly green, pretty damp, so even though the rest of the area is pretty dried out, it is less susceptible.”

Bain has long wanted to have a bursary program for Valley high school students who want to study the arts. That program was almost in place this year, but wasn’t feasible when it took so long to get the permits the festival required. He is determined to make it happen next year.

That’s not the only improvement he would like to make for next year, but it all hinges on getting approval for the 2016 festival as soon as possible.

“The faster the permit goes through, the more infrastructure we can add and the more changes we can make to the site to make sure everyone feels their concerns are addressed,” he said.