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Local faves, international stars headline Folk Fest

This year’s Islands Folk Festival promises to be a spectacular treat for music lovers.

This year’s Islands Folk Festival promises to be a spectacular treat for music lovers.

The festival, put on by the Cowichan Folk Guild, runs  from July 22 to July 24 at Providence Farm and will include performers from five countries and four provinces, ranging from blues and folk to bluegrass, reggae and country.

“It’s wonderful,” said festival artistic director Bobbie Blue, adding that around 1,000 weekend passes will be sold with day passes available at the gate. “We’re a community festival, we’re not a great big flashy festival. It’s a good place to bring your kids and grandkids.”

Blue will be retiring at the end of the year after many years in the business and Kelly Nakatsuka, formerly of CBC Radio, will be taking over the role of artistic director.

The 2016 lineup includes folksy rockers the Oysterband, an especially exciting show for Blue.

“This is my last festival and I’ve always wanted to work with the Oysterband from the UK. So I talked to their agent and it was the usual ‘Yeah, we’ll try to work it out,’ and I said ‘You have to do this it’s my last year and I’ve always wanted to work with them,’” Blue said with a laugh. “It worked out, they’re on tour, so we get them for the festival, so I think that’s very exciting... They’re quite rollicking. You have to give them all a beer and you’re sitting in the pub listening to them type thing.”

Other musicians include Canadian folk icon Valdy and U.S. folk star Si Kahn, country music singer Duane Steele, bluegrass from John Reischman & the Jaybirds, guitar magic from Don Alder, Joël Fafard and New Zealand’s Graham Wardrop, plus blues from Dave Harris, Gary Preston, Suzie Vinnick, Tim Williams, Michael Kaeshammer and Cousin Harley. Reggae roots rockers Jon & Roy, Jayme Stone’s Lomax Project and Lauren Pelon will be there with stringed instruments from around the world and different historical eras. The lineup is rounded out by dance-favourites the Nick la Riviere Band and the Gabriel Palatchie Trio.

Blue said audience feedback from last year contributed to decisions of who to bring this year. Other factors include the ability to bring in singers who will come together in unique and brilliant ways.

“I booked Valdy, who’s a Canadian folk icon. Everybody knows who Valdy is. Well in the states there’s a U.S. folk icon called Si Kahn, which is sort of like the American Valdy. So I really like bringing in the two of them, they’re both really stellar songwriters, but I also have a friend Duane Steele,” she explained. “I really like putting the three of them together.”

In addition to their own concerts, musicians like Kahn, Valdy and Steele will come together to share their craft in workshops.

“They’ll be playing separately and then I want to throw them in a workshop together, same with the guitarists [Alder, Fafard, Wardrop], separately and then together, and then the blues guys,” Blue said. “It’s so interesting for the festival-goers to see the musicians communicate with each other.”

The festival has become like a big family, with people coming from around the province to attend.

“There are people that have been here for the whole 30 years,” Blue said. “It’s really cool ‘cause they were young and had tiny little kids, and now they’re there with their children and their children have tiny little kids. I love the generations.”

The Islands Folk Festival is produced by the Cowichan Folk Guild.

Weekend passes are now on sale at Early Bird weekend passes for adults are $100 plus GST and handling fee, $50 for youth plus GST and handling fee and $90 for CFG members (must apply promo code). You may also get tickets by calling 250-748-3975. Day passes will also be available at the gate. Providence Farm is located at 1843 Tzouhalem Rd. in Duncan.