Rock of the Woods just keeps outdoing itself.
The fourth iteration of the music festival in the Cowichan Valley topped its predecessors in every way last weekend: in terms of music, venue and overall atmosphere.
"I think it was our best one yet," organizer Dave Bain said. "It was the best vibe we’ve ever had. Everyone was so excited to be there."
The festival attracted 450 people per day to Lazy River, a Sahtlam property along the Cowichan River, where they enjoyed an eclectic mix of alternative rock and electronic music in a natural amphitheatre. "I feel we finally got the location right," Bain said. "Not that there was anything wrong with the previous locations, but this year we had no noise bleed."
The festival moved from Bamberton to Glenora Farm to the Godfrey Brownell Winery over its first three years before finding Lazy River. The biggest challenge for Bain was getting the neighbours on board, but he felt the festival proved itself once it got under way.
"We chatted with the utmost opponents to the festival, and they were surprised with what they saw," Bain said.
Central to the festival is the music, which included bigger names than ever this year, from southern rapper Bubba Sparxxx and radio stars The Pack A.D and Wake Owl to electronic sensation Robert DeLong. The Vancouver Island acts that have been mainstays at the festival also rose to the occasion.
"Because we went up with the calibre we had, that brought the local bands to a position where they had to bring their A-game as well," Bain said.
Sparxxx was the headliner on Friday and brought a charge to the opening day of festivities.
"I was surprised by how friendly he was with the crowd," Bain noted. "He really energized everybody."
Saturday took things up a notch with headliners The Pack A.D., Humans, and the astonishing DeLong.
A huge deal on the U.S. festival circuit, the Seattle-area product by way of Los Angeles combined his live electronic music with an energetic presence and dazzling visuals.
"Robert DeLong blew everybody’s minds," Bain said. "I think we did the right thing bringing him in as the headliner."
Besides DeLong, the best-received acts included The Donkeys, Victoria’s The Roper Show, returnees Fly Moon Royalty and garage rock duo The Pack A.D. Beyond the music, and even more important to Bain, is the feeling surrounding the festival, and encouraging a theme of respect among attendees.
"What we’ve always wanted to do is put community first and the music second, and it felt like we did that," he said.
From an environmental perspective, the entire three-day event generated just 70 lbs of garbage, thanks in large part to an emphasis on recycling – more than $500 worth of empties were donated to Big Brothers Big Sisters – and onsite composting. It helped limit littering, Bain noted, that they didn’t allow alcohol into the camping area.
A dive team was sent into the river to recover any debris from the festival, but was only able to turn up an old fishing rod and a couple of cans that had been there for a long time.
"That by itself says a lot about our attendees," Bain said.