Abbotsford’s fine microbrew establishment, Field House, was host to an entirely new music festival in the valley at the end of June. Over two days they welcomed 10 indie bands to their outdoor stage. Some of the bands were well-known, such as Jordan Klassen, while others were relative newcomers still developing their mark.
Beginning on a calm, overcast Friday evening, Warm Amps, Kin, and Mike Edel nailed their sets and paved the way for the remainder of the festival. Saturday then came along, as did the sun. Opening the day were The Sylvia Platters, followed by Coalmont, Mental Health, and Van Damsel who all had steller performances. Van Damsel in particular owned the stage as the sun seemed to amplify their effervescence. After a brief break, and with the evening settling in nicely, Teen Daze, Alexandria Maillot, and Jordan Klassen brought the festival to a very fitting end. Klassen, a product of Abbotsford who made it big, was a fine choice to close as he performed with his ukulele during the warm summer night, under the string lights.
This wasn’t a loud ruckus of a time, far from it. The two days were a charming social gathering. That’s to be expected as Field House is a social gathering place and the organizers, The Backyard Concert Series, come from a background of developing intimate concert experiences. In making this a true festival they had food trucks, a ping pong table, and Oldhand Coffee on site. With a good first year turnout, the beers were flowing and the music was glowing. It was an experience to remember and if things go right, it will become a regular staple of summer in the valley.
Interview with Levi Klassen, co-founder of the Backyard Concert Series
How did the backyard concert series start?
Essentially, my brother Adam and I saw a need for something like that. We had been to lots of concerts and house shows in Vancouver and Bellingham and Seattle. We just thought something similar to that might as well be happening closer to home. There’s a lot of that stuff in the bigger cities but not a whole lot of that happening in the Abbotsford area. And at the time I had a back yard that was a great space for something like that so we just called up friends, and friends of friends, and just got some artists and made it happen.
How long have you been doing it for now?
We just started last year. Last summer we started with three concerts, June, July, and August. It was going really well, it was a good response, and we added a September date as well. This year we decided to partner up with Field House and do the big Field Days festival. We’re going to continue through summer with three more backyard concerts. Just smaller events.
How did the partnership with Field House come up?
We met Josh, the founder of Field House last year, at one of our concerts. He had reached out to us, bought some tickets, and came out. We just seemed to hit it off and Field House is a very community oriented business, which there seems to be an increasing amount of in Abbotsford. They are just always looking for a good opportunity to partner with people in the community and put on events like that. So we teamed up with them and knew we wanted to do something. The Festival itself was their idea, and then we just went from there.
I guess this is the biggest one you’ve done then?
For sure. The concerts last year we typically had three artists play. And it would just be one evening. Ten artists on Friday and Saturday, that’s definitely a bigger undertaking than we had done before. It was a challenge in some ways but I think it was really rewarding. We were pretty satisfied with that.
How do you think Field Days went?
We were really happy with the outcome. We had a really good response. People seemed to react positively and be excited. Like I said, there’s these neat kinds of things happening in Abbotsford and they don’t have to leave their city to find higher quality events and music. We were really happy with the musicians we were able to get. They were all really excited to be there and thankful to be a part of something like this, too.
How did you decide on the musicians to bring in? Was it difficult to decide?
A few of them are contacts we had made before. A number of them had played in our series last year and then a few were other bands and musicians that we either know of or enjoy and wanted to bring out to Abbotsford that we thought would be a good fit for this kind of festival. We really wanted to get high quality artists but also keep it somewhat local so that we’re not only bringing in a high quality concert experience to Abbotsford but also highlighting the talent that we have locally, whether it’s the Fraser Valley, or the Lower Mainland, or B.C. We wanted to keep it focused.
Do you think this will set precedent for doing bigger events now?
I think it’s kind of twofold. I think there’s something special about a big event like that… a wider draw. You get more people out. More momentum around it. It’s incredibly exciting to be a part of an enjoyable couple days. But I think there’s something really special about what we do in the Backyard Concert series. They’re much smaller, more intimate shows, still with a high quality set of artists. But it’s just a very different feel. People are definitely there for the music and for the experience of it. The small intimate concerts definitely holds a special place for us.
Do you think you’ll do another Field Days next year? Is it kind of in the air right now?
I think it’s up in the air but I think Field House and us were very satisfied with the outcome. We think that we can definitely build on the momentum of this year now that people are a bit more familiar with what it is. I think the response was really positive. I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t do it again.
Is there anything you’d do differently next year if you do it again?
I don’t think so, actually. I don’t know. I think it went really well. We were happy with it.
How did you attract the bands to Field Days? When you talked to them they were all really gung ho or…?
All the artists were incredibly eager to be a part of it. Some of them we knew personally and others we didn’t. The ones we knew personally know us and know the kinds of events we put on. They were eager to be a part of it. The ones who weren’t, I feel like they understood pretty quickly the kind of environment it would be and the kind of event that it was. They certainly didn’t hesitate to jump in.