Tag Archives: music


On the nature of concerts: Whoop-Szo and co. open a window into local concert culture

Ontario folk/metal outfit WHOOP-SZO were joined by Chastity and Abbotsford’s own Villain Villain on June 30 at Brothers Bowling and Billiards, performing for a packed house. If there’s one thing that struck me while I bopped my head along to the hazy incarnation of surf-pop Villain Villain showered guests with, it was the fact that…

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An interview with Astrid Lyre

Astrid Lyre, lead singer and guitarist for the Nanaimo based alt-rock group Eleanore, returned to her hometown of Abbotsford in late July. During her short stay Astrid, who underwent a transition from male to female, visited CIVL Radio’s studios at UFV to discuss Eleanore’s debut album, and the state of gender and sexuality in Canada’s…

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In review: It’s Me, You — Doja

Doja is a collective consisting of long-time friends, Brad Desjardins on drums and vocals, Ricky Lawrie on guitar and vocals, and Steve Kalkman on bass. They’ve been actively playing music together since they were in their early adolescence and that becomes very clear in how tight they are across their new album’s 10 tracks.

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Upending Tradition at Harrison Fest: July 9 – 17

Nestled between lake and mountain 10 kilometres north of Agassiz, the sleepy village of Harrison Hot Springs provides a picturesque setting for more than a week of high-calibre world music every July.

Kicking off its 38th year Saturday, July 9, the Harrison Festival of the Arts occupies a unique position in a crowded field of southern BC summer music festivals. Besides the breathtaking setting, artistic director Andy Hillhouse says the mid-size event, spread out over nine days this year, cultivates a laid-back atmosphere with ample opportunity to absorb and reflect on the art you experience.

“It’s not like a gated festival where you go in for three days and you’ve got sensory overload,” he says. “But I love those festivals too, and they’re all important in their own way.”

Harrison’s mission to connect the local arts community with innovative and talented world music acts — rather than focusing on popular music — also sets it apart. This year’s program features a eclectic slate of musicians from contemporary Hawaiian performer Kaumakaiwa Kanaka’ole to Haitian hip-hop fusion artist Vox Sambou and Québecois traditional, rock, and electro combo Mélisande. The line up goes on and on in this manner, drawing on music from all corners of the globe with surprises at every turn.

As an ethnomusicologist, Hillhouse says he is especially capable of articulating this mandate and how it’s reflected in the program.

“You get a pretty good sense and understanding of the value of music in culture,” he says. Ethnomusicologists examine “how music is used in everything from ritual to concert performance to religion, everything.”

When it comes to the non-profit Harrison Festival of the Arts, Hillhouse looks to strike a balance between challenging global artists and those with a wider appeal.

“We try to draw a broad audience, but at the same time, you’re trying to educate people and expose people to new things, things which have a cultural value.”

A perfect example of this duality on this year’s line-up is Yemen Blues, a unique group that blends traditional Yemenite chants with “funky, African inspired music.” Hillhouse says that the band represents an intriguing cultural blend that translates into “very dancy, very upbeat festival music.”

One of the themes of this year’s program is “re-working tradition,” which returning festival-goers will find contrasts nicely with last year’s emphasis on traditional music passed down through generations.

“We had a musician here last year from Mali who, I don’t know how long his ancestors played for the kings. I knew of some artists who were digging into tradition, but they didn’t necessarily grow up with it. But they’re researching it and re-imagining the tradition in their own way. [This theme] allowed me to bring in some people I was interested in, like Jayme Stone’s Lomax Project.”

Fashioned by virtuoso banjoist Jayme Stone, the Lomax Project re-works many of the original folk recordings collected around the world by anthropologist Alan Lomax with the help of many collaborators from the folk music community.

Harrison’s marketing and administrative manager Bryan Cutler says that he enjoys watching themes emerge as Hillhouse ssembles the program.

“He takes a lot of input and he tours around to different festivals,” Cutler says. “And then he looks at it and he says, ‘here’s what I did here, and here’. Themes come out organically from his programming.”

While this is Cutler’s first year in his new role with the festival, he’s been working behind the scenes on the production side for nine years. That’s rooted his work in the festival’s history while allowing him to branch out in new ways.

“We’re trying to stick with what Ed and Phyllis [Stenson] started and developed, but we’re making slow changes here and there,” he says.

It’s important to maintain a sense of the festival’s identity and place in the Fraser Valley, according to Cutler.

“Where Harrison kind of fits is, we kind of strip it all back, and we go right back to the roots,” Cutler says.

Beyond watching performances, Cutler and Hillhouse have also been looking for to get people to participate.

“I’m always trying to think of ways where we don’t just present music or other forms of art, but we engage people, too,” Hillhouse says. This includes workshops, a literary café, and a daily market of artisan vendors peppering the waterfront.

Hosting a variety of performances and activities near the excellent cafés and restaurants of Harrison Hot Springs contributes to the relaxed and slow-paced vibe. Most days, visitors can take in free music on the beach each afternoon, or browse the market before migrating indoors for ticketed headline performances at the Harrison Memorial Hall.

“Children’s day is completely different,” Cutler says. “That’s sort of a nut-ball kind of day.”

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Harrison Festival of the Arts runs July 9 to 17 in Harrison Hot Springs. You can find tickets online at harrisonfestival.com

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