On the Path to the 25th Annual Roots&Blues Festival

Well it is maybe 36 hours since the Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Volunteer Party came to a close and reflection is certainly a big part of the process when it comes to staging events of the kind.


For four nights, if you count the Music Crawl, and three days, it seemed to be “smiles all around” unless I was missing something, and according to everyone I’ve talked to, I wasn’t.

In assessing the 2015 festival Dave Gonella, Cindy Diotte, our amazing staff and crew and our devoted volunteers felt we had “vibed out” our audience and that the patrons of the 2015 Roots and Blues Festival were taking a message to all of their friends. That message being “that Roots and Blues was back on track and you had to be here for 2016.”

We were right and this past weekend generated nothing but smiles, ovations, camaraderie, hugs, and dancing, along with chances to make new friends, all while realizing what a fantastic community of music and culture lovers we belong to.

As artistic director I am thrilled with the way the musicians were once again “all in”. Workshops provided countless moments of artistic combustion and brilliant interaction and spontaneity. Judging by the comments we’ve received, and there have been many, the artists felt that the collaborative connections they made on the Barn, Shade and Blues stages exceeded their expectations, which were already high.

Personally, I can’t say enough positive things about the deep Canadian roots music talent pool.

Where does one begin when handing out accolades? Whitehorse, Matt Andersen, Bros. Landreth, Delhi 2 Dublin, kLox, The Jaybirds, Great Lake Swimmers, Locarno, or Quartetto Gelato all jumped into the deep end of the pool at workshops and delivered electric moments at stand alone concerts.

When it was all said and done, every artist on the bill wanted it to be known that they had never met volunteers, crews and staff members who made the process of making music “so easy”.

We thank our sponsors for their generous contributions that come to us in so many ways and forms and we couldn’t do it without them. Please try and support those who support Roots and Blues.

Some of my memories of this festival will be remembering audiences spontaneously standing in appreciation of a spellbinding workshop. I will never forget standing at the side of main stage Saturday evening and watching a Pied Piper like crowd dancing their way toward main stage as Paul Barrere, Fred Tackett and the New Orleans Suspects kicked off Saturday night with some funky festive and ferocious sounds.

I have believed for a while that Locarno is one of the best bands of any stripe in the country and I think Salmon Arm gave the ridiculously talented Tom Landa and company a great platform to reach a big and appreciative audience. Joe Craven’s poems on Sunday night threw a new creative ingredient into the mix and a smile will return to my face repeatedly when I revisit the moment when Barrere and Tackett invited Amy Helm on stage to sing Long Black Veil and The Weight with them at the Celebration of The Last Waltz.

Volunteers and staff are still working tirelessly at cleaning up the site and packing gear away but we’re already looking at 2017 which will mark the 25th anniversary of this festival which coincides with Canada’s 150th birthday. We’ve got to make a lot of magic for that one!

In closing for now, some lines from Jackson Browne’s song The Load Out come to mind.

People you’ve got the power over what we do?You can sit there and wait?Or you can pull us through?Come along, sing the song

Well you came along and pulled your festival through folks, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for making Roots&Blues 2016 one to remember for all the right reasons.

On behalf of the Roots&Blues staff, board and volunteers
Peter North