Entertainment

Pickin' and strummin' down by the river

Square dancing under the big top at the Sooke River Bluegrass Festival was popular in 2013 and will be a feature at this year
Square dancing under the big top at the Sooke River Bluegrass Festival was popular in 2013 and will be a feature at this year's festival.
— image credit: Pirjo Raits

Last year you couldn’t wipe the smiles off people’s faces as they do sa doed and promenaded their partners under the big top at the Sooke Flats. Square dancing was a big hit and the Sooke River Bluegrass Festival Society is bringing it back.

“This is the second year of the Saturday night square dance,” said president Phil Shaver.  “That’s the big feature.”

Daniel Lapp and his House of Music students will tune their fiddles for the first half of the square dance evening and Victoria-based Yomada’s House String Band will end the show.

“It’s a real family fun thing,” Shaver said.

Lapp will play more traditional Canadian music while Yomada will play more “called” dances.

“Lapp is more free style,” said Shaver, “and he will add a whole new dynamic to the evening.”

Sooke is known for the Sooke River Bluegrass Festival. It’s gone through some reincarnations and the society is fully intent on keeping bluegrass music alive on the Sooke Flats.

There’s a number of “younger” bluegrass/newgrass performers on the scene these days and some of them are coming to Sooke on the Father’s Day weekend, June 13-15. Old time favourites like the Clover Point Drifters will join The Lonely Heartstring Band from Boston and the Slocan Ramblers from Toronto. Vancouver Island is well represented by Oliver Swain’s Big Machine (formerly of Outlaw Social) and new comers The Poor Pistols from Tofino. Victoria’s James Whittal & Friends round out the line up.

Bluegrass music enjoyed a surge in popularity when the movie O Brother Where Art Thou? came out, and it isn’t stopping any time soon.

Yomada’s House String Band was at Saseenos elementary school on June 5 to teach the students a little about square dancing. They got the kids doing simple dances.

“It’s fun to do and they always make mistakes, it’s not about perfection,” said caller Craig Marcuk.

Yomada’s descended from a rockabilly, with a bit of punk and old time music thrown in. They put on a couple of events each year in Victoria — the Boograss Scare Dance at Halloween and the Old Time Tidal Wave Festival in the spring. They are among the group of younger folks who are keeping bluegrass and old time music alive.

“We’re getting people to get away from their preconceived ideas of bluegrass,” said fiddle player Damian Ritchie.

As for the square dancing, Marcuk said it best, “Don’t worry how to dance, we’ll tell you what to do.”

So, along with the stage performances throughout the weekend, there is also the jamming which goes on all over the site, especially in the campground at night.

Call it parking lot picking’ of campsite jamming’, it’s all about musicians getting together to pick the night away.

“The novelty of the bluegrass festival is that we encourage that,” said Shaver. “The bands schmooze and jam with those who are less experienced.”

There is an open stage on Saturday from 11 to 12 noon for those who might want to jam. There are also instrument seminars hosted by the Lonely Heartstring Band (mandolin,  fiddle, banjo, guitar and bass). For more information on these contact Lisa Feeney at: thefeenster7@hotmail.com.

Camping at the Sooke River Campground is up to each individual and information is available at: www.sookecommunity.com/camping. Tickets are available for the full weekend or for daily admission. A weekend pass is $50, Friday only is $20, Saturday only $30 and Sunday only $10. Go to: www.brownpapertickets.com/event/635706 or at any Victoria Bluegrass Association event.

If you want more information on the bands performing and maybe even have a listen to them, go to: http://www.sookebluegrass.com/festival/index.php?page=music-lineup and click on the band you are interested in.

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