All-star bluegrass concert benefits festival

Get a taste of what’s to come at the Sooke River Bluegrass Festival at a fundraising concert this weekend at Oak Bay United Church.

Get a taste of what’s to come at the Sooke River Bluegrass Festival at a fundraising concert this weekend at Oak Bay United Church.

The March 30 event features some very well-known performers. The Sweet Lowdown will be bringing original tunes from the acoustically-based trio, The Moonshiners will woo you with their powerful three-part harmonies, The Riverside Trio will inspire you with their soulful gospel, and The Clover Point Drifters will charm you with their repertoire of tunes.

Funds raised will go towards supporting the various operational aspects of the annual Sooke River Bluegrass Festival.

According to the event’s website (sookebluegrass.com), the “line up consists of an inspirational group of local musicians who have set out to create musical fusion between bluegrass, old-time and gospel. The event aims to be a unique event that inspires its audience with style and originality.”

Eric Day, the previous co-ordinator of the Sooke Bluegrass Festival, said that some of the best pickers in Victoria will be playing at this All-star event.

“Mike Kraft (of the Clover Point Drifters) is one of the best banjo players in the area,” says Day. The group’s website (cloverpointdrifters.com) refers to Kraft as “one of Victoria’s secrets that don’t involve underwear.”

Bluegrass is an American-rooted form of music that incorporates elements of country, folk, jazz and blues music and is usually performed on acoustic stringed instruments. The six core traditional instruments are the mandolin, guitar, fiddle, banjo, upright bass, and dobro (also known as the resonator guitar). The term “bluegrass” comes from Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys, who are credited with first popularizing this style in the 1940’s.

Sooke, according to Day, is well-positioned to become a Canadian Bluegrass hub given the high calibre of local talent coupled with the fact that Sooke hosts an established annual festival.

The uniqueness of a bluegrass festival holds tremendous appeal for those in the know, says Larry Statland, a board member helping co-ordinating both events.

“Bluegrass festivals are unusual and unique. One of the things that differentiates bluegrass festivals from other music festivals is they are more participatory. So people will come to the festival and their intent isn’t just to see the band — and sometimes they don’t really go to see the bands at all — it’s to meet other musicians.  So a lot of action happens in a bluegrass festival after the bands stop playing, in the campgrounds afterwards.”

According to Statland, the festival has negotiated new terms with the Sooke River Campground, and they are tuning up for a fine show.

The Sooke River Bluegrass Festival runs on the Father’s day weekend, from June 14 to 16 at the Sooke River Campground. This year the Festival has grown to a three-day event. According to the website, “the festival has nurtured a generation of bluegrass audiences, enriched the cultural life of bluegrass and old-time musicians, introduced the music to the mainstream and contributed to Canada’s bluegrass scene.”

The all-star event on March 30 can serve as a great introduction to anyone interested in discovering Island bluegrass talent. And for the regular fans and supporters, it will be lively and entertaining soiree that is guaranteed to get your toes a tappin’ and hands a clappin’.

Tickets for the All-star Bluegrass Celebration are $20 at the Royal McPherson Box office (rmts.bc.ca, 250-386-6121), the Oak Bay United Church office, and at the door on the day of the event. It starts at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday March 30.

Visit sookebluegrass.com for more information.