The initial roll-out of musical acts for Vancouver Island MusicFest has been announced, and it’s as diverse as fans of the festival have come to expect.
From Americana legends Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Canadian multi-instrumentalist and vocalist extraordinaire Angelique Francis, to returnees Nikki D (this time with the Sisters of Thunder), Emma Björling (& Skye Consort), and B.C.’s own Daniel Lapp (LappElectro), MusicFest executive producer and artistic director Doug Cox is once again laying down the roots for an incredible weekend of music.
“We’ve got about 30 acts booked so far, but this announcement kind of gives people a sense of the depth of what we are doing,” he said. “We have some other ones that are coming down the line that are worthy of the ‘headliner’ tag, but they are yet to be confirmed. So there is a lot of really exciting stuff still to announce. This is just the tip of the iceberg.’”
As for this round of announcements, there is no shortage of star power.
Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore
Dave Alvin has been in performing for more than 40 years, from fronting the rockabilly group The Blasters (which he and his brother, Phil, formed) to a long solo career dating back to the mid-1980s.
His 2000 release, Public Domain: Songs From the Wild Land, earned him a Grammy award for Best Contemporary Folk Album.
He and Gilmore teamed up for the album Downey to Lubbock in 2018 and have been touring together ever since.
“Dave truly is one of the most prolific singer/songwriters in the Americana scene,” said Cox. “And Jimmy Dale Gilmore, for people who are really into the Texas music scene, he is one of the kings of that scene.”
This is the MusicFest debut for both artists.
Another artist coming to MusicFest for the first time is Angelique Francis, who is up for a 2023 Juno Award for Blues Album of the Year, for her latest release, Long River.
She has also won two Maple Blues Awards (Bassist of the year, and New Artist/Group of the Year), and has been nominated for a 2023 Canadian Folk Music Award, for Contemporary Singer of the Year.
“She is one of the hottest things going in the Canadian music scene right now,” said Cox. “She is being nominated for awards every time she turns around.
“She is just a wonderful performer, and a great musician.”
Daniel Lapp and bassist Rick May created LappElectro more than 20 years ago, playing in the Greater Victoria area.
“If you were at all involved in the Victoria music scene, back then, they became really popular,” said Cox. They were one of the first hip hop-slash-electro live music jam bands, and they became extremely popular. They had weekly gigs at places like Steamers… It’s another side of Daniel, for sure. His trumpet playing is much more featured than his fiddle playing.”
Lapp and May have made several MusicFest appearances, but this will be the first time they will feature this project at the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds.
“They played Rifflandia last summer and it was a huge success,” said Cox. “I’ve had people ask since there if there was any chance LappElectro would play Musicfest, so we (made it happen).”
Nikki D and the Sisters of Thunder
Nikki D returns just one year after her MusicFest debut. She was part of the phenomenal Her Majesty collaboration in 2022. This year, she brings her own band with her.
“Honestly, if I could have brought back all of Her Majesty, with their own bands, I would have,” said Cox. “But Nikki was my first choice. She was so vibrant and made so many friends while she was here. Everyone who got to speak with her or meet her just fell in love with her.
“Her band is a phenomenal gospel band so they will be leading the Sunday morning gospel session as well, which is one of the most popular sessions of Musicfest. Hopefully, in time I will get all of the performers from Her Majesty back at MusicFest but I couldn’t do that this year.”
Skye Consort & Emma Björling
Björling has twice brought her Swedish a cappella group, Kongero, to MusicFest and this time she returns with her latest project: Skye Consort.
“This is quite a different thing for Emma,” said Cox. It still features Emma’s beautiful singing, with a lovely mix of Francophone, Swedish, and other styles of music on really old folk instruments. It’s almost like Baroque folk with an Eastern European tinge to it. I thought it was important to make this part of the first line-up announcements, just to show some of the diversity of the festival.”
The Blue And Gold
Another group whose musicians have played the festival before, but not together, is The Blue And Gold - a musical collaboration between Juno-nominated and WCMA Blues Artist Of The Year Ndidi O and folk-roots guitarist/banjo player Trish Klein (The Be Good Tanyas, Frazey Ford, Po’ Girl) which celebrates the musical artistry and legacy of pioneering female Blues musicians.
Announcements will be coming out online, at IslandMusicFest.com “approximately every other day” for the next couple of months, as well as further major announcements to be published by the Comox Valley Record.
Tickets for the festival which runs July 14-16 at the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds, can be purchased at islandmusicfest.com