| Aug 04, 2005

Feature article, August 4, 2005

Feature article August 4, 2005

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Pop goes Blue Skies

by Jeff Green

As the sun was sinking in the west at the end of the first full day of the Blue Skies Music Festival, there was a sense of calm among the crowd, except among parents of young children who were starting to think they must gather them up before darkness fell.

Performances by guitar wizard Don Ross in the afternoon, musical storyteller extraordinaire David Francey, and the great Washboard Hank and his band of Country Squires, all familiar and well-loved performers at the Festival, had put people in a mellow mood.

All of that changed in a hurry when four kids took the stage. Spiral Beach is made up of three boys and a girl, all of them are 16 or under, and if anything they look younger than that.


When they started to play, it sounded a bit like the 80s band the B 52s, a bit psychedelic, with some polka beats mixed in as well. The band members, Daniel Woodhead, Dorian Thornton, Airick Woodhead, and Maddie Wilde couldnt seem to stand still. They were like jumping beans, taking turns at the piano and putting on unexpected harmonies. At one point the drummer sat under the keyboard at the beginning of a song, reaching up after a while and pounding the keys before scurrying back to the drum set.

Although the pace of their performance was frenetic, Spiral Beach never seemed to lose their focus. As their performance continued, the teenagers at the Festival site began streaming to the stage, and by the time they were finished the crowd had been whipped up. There were loud calls for an encore, but no encore was forthcoming. Spiral Beach had played all their material.

Spiral Beach was the first of several acts at this years Festival that were brought in with a younger audience in mind. Artistic Director Dale Driver also engaged Ember Swift, who combines politically charged lyrics with a hypnotic pop beat; rock n roller Andy Stochansky, and the closest thing to a teenage heart throb the Blue Skies Festival has probably ever seen, Liam Titcomb.

Galitcha's Kuljit Sodhi

The Festival was not given over entirely to pop music, however. The Undesirables demonstrated how dynamic a guitarist and a vocalist can be, and Galitchas Punjabi based music with saxophone accompaniment was one of the major highlights of the festival. Septedo Variedades closed out a surprisingly cool Saturday night with an infectious Cuban beat that had the whole crowd dancing.

The Festival was closed out on Sunday Night by Slim et Donnwith Ndidi Onukwulu. Ndidi Onokwulu is a British Columbia-born blues singer. She joined Madagasgar Slim and DonnRoberts for a blues set with a decided African bent. Then Ndidi left the stage, after being called back once for an encore, and Slime et Donnplayed a set of fast-paced African rhythms played on electric guitars.

Ndiddi Onukwulu

The audience was already used to dancing to Slim et Donn they had turned the Sunday afternoon square dance on its ear by joining in with the fiddles and mandolins.

In previous years, it had been the practice of the Artistic Director at Blue Skies to schedule a dance band earlier on Sunday Night, and wind the festival down at the end with a more mellow sound. Artistic Director Dale Driver reversed this trend this year with Slim et Donn to good effect.

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