In a world where hyphenated genres are becoming the norm, all kinds of monikers are available for a contemporary folk band - post-folk, trad-core, alt-roots. File under World, or file under Celtic? Aerialists fits best with the beautifully contradictory term prog-trad, melding their ferociously creative harmonic sensibilities with a deep love for folk traditions. The transatlantic quintet draws from the wells of Nordic and Gaelic music, adding expansive post-rock textures and meticulously sculpted arrangements to create captivating, genre-defying new music. Aerialists formed in early 2014 when long-time collaborators Adam Iredale-Gray (Fish & Bird) and Elise Boeur (Jenny Ritter) joined Màiri Chaimbeul (Darol Anger & The Furies) at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Their eclectic musical sensibilities and intuitive instrumentation create an engaging tapestry of sound packed with depth, emotion and history. Their debut EP was released in 2016, and the new album Group Manoeuvre was released on September 19th 2017 on on Fiddlehead Records, accompanied by Canadian and European album release tours. This is truly an international group, with their roots respectively ranging from Vancouver Island to the Isle of Skye. Simply put, this year at the festival we get to see one of the finest working folk bands today.
Ainsley Elisa (Edmonton)
16 year-old Ainsley Elisa is a pianist, guitarist, and singer/songwriter. Ainsley’s original compositions have placed her as a regional top 10 finalist in both CBC Searchlight 2016 and 2017, as well as a semi finalist in the 2017 Calgary Stampede Talent Search. This teenager also happens to be a bilingual French student and has written songs in French as well as English. Growing up around an eclectic array of music has influenced the unique nature of her songwriting, allowing her to transcend genres and create her own distinct sound. Ainsley has had the honour of performing with Jazz artist Dee Daniels and Juno award winner PJ Perry. She has also opened for Jeffery Straker, Sunday Wilde and Reno Jack. Of late she’s been working with multi platinum and JUNO award winning producer and songwriter Ryan Stewart (Carly Rae Jepsen, Hedley, Victoria Duffield). Ainsley Elisa wishes to inspire others with her music, and hopes her music allows others to relive or make amazing memories. We’re very excited to bring this amazing young talent to the festival this year. With major labels already inquiring about Ainsley Elisa, there is no doubt that the future is looking very bright for this young artist. You can say you saw her here first!
Where energy, intellect and an unbridled passion for life intersect, there you’ll find the music of Alan Gerber. Possessing a rock ‘n roll swagger born from years in the musical trenches tempered by a soulful poet’s heart, Gerber has won a devoted legion of fans drawn to his cleverly crafted lyrics and engaging live performances. Gerber has an extensive musical resume that includes working with Bob Dylan, Leon Russell and the Doors’ legendary producer Paul Rothchild, but these days he’s entered his most satisfying musical chapter yet as he recruited his son and daughter to join him on his latest project The Grand and the Small. Family and music are at the core of Gerber’s life and blending the two on his new album is especially gratifying. Whether he’s performing with his children and a full band or just alone on stage, Gerber is a riveting live performer who has developed a reputation for holding an audience in the palm of his hand. One of the most impressive things about Gerber is his ability to create albums that simmer with the same energy and conviction he brings to his live show. Life is a colorful tapestry and so is Alan Gerber’s music. Blending humor, heart and hope into songs that will make you laugh, cry, sigh and surrender is Gerber’s special gift. That’s what music does at its best, and it’s what Alan Gerber has done for a lifetime.
Alex Wells - Hoop Dancer (Lil’wat Nation, Mount Currie)
First Nations Dance and Cultural tradition’s has been his family’s way of life, and he was brought up through the cultural ceremonies. Traveling across North America since childhood competing in First Nations dance competitions that has brought Alex into making it a professional business and a way of life. Giving him the natural ability to teach the cultural dances step by step to all ages, and being part of major roles in world indigenous cultural events. Alex has a gift for sharing his deep love and knowledge of his cultural traditions in a way that is deeply enriching, endlessly fascinating, and frequently full of humour. He’s been performing professionally for over 20 years all around the world, including the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2010 Olympics. He is also a three-time world champion hoop dancer. We can’t wait to welcome Alex for his first visit to the festival.
On one end of the spectrum there are varieties of the Begonia which can be a dark, grievous, rough around the edges. And on the other end, a petite and elegant flower. In between, the plant attempts to harmonize its two poles, forming an array of varieties that each borrow from the delicate and the unseemly. It is in this same vein that Begonia (Alexa Dirks) finds herself, trying to find a balance. Known for her voice in the Juno Award winning harmony driven group Chic Gamine, Dirks has a timbre that recalls the golden age of soul, proud and courageous. And yet it still returns to the ground, finding a quietness, a hesitant intimacy. Joined in studio by producers Matt Schellenberg (Royal Canoe) and Matt Peters (Royal Canoe, Close Talker), the collection of songs that forms Begonia’s Lady In Mind lets the extremes of Dirks’ past and present coalesce into a sound that is both battle hymn and breakbeat body mover, incorporating themes which are confident in and of themselves, and yet sometimes caught in the middle. The Islands Folk Festival is thrilled to welcome Begonia to the 2018 festival.
Playing together since 2009, Bowker Creek performs its unique arrangements of hidden gems, as well as original compositions, from a wide range of musical genres that include folk, country, rock, old time, swing and yes, even bluegrass. Based in Victoria, Bowker Creek has played all over southern Vancouver Island. The group is vocalist and guitarist Bonnie Jean Duncan, vocalist and guitarist Duncan Sutherland, mandolinist and guitarist Dan Ready, bassist John Cornes, and dobro & national steel player Bruce Kerr. Collectively Bowker Creek has well over 100 years of playing in bands in a wide range of genres, and you can feel and hear that experience shine through in their live performance. We’re thrilled to welcome this veteran group to the festival this year.
Eli West (Seattle)
We’re thrilled to welcome Seattle-based Eli West to the festival this year. One of the finest purveyors of the American folk traditions working today. Old and new, folk and jazz, vocal and instrumental, odd and accessible, subtle and virtuosic…. it takes great skill and care to make music that sounds this natural! Well-known for his work with Cahalen Morrison, Tim O’Brien, Jayme Stone and more, the singer and multi-instrumentalist oozes understated talent. Truly a sublime musician! Eli’s recent debut solo album, The Both, sees him taking the lead, on electric and acoustic guitars, banjo, and pedal steel, whilst remaining a thoughtful collaborator – with some of his close friends and personal heroes, like jazz great Bill Frisell, new Americana discovery Dori Freeman, and Anna & Elizabeth. The album focuses on the story of his two grandfathers; one a decorated WWII prisoner of war, the other a Brethren preacher and peace advocate. They couldn’t have differed more, but together they shared a family. In this spirit, the theme of the album is duality: the first half showcases carefully built arrangements of six American folk songs, the second revisits these as instrumental passages, revealing new sides to the other. Make sure to catch at least one of Eli’s sets at the festival. You can thank us later.
Ever since they were kids and started playing music, the members of Frander yearned to create something of their own. As siblings growing up together they shared music, dreams and visions, which sparked a curiousity around what would happen if we wrote music together. In the spring of 2015 the dream became reality when Daniel, Natasja and Gabbi together with Säde, who became the fourth member of the family, decided to form a band. They immediately began winning awards for their modern take on some of the folk traditions of their Scandinavian roots. Their live performances are exciting, even breathtaking, as they breath beautiful new life into some very old sounds. Frander has toured the world already in their relatively short history, including being invited as guests to play at the Swedish embassy in Guatemala. We’re so happy to welcome them to the Islands Folk Festival for the first time.
“Frander” is an old Swedish word referring to both family and kindred as well as fellow humans
Itamar Erez & Hamin Honari - Musical Dialogues (Vancouver)
An uncommon conversation between guitar & percussion, composition & improvisation. Originally from Iran and Israel, These two internationally touring musicians met in Vancouver and are excited to bring together the traditional sounds of the Middle East with their own original music.
Itamar Erez is an internationally renowned composer, guitarist/pianist who has shared the stage with such musicians as Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Tomatito, Avishai Cohen, Jean-Louis Matinier, Zohar Fresco, and others. His music blends the delicateness of Middle Eastern music, the freedom found in jazz and the passion of flamenco, creating a unique sound all his own. Itamar has lived in Vancouver since 2015 and is on the guitar faculty at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra School Of Music. Recently Itamar performed at Carnegie Hall (NY) and Small World Music Centre (Toronto).
Hamin Honari is a Iranian-Canadian hand drummer who plays a variety of Persian hand drums. He has focused on adapting his drumming style and technique to accommodate many different genres of music. He has toured as a member of the Dastan Ensemble, one of Iran's most well-known Persian classical music groups and has performed with many amazing musicians and singers such as Salar Aghili, Parissa, Hossein Omoumi, Hossein Behroozinia, Saeed Farajpouri, and Itamar Erez. Hamin lives in Vancouver, BC where he is actively teaching music.
James Keelaghan (Winnipeg)
Called Canada’s finest singer-songwriter by one of the most respected and lauded music journalists of the last 50 years, James Keelaghan is an artist who has proven to be a man for all seasons. As the calendar pages have turned, for almost a quarter of a century now, this poet laureate of the folk and roots music world has gone about his work with a combination of passion, intent and intensity, and curiosity. Fusing his insatiable appetite for finding the next unique storyline, Keelaghan also forges his pieces with brilliantly defined craftsmanship and a monogrammed artistic vision, making him one of the most distinctive and readily identifiable voices of not only the Canadian scene, but as a member of the international singer-songwriter community. Armed with a songbook that has enlightened and enthralled, and been embraced by audiences around the world, Keelaghan’s life as an artist is one that is a perpetual journey on so many levels. Most importantly it’s a journey that has invited fans of literate and layered songwriting to be a part of his artistic expeditions, some that weave their way through marvelously etched stories of a historical nature with underlying universal themes, and others that mine the depths of the soul and the emotional trails of human relations.¨His masterful story telling”, over the course of nine recordings, has been part of the bedrock of his success, earning Keelaghan his share of nominations and awards, and acclaim from Australia to Scandinavia. For Keelaghan staying at the top of his game comes down to a very clear rule, “never stop accumulating.” “I want my audiences to know that I am open enough to try new things and push their bounds.” It was Dave Marsh, the award-winning American music critic and historian who not so long ago stated that James Keelaghan is “Canada’s finest songwriter,” and those few but powerful words of praise say it all about an artist who continues to set the bar at a lofty height. We’re so excited to welcome James to the 2018 festival.
Jeremy Fisher Junior (Ottawa)
JUNO-nominated and multi-award winning folk singer Jeremy Fisher brings his catchy songwriting to circle time with his very first collection of music aimed at young listeners, Jeremy Fisher Junior - Highway To Spell. Songs such as Turtle & Guy, I Lost My Shoe and Bizzy Bee come alive with vivid imagery, instantly singable melodies and grooves that inspire kids to dance like nobody’s watching. His trademark wit and penchant for storytelling add dimension to the simple tunes and make sure there’s a little something in there for the whole family. Fisher became a first-time father in early 2016, and the child-sized guitar that hangs in his kitchen became a go-to for soothing a fussy baby or entertaining a bunch of kids on a play date. Soon this grew into turning everyday events into musical adventures.
The album came together naturally in Fisher’s studio, The Sugar Shack, located steps from the back door of his home in Ottawa. Along with performances aimed at our younger audience, the former Vancouver Island resident will be performing a set of his award-winning pre-parenthood repertoire for our evening audience at the festival.
J. Gogo and Sons - Salt Spring Island / Toronto
John Gogo, along with his daughters, Jena and Jeri, make their debut this summer as ‘J. Gogo and Sons’. The trio will be performing selections from each of John's five full length albums as well as songs written by Jena and Jeri. “I feel lucky that the girls have always been enthusiastic to join me on stage to perform my songs. Jena and Jeri have each come in to their own as songwriters in Toronto and I am excited to feature their work with this project.” John’s career as a folksinger/songwriter began in the late 1980s and he performed at several early Islands Folk Festivals. His most recent album Coal & Wood (Revisited) yielded his ‘Infamous Devil of De Courcy (Brother XII Song)’ made popular by its inclusion in a CBC Radio documentary. He has also enjoyed radio play on stations across Canada and having had his four music videos on CMT and MuchMusic. We’re thrilled to be welcoming J. Gogo and Sons on their inaugural tour as a trio.
Jon Brooks (Toronto)
Jon has been nominated five times for ‘English Songwriter of the Year’ by The Canadian Folk Music Awards in 2007, 2009, 2012, and 2015. As he puts it, “it’s a perilous and irresponsible life that pursues an ancient vocation incapable of modern recompense,” and yet he continues. And for that we can all be grateful. Since 2006 Jon has released 5 albums and has enjoyed performing for thousands of open hearted and friendly souls the Western world over. In 2010 he became the 4th Canadian since 1975 to win the prestigious Kerrville (Texas) Folk Festival 'New Folk Award.' Jon is simply one of the finest songwriters working in Canada today. His live performances are at once intense, and beautiful, with his powerful rasp-laden voice delivering his evocative lyrics while accompanied by his truly stellar guitar work. It’s not an exaggeration to say that a Jon Brooks show can often be a spiritual experience and we’re thrilled you will get a chance to experience that this year at the festival. It’s great to have him back on our stages.
“I write songs to calm those who’ve looked into their hearts and songs to terrify those who have not.”
- Jon Brooks.
Leela Gilday - Yellowknife
A passionate singer/songwriter and soulful performer, Leela Gilday has a voice that comes straight from the heart. Confessing her stories to her audiences with a gutsy voice and open stage presence, Gilday weaves her experiences as a northerner, a member of the Dene nation, and a traveler into a beautiful world that transports the listener. With four full-length recordings and a long touring history, Gilday has numerous awards to her credit, including a Juno, two Western Canadian Music Awards, Aboriginal Female Entertainer of the Year to name a few. Above all, she seeks connection with her audiences through music, and with each record brings more unique stories to the world. Whether it’s an anthem for the oppressed, or an upbeat song about mortality, she infuses her songs with a sense of humour as well as a sense of social justice, and an ironic appreciation of human folly. Based out of Yellowknife, Leela has toured festivals and concert halls with her four-piece band through every province and territory in Canada. She has also played internationally in several countries including Japan, US, Greenland, Denmark, and New Zealand. Her live shows, and many appearances on television and radio have earned her an important place in the Aboriginal music scene, as well as a loyal mainstream following.
Her latest record “Heart of the People” (2014) resonates with the heartbeat of the earth and the connection we all have to it as human beings. We’re over the moon that Leela will be joining us at the festival this year.
Leeroy Stagger (Lethbridge)
This former Islander just released his 11th album to critical acclaim and it marks the first one recorded at his home studio in Southern Alberta. Leeroy’s star has been rising consistently since he launched his career here on Vancouver Island all those years ago. He’s a fantastic songwriter and truly engaging performer who has shared the stage with everyone from Steve Earle to Modest Mouse. Leeroy Stagger will lift you up and get you moving, as easily as he can break your heart with his music. It’s been said before that love is a battlefield, and on his latest album Love Versus, Leeroy Stagger comes well armed. But more significantly, his ever-evolving fusion of roots, rock and pop reaches new heights on Love Versus, resulting in 10 tracks that confirm his status as one of Canada’s best contemporary singer/songwriters. Although Stagger’s sound has most often been tagged Americana, in reality it’s always been much broader than that description might suggest. Learning to ignore the urge to try to fit into any genre has been another crucial change Stagger has made over the last couple of years, and it has paid off magnificently with Love Versus.
Leonard Sumner - Little Saskatchewan First Nation
Leonard Sumner is an Anishinaabe MC from the Little Saskatchewan First Nation located in Interlake Region of Manitoba. He provides perspective from a voice often unheard and over-looked in the traditional music communities: truthful, insightful, and providing a new sound straight from the Rez.
His music is best described as a fusion of Hip-Hop, Country and Rhythm & Blues. His lyrics are bothintricate and honest, and with undeniable timing and delivery, massage into a raspy flow that growls with the bittersweet angst of Reservation Anishinaabe. On stage, he captivates crowds with a guitar slung over his shoulder, singing and rhyming to the beats, allowing his style to be enjoyed by people who typically "aren't into rap.” If you caught his celebrated performances a few years back at Music Fest in Courtenay, you’ll know what we mean. Leonard’s critically acclaimed Rez Poetry album was also produced by Music Fest director Doug Cox.
Once in a red moon, an artist emerges on the scene as if fully formed. Born on the Six Nations Reserve and raised in the small ghost town of Brantford, Ontario, Logan Staats started writing and performing music in his early teens. From a young age, Logan’s haunting and distinct voice has won him multiple opportunities to share the stage with acts like Buffy Sainte-Marie, Keith Secola and Mumford and Sons, to name a few. Still a young man, Logan is regarded as an accomplished, multi-nominated and an award winning artist. Forever a student of great music - Staats enjoys jamming, collaborating and learning from his contemporaries and other recording artists. A great example is a powerful late night live off the floor version of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice” in collaboration with peer Terra Lightfoot. Logan’s live performances are juxtaposed by a level of self-possession and control that still wildly careen through emotions of sadness, hope, longing and joy. Armed with his guitar and harmonica, he has transitioned from running the weekend bar circuit to playing sold out venues across Canada including his
favourite venue, The Sanderson Centre, in his hometown. Logan is fresh off his win on The Launch, a new TV show that gives Canadian singers a shot at stardom. Staats was chosen out of 10,000 applicants to be featured on the inaugural season of the series, and was mentored by Canadian country megastar Shania Twain. The song that Staats performed is called The Lucky Ones, and was written by Grammny nominated songwriter busbee, and immediately topped the Canadian charts the day after it was released.
Ingrained with the mentality that anything is possible when you put your heart and soul into it, Staats is hell bent on raising the bar for indigenous/mainstream crossover music. We’re so excited he’s a part of the festival this year.
Martin Kerr (Edmonton)
For more than a decade, Martin Kerr has been a fixture of the Edmonton music scene - in coffee houses and clubs, as a regular busker at the city’s farmer’s market, and on the private house concert circuit, performing more than a 150 shows a year. He has carved out a niche as one of the most talented, approachable, connective and inventive musicians in the Alberta capital. With the release of his new album Better Than Brand-New, the U.K.-born singer-songwriter is looking to take his stellar reputation as an entertainer of profoundly egalitarian appeal, and insightful, thought-provoking songcraft to the next level. His hard work has paid off in a big way. In May 2017, Kerr sold out the most prestigious concert hall in Edmonton, the 1,700-seat Winspear Centre. He also landed himself the opening slot for legendary Canadian songstress Sarah McLachlan at the 20,000 seat Rogers Place on Canada Day 2017.
Kerr is an artist who believes that music has the capacity to change hearts and minds, and based on people’s response of late, he might be on to something. We’re excited to have Martin at the festival this year as he continues his rather meteoric rise on the Canadian scene.
Matt Patershuk (La Glace, Alberta)
If all it took was a handful of good songs, the ability to finesse beautiful melodies from an old flat top guitar and an honest rough and true voice to make it in the music business, Matt Patershuk would be a star many times over. His music has a rare quality that allows his songs to go deeply in and weave into the fabric of the experiences of everyone who hears them. Matt’s a guy who writes songs that are so good, so worn down and lived in, that the first time you hear one of them, you get the feeling that you already know it, that it got you through some hard times. Even if the La Glace, Alberta resident hasn’t been on Saturday Night Live or played at the Grand Ole Opry yet, Matt Patershuk’s third album, ‘Same As I Ever Have Been’ is more than good enough to change all of that. Produced and collaborated on by the multi-award winning Steve Dawson,‘Same As I Ever Have Been’ resonates with a warm roadhouse, barn dance feel that can’t be faked. We’re so happy to have Matt and his band joining us at the festival this year.
Ocie Elliott (Shawnigan Lake/Victoria)
Ocie Elliott is Sierra Lundy and Jon Middleton, who are based out of Victoria these days. The two met on Salt Spring Island in 2012, and started singing together in about 2015. They've been building some serious buzz as a duo in recent months, with a number of high profile gigs coming up this year. Jon is originally from Shawnigan Lake here in the Cowichan Valley and has been a mainstay on the Island music scene for years, both as a solo artist, with his band Jon and Roy, and now with this new duo project that is rapidly picking up of rave reviews. He has of course played the IFF over the years, most recently in 2016 with the uber-popular Jon and Roy. Sierra Lundy is a multi-talented musician, visual artist, and designer, to name just a few things. She's a stunning singer with one of those voices that will grab you from the moment she sings her first notes. Together they make beautiful folk music, with rich harmonies and clear tinges of the “West Coast vibe” layered in. We’re very excited they are coming to play the festival this year.
Oliver Swain (Victoria)
Oliver Swain has been a celebrated musician for years, held in high regard in acoustic and folk music styles for both his astonishing instrumental and vocal abilities, though he seldom gives the genre a fully traditional treatment. Oliver strays towards the whimsical, the spiritual, and the socially conscious side of what he likes to refer to as “chamber folk odyssey”. A master collaborator and brilliant songwriter, Oliver improves the calibre of every stage he graces. We’re sure you’ll fall in love with him and his music, if you haven’t already.
Paul Ruszel (Duncan)
Paul Ruszel is a veteran of the Islands Folk Festival, on the ground and on the stage. He’s a past performer and winner of the IFF songwriting contest, and a recent past-president of the Cowichan Folk Guild Board of Directors. Paul and his family have been attending the festival since the very beginning and he’s long been a fixture on the Vancouver Island folk scene. A fine songwriter and an even finer human being, we’re thrilled to have Paul back on stage this year. He says he’s “so honoured to be playing this year.” It has been a dream of his to play the Chapel at the Festival! And he’s doubly honoured to be playing with his son Tad Ruszel, a Festival baby and now a performer in his own right.
Quin Etheridge-Peden (Nanaimo)
Quin Etheridge-Pedden is 16 years old and plans to pursue a career in music, and he’s off to a pretty brilliant start in that pursuit. He’s been playing since the age of 6 when he started Suzuki violin private lessons with Trish Clair-Peck (now Trish Horrocks), as well as a beginner fiddle group at the Nanaimo Conservatory. After a year of classical violin it was clear that Quin was destined to be a fiddler and he henceforth focused all his energy and education on fiddle music. In 2017 Quin released his first solo CD, Embark. It is an eclectic mix of traditional fiddle and new contemporary, and contains three tunes that were composed by Quin. Following the release of Embark, Quin was nominated for a Canadian Folk Music Award in the Young Artist of the year category. Quin is also excited and proud to have been invited to the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Competition in Ottawa in August, just after the festival.
Quin has been a member of Fiddelium for 6 years, which is a small group of young musicians who perform in and around Nanaimo at many events. Not one to be restricted, Quin also teaches fiddle and guitar, and will be an instructor at the Nanaimo Fiddle Society Camp in August. He also plays occasionally with the local Lantzville band, Neighbours, and plays electric guitar in the Extreme Jazz
Band at Dover Bay Secondary. Most days you can find Quin in his music room with his fiddle, guitar, mandolin and loop pedal working on existing tunes or creating new ones for his next album.
Susannah Adams - Victoria
A bold innovator, Susannah Adams is unafraid to explore the depth of jazz in order to find her true sound - a sound which is at once warm and lush, yet harkens back to the era of cool jazz. A classic approach with a contemporary twist, Adams' style is as unique as her stage presence. Utterly compelling to behold, this fiery performer has an enchanting and candid approach leaving one mesmerised by the music and the moment. Having just released her highly acclaimed debut album As the Morning Light Susannah Adams is making her mark as an original lyricist, composer and arranger. Swinging with ease, Susannah Adams’ vocals are enchanting and sweet, yet daringly hip. Adams is definitely one to watch.’ (Victoria Jazz Society). Born and raised in London, England, Adams now resides by the ocean in Victoria, British Columbia, with her husband and two children. She believes the world is a stage and is often found singing to the ducks as she tends to their urban farm. We’re so excited to welcome her to the festival for the first time.
Tad Ruszel - Duncan/Victoria
Tad Ruszel’s inspirational lyrics and heart-warming melodies have been catching the ear and enthusiasm of thousands across the northwest coast. From music festivals to cafes, street corners to house concerts. His performances are enthusiastic and engaging. With the release of his debut full length album, Balance, he has been venturing back into the world of live performances. With a preference for making music and sharing its recorded mediums, he tends to keep his live shows to venues and festivals he knows and love. Have taken time to develop a new live sound, he has incorporated ways to make his live performance more than just guitar and voice. From loop pedals to delays, expect to hear an engaging and unique approach to being a singer songwriter. Having shared the stage with artists such as Serena Ryder, Xavior Rudd and Matthew Barber in the past, he is looking forward to sharing the stage once again with all the amazing artists and audiences to come. Along with his solo sets, Tad will also be performing at the festival as a member of The Sweet Lowdown, and along side his father Paul Ruszel
The Blue Hearts (Victoria)
Longtime staples of the Vancouver Island blues scene, all three members of the Blue Hearts also form part of the legendary big blues outfit Uncle Wiggly’s Hot Shoes Band. Mark "Westcoast" Comerford on guitar, percussion, and vocals , Andy Graffiti on percussion and Big Hank Lionhart on lead vocals. Although the Blue Hearts is a new thing for them, they bring a ton of experience in the Blues with them. They’ve been playing and recording the Blues for over 40 years with each other and in other Blues bands. In 2015 they went to Memphis to represent BC at the IBC's in the Band Category with Uncle Wiggly's Hot Shoes Blues Band and returnred to Memphis to compete last year in the Solo Duo category as The Blue Hearts, making all the way to the semi-finals. This format allows them to get back to the real roots of the Blues with a stripped down set-up. Mark and Hank write and perform their own songs and stay true to the Blues, and we’re thrilled they’ll bringing the blues to the festival this year.
The Jaimey Hamilton Band
Budding artist, singer/songwriter Jaimey Hamilton started life in the small sea side community of Metchosin. Outside of music, Jaimey enjoys a busy, active and adventurous lifestyle. Music for this talented teen is not only her passion but her healing outlet. She spent over a decade battling three childhood cancer diagnoses. Musical therapy and song writing helped Jaimey through her times of stress and fear and allowed her to focus on her art rather than medical tests and hospital beds. Local charity events had Jaimey performing at age 12 in front of audiences of up to 200. She can often found singing our national anthem at several junior hockey games in Victoria. Summer 2016 was a turning point as Jaimey was awarded the opportunity to perform at the Sunfest Country Music Festival here in the Cowichan Valley. She must have made an impression as Sunfest invited her to return to their stage last year, and this year as well. Last year the Children’s Wish Foundation granted Jaimey’s wish to record a song in a professional recording studio in Toronto, ON. Here she met with the professionals at Diamond Factory Recording Studio and recorded her first single as an artist “Survive”. Jaimey has travelled back and forth to Toronto to record her first EP album which is now available. Jaimey is currently enrolled in the Music Performance Program at the Victoria Conservatory of Music where she is studying the art of music and performance. Jaimey hopes to fulfill her dreams with a life and career in music. Her talented young band also features guitarist Jesse Carvalho, Joshua Litton on bass and strings, and Michael Willard on percussion.
The Leg Up Program
A BIG band bringing back BIG sound with horns, percussion, and an onslaught of talented vocalists & musicians. This 17-piece original Funk, Soul, RnB orchestra comes straight out of Victoria sounding like Motown meets Roots meets the Golden Age of Hip Hop. At times, they are a soul band with raspy lead vocals and beautifully sculpted harmonies; at times, they are a funk band with a wild horn section and groovy bass and drums; at times they are a hip hop group with catchy hooks and heavy beats; and at times, they are sweet and sultry, keeping the audience lit up with the sweetest of ballads. This group simply loves to make music and making people move! It's safe to say, this band does it all—the danciest party you ever dance-partied! Playing Friday night at the Festival this year
The Sweet Lowdown (Victoria)
There’s something about living on the edge of the world that tends to encourage far-reaching perspectives. Canadian roots trio The Sweet Lowdown (Amanda Blied, guitar; Tad Ruszel, mandolin; Miriam Sonstenes, fiddle) certainly understand this. With the rough waters of the Pacific around them and the wilds of the Canadian North above them, the trio has developed original acoustic roots music that draws from both Appalachian and Celtic influences, and embodies that particularly Canadian blend of driving tradition and ground-breaking originality. Gaining critical acclaim wherever their music takes them, The Sweet Lowdown have accomplished much in the past 10 years. In 2015 Fiddler Magazine wrote “This trio of ladies from British Columbia is a force to be reckoned with.” With three full length albums, an EP, and numerous awards and award nominations, the group has toured Canada, the US and the UK, and in 2015 was featured on CBC's Vinyl Cafe with Stuart McLean. In 2017 banjo player and founding member Shanti Bremer left the band to pursue other goals. Mandolinist Tad Ruszel joined in the fall of that year, bringing distinctive vocals and skillful playing. Expect to hear much of The Sweet Lowdown's original material with a slight new twist, along with brand new music penned by all three members.
The Unfaithful Servants (Victoria)
The Unfaithful Servants have quickly gained a reputation on Vancouver Island as a must-see act. With an exciting approach to traditional Americana, folk, bluegrass and country music, the group serves up explosive instrumentals and compelling story-telling, and draw their audience into an entertaining and memorable musical experience. Formed in the fall of 2016, the band released their debut album “Dylan Stone and The Unfaithful Servants”. The credits and resume of The Servants members are impressive, but it is the chemistry of the group and the skill of their individual musicianship that propels their live performance. Sharing vocal harmonies around a single microphone is an integral part of their blend.
American born mandolin Jesse Cobb is a founding member of the critically acclaimed bluegrass group The Infamous String Dusters, with whom he received a Grammy nomination.
Jesse has recorded and performed with the likes of Bela Fleck, Lee Anne Womack, Dirks Bentley, and Jim Lauderdale and has performed many times at The Grand Old Opry.
Singer/songwriter Dylan Stone is a restless songwriter who is constantly pursuing new sounds and collaborations. Jesse and Dylan’s collaboration grew to include Miriam Sonstenes on fiddle. Miriam is a founder of beloved Canadian roots trio The Sweet Lowdown, who are also performing at the festival this year. Alex Remple on stand-up bass solidifies the group with groove and versatility. Alex also performs and tours Canada and Europe with Canadian group West My Friend, a festival favourite in 2017.