Kaslo Jazz Festival 2017 Review

By Evie Lavers - September 04, 2017

August in British Columbia is a time of opening. The flowers open their petals, the clouds open up to the warmth of the sun.  So too, do the hearts, minds, and spirits of British Columbia’s residents open up, to share in their beautiful surroundings, and the beautiful music of today’s culture. In Kaslo, on the northwest aspect of Kootenay Lake, I witnessed this beautiful openness, at the 2017 Kaslo Jazz Etc Festival.

When I arrived for the first night of the festival, I was directed toward the South Side Campground, just outside of town, right on the shore of Kootenay Lake. There were plenty of trees by the water’s edge, so I found a suitable place to set up my sleeper hammock fairly quickly, and then went for a dip.  To anybody camping at the festival next year, I highly recommend getting there early, to secure a good campsite.  I also recommend bringing a bicycle, to get from the campground to the festival.
The first night’s performers spanned a diverse range of musical styles. Local blues musician, Cam Penner, was a highlight.  He opened his heart on stage, displaying a real humanity before the crowd, which everybody resonated with.  He hit every high note perfectly, and then pulled that note just a little bit higher, flirting with the prospect of discord, yet achieving a true harmony between voice and guitar.  Look Cam Penner up on youtube if you have a few spare minutes, because his music is terrific.
Meowmix played later that evening, and brought a wonderful energy to the party.  They are a collective of five lady djs, and they mostly spin house music.  Their song selecting was simultaneously deep and uplifting. At times it felt like the audience their real instrument, each dj manipulating the dancefloor like a master puppeteer. Live collaboration isn’t easy, and I applaud Meowmix for establishing a cohesive theme while sharing a stage.
Right after Meowmix, A Tribe Called Red performed on the main stage.  I first saw them play in Banff, as part of a Canada Day celebration in 2014. Their performance in Banff was an extremely well polished exercise in Dubstep Basslines. So I was quite disappointed when their set at Kaslo Jazz Fest floundered. Their transitions between genres were numerous, and grindingly abrupt. Several times, a new track would drop in the mix, while glaringly off tempo. I left before their set finished, but heard that they wrapped things up early. A Tribe Called Red have performed better sets,and I hope that they return to their former level of performance.
I was disappointed again on the sunday evening, when I learned that Charles Bradley had to Cancel his performance at the festival.  Seeing him do a live performance was my biggest reason for attending.  But I’m pleased to say that I was completely blown away, numerous times, by other performers, whom I had never heard of before.
The Preservation Hall Jazz Band were so energetic, and vivacious, and individually talented, yet cohesive as a group. I understand that they are a very well established name in music, some would say they are an institution in their own right, but I had never heard of them before, and they were totally awesome. One member of the crowd explained to me, “In order to be in Preservation Hall Jazz Band, you have to be hot shit in the New Orleans music scene, which basically means that you’re hot shit by the standards of the entire world.”
Probably the most memorable, emotional, and moving performance of the weekend, was Shane Koyczan and the Short Story Long. I’ve never actually witnessed a live spoken word performance, so perhaps I was hyper-sensitive to the medium and style. But I completely, utterly, and helplessly lost myself in Shane Koyczan’s words. It was a rhythmic, mass hypnosis, performed via lyric poetry, which manipulated my neurons with a precision that would make a world class brain surgeon green with envy. When Koyczan walked the crowd through the turmoils of love, loss, life, legacy, memory, depression, and hope, I felt that every extraneous layer of my personality was stripped away.  His performance opened my mind, heart, and spirit, and moved me to tears. I suspect that many others were feeling the same way.
Local act Moontricks laid down a really nice set too.  Their style is a fusion of electronic music production, and a soulful blues aesthetic. I’ve been following them for some time, and it’s exciting to see that along with their live guitar and harmonica playing, they are singing melodies as part of their live performance.  When they played, the electricity in the air made the hair on the back of my arms stand on end.
The Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra closed out the final night of the festival with a two hour tour-de-force.  Performers from nearly every previous act joined the orchestra, one by one, for a cameo jam.  I understand that this open jam style closing ceremony is somewhat of a tradition for the festival, and I absolutely loved it.
An honourable mention has to go to the vendors, volunteers, and attendees of Kaslo Jazz Etc Festival. I met so many wonderful, engaging people, who were working to facilitate the festivities, and bring beautiful art to the festival, and even just bring a beautiful smile to share with others.  The Kootenay's are a beautiful part of the world, and during the festival, Kaslo was the epicentre of radiant open hearts, minds and smiles, that will live on in memory for a lifetime or more.
Do yourself a favour and buy yourself a ticket for next year!

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