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Point Roberts Festival 2008 - Review · 15.10.08

Craig Jacks' Jackalopes and Blackberry Wood Highlight Point Roberts Fest!

by Mark Bignell of bandcouver.com

*Pictured above: Craig Jacks and The Mighty Jackalopes played a double set
at The 13th Annual Point Roberts Arts & Music Festival.

The 13th annual Point Roberts Arts & Music Festival brought another enjoyable year, despite some fomidable challanges. On Day 1, The weather was undecided, the stage set up was delayed, the border was not the most friendly, there was a bit of miscommunication with the organizers and I had given myself a baptism of fire in getting aquainted with the sound equipment. Nevertheless, the festival pressed on as the weather cleared, providing the spectacular panoramic backdrop for a wonderfully hectic Saturday show. The world champion Airbourne Dancers opened things up with some colourful and agile steps from the land of the Celts, complete with period costumes to add to the allure. The perfect foil for the next act, Janie Cribbs, whose music is a entertaining blend of Folk, Gospel, Blues, Country and Celtic styles. Her and guitarist, Joe Reggiatore, bring a welcome, self- contained set up, including electronic percussion, keyboards, guitars and a very authentic Celtic drum ( a bodhran ). Their music is perfect for a laid back sunny afternoon. Janie brings an easy demeanor to her music which sometimes wanders down some fairly dark avenues involving social and political situations that are sometimes unavoidable in our usual peaceful lives. janiecribbs.com is the place to explore her stories in song. The Parlour Steps brought their individual style of 'Thought Rock' to the warm waterfront surroundings of the park. They were without their usual bassist/ back up singer Julie, but, managed a very musically alluring set marrying inventive melodies with witty lyrics. Some have used the names Pixies and Arcade Fire to describe Parlour Steps' sound. They do have the odd infusion of the former's spirit, and tend to be more lyrically coherent then the later. Throw in an indirect XTC flavour as well and you've got easily one of Vancouver's best acts. Uniqueness and individuality go a long way when it comes to music as far as I'm concerned. Commercial radio is scared shitless of such things.

Lead singer, rythum guitarist and main songwriter, Caleb Stull, was in a giddy mood as his fellow Steps, ( Ryan Froggett on bass who admitted he's not as sexy as their usual bassists/back up vocalist, Julie Bavalis, the highly- skilled Rob Linton on drums and self-proclaimed lead guitar god Rees Haynes ), juggled a set, ( between wonderfully silly banter, which I had to engage in ), that was made up mostly of tunes from their latest disc: "Ambiguoso". "Gargolyes Pasion" has an almost Classical feel to it, and "A World As Large" is pretty Pixies-esque. "Libertine" is a tune XTC would be proud of, employing strong melodic lines, smart lyrics, finely accented riffs and skillful drumming. I even joined in on backing vocals on "Blazing Light", to which Caleb replied afterward, "You need to get yourself a band, Mark". Hear what I'm raving about: here!

A festival favourite with the gathered throng was The Rahma Meditteranean Belly Dancers. Dressed in colourful, beaded garb, they twirled, spun, contorted and shook like there was no tomorrow. Eventually venturing out into the crowd to encourage some hip shaking from the rather hestitant onlookers. It was quite hilarious to witness the contrast between performer and observer. They provided a fine transition with their uninhibited Gypsty spirit slotted between The Parlour Steps and Blackberry Wood, who, themselves, offer an aire of Gypsy spice in their music. Blackberry Wood were the highlight of the stacked and technically hectic first day. They're usually an 8 piece enemble. Offering an engaging sonic stew of accordion, saxophone, trumpet, a very spirited percussionist, as well as drums and acoustic guitar. Their music recalls other eras and other places, mixing in the odd more modern influence to create a most enticing musical experience. The loss of a member at the border didn't dampen a highly energetic and eclectic set that went from Gypsy swing to an almost Ska-like vamp, to ragtime, to a delightful Country-Rap. The band dressed up too, in an almost 1920's fashion, bringing a carnival-like presence to the festival. They were easy to work with too, which made my sometimes stressful job of sound engineer, as well as DJ and promoter, a lot more pleasant.They even eventually got the rather reluctant crowd up and dancing, with a little encouragement from myself. We're bringing them back next year. They're at Cafe Deux Soliels the first Saturday of every month if you're at all curious. Their current CD is "Travelling Horse Opry". Visit: their page for some delicious audio clues.

Bocephus King returned to the festival after a 2 year hiatus. From what I saw, he was gleefully welcomed back. The festival missed his inspired and slightly demented melding of Dr. John, Tom Waits, Taj Mahal, Bob Dylan and a 3 ring circus. He had a new member, Bruno, on the vintage Fender Rhoads electric piano, adding a decided early 70's feel to this particular performance. His latest band also employs Brad Ferguson on bass and his original drummer Dan Parry. After a minor sound glitch with the keyboard was made peace with, BK became his usual jovial, twitchy and wise-ass self. Leading his band, bounding about through such old faves as "Josephina", 'That's The Way The Story Goes", and after some continued teasing, "Nowhere At All", as well as a few new ones including "What We Talked About" and "Broken Down Rock and Roll Machine". Bocephus King proves time and time again that (a) you can be a Roots act and rock and (b) you can experiment and still remain accessible. myspace.com/bocephusking is the place to hear new tracks from his upcoming "Willie Dixon Goddam" album.

Day 2 of the festival was a bit thin on the roster. The Punjabi Dance Troupe was held up at the border. So Sunday's roster started late with only 2 acts on the bill. But, instead of calling the day off, Craig Jacks and his Mighty Jackalopes played a highly-engaging and wild 'double set' to pad out the day. Craig is not only one of the perfromers at the fest, he's also the main fundraiser, as well as the co-musical director. Without him, the festival wouldn't happen. He also led what was the best band at the festival after Blackberry Wood. All the bands put on fine performances ,but, Blackberry Wood and Craig Jacks and his Jackalopes were the highlight of the festival. Craig and his band also performed 2 other shows at Pier Point ,just down the street from the festival, and were more than ready to show where they could go. Both Craig and his co-lead guitarist, John Shepp put on a clinic in guitar playing with chunky rythums, rolling arpeggios and searing solos to rip your head off on such tunes as "Wild Wolf", "Burnin' Tires", "Happy 3" and "Time Fades Away". They also cooled down with a few ballads such as Craig's beautiful ode to his daughter "Marisa, Child Of The Sea", "Crazy Blue" and their improvement on Freedy Johnson's "This Perfect World". Drummer Doug Lechinsky was laying down a solid groove all through their mega-set and John Bews added the subtle sonic glue to keep the low end together. Sometimes a pretty dire situation at a fest can bring out the best in a band. It was definately proven on this faithful day. Visit craigjacks.com to find out what it means to be a Jackalope.

Camille Miller had the difficult task of closing the festival with just herself on acoustic and her partner Nick Haggar on bass. Her songs aren't as barn-burning as Craig's but that wasn't the point. Her voice is what attracts people to her music. There's an almost effortless beauty to it. A fuller range, not chirpy or thin, with a solid bottom end to it. She brought out some of her stronger songs this day "Sun Too Long", "Tea & Sandwiches", and "Frustrated". As much as I love her songs, I'd like to see Camille take some chances with her music. Some added daring would make it all the more enticing. Craig Jacks' drummer, Doug Lechinsky, later offered some percussive assistance to a few of her songs. Craig Jacks, himself, was thinking about having Camille and Nick join them next year at Pier Point. The Pier Point shows tend to bring out the more daring side of performers. Camille's latest CD is "Somewhere Near The Truth". Her muse can be piped in from: thecamillemillermusicmyspacepage All in all, a memorable festival, challenges aside.

Spectacular sunset as seen from Point Roberts' Lighthouse Marine Park.

This annual BC Day long weekend festival was brought to you by:
* The Point Roberts Arts Foundation
* Educating youth in the arts and music
through celebration of the culture within our community
* Westshore Terminals
* Whatcom County Parks, Washington
* Sterling Savings Bank
* The greatly valued volunteers,
including all the bands and dance troopes,
and merchants of Point Roberts and the lower mainland.
* Radio Bandcouver

* For more info on Lighthouse Marine Park, please visit: this site.

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A Show For Our Friend Rand