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Workshops delight both musicians and fans

Jammin’: Participants take part in the Positively Fourth workshop held Sunday afternoon at the CBC Blues Stage. - James Murray/Observer
Jammin’: Participants take part in the Positively Fourth workshop held Sunday afternoon at the CBC Blues Stage.
— image credit: James Murray/Observer

Oh that there were three of me!

Flitting about the fairgrounds like a hopped-up bee, I was trying to catch as many workshops as possible.

Not only did that turn out to be impossible, I felt growing frustration at having to leave one stage to make my way to another, never getting the full-meal deal.

Apparently I am not alone.

Several festivalgoers admitted the workshop jams are one of their main reasons for attending the event.

High in the bleachers, first-timer Jim Stapley of Red Deer, Alta. was caught up in the groove of Pull Up the Covers, a delightful blend of The Strumbellas, Joe Nolan, Jesse Mast and Monkeyjunk’s Tony D.

A performance by Mast drew wild applause and generous comment from Tony D – praise that echoed and re-echoed any time Mast performed.

“What took them so long to bring you here?” Tony D asked.

Listening to the music and comments, Stapley declared the workshop outstanding.

“It’s the quality of the music and so many great Canadian musicians,” he raved. “It’s great to have the opportunity to entertain and get recognition from their peers. I will be back.”

And it seems that while perhaps apprehensive when the various musicians gather on stage, most are ardent fans by the time the workshop ends.

Backstage, Jon Hembrey and Simon Ward did their own raving about the opportunity to play with other artists.

Basking in the glow of the accolades but humble as always, Mast called the experience fantastic and said he always tries to surround himself with music veterans.

Congratulating Mast again, Tony D happily  likened the workshops to “putting bugs in a jar, just throwing everything together.”

Nick Petrowich and Todd Menzies of Rolla Olak were stunned the group’s CDs were already sold out in the merchandise tent.

“We didn’t bring enough,” lamented Menzies, who was amazed the morning rain did not dampen audience enthusiasm.

Later in the day and a tad worse for wear following an all-night music fest of his own, Olak raved about festival audiences and declared the one watching the group’s Saturday morning show the best they’ve had on their western Canada tour.

“This sets a good example for what festivals can do for a community,” says Olak who admires masters like Tom Petty, Bob Dylan and Neil Young, and draws his own lyrics from Vancouver’s often troubled East Side, home to many suffering addictions or mental health issues.

“You get to know them; they are just human beings,” said Olak. “There is still beauty in the darkness.”

Darkness wasn’t on Dwayne Smith’s mind when he stopped to congratulate Olak on his music.

The Summerland resident has been coming to the festival for almost a decade and puts the workshops at the top of his list of things to see.

“It’s the spontaneity, the talent, finding the new talent,” he said. “The headliners are not always the best.”

Jr. Gone Wild and Dan Zanes, with backup from Black Joe Lewis’ horn section, blew the lid off the Boogie Barn Stage late Sunday afternoon in It’s Only Rock and Roll – But I Like it.

Excellent musicians, the band applauded their audiences and the volunteers, particularly the sound crews.

Tired, dusty but exhilarated, I caught a ride to the other end of the field where the unbelievable Bill Kirchen was mixing it up with Cannery Row, J.R. Shore, Joe Nolan and two members of Bellstop.

The tribute to Bob Dylan was the perfect antidote to third-day festival fatigue, a chance to lounge on the grass for a few relaxing moments before dragging myself away to another stage.

A few hours of sleep and I’ll be ready for Roots and Blues 2015. It’s only something like 360 days away.

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