Night and day!
That’s the depth of the difference in how Roots and Blues artistic director Peter North feels about this year’s festival over the 2014 production.
“A year ago today, I was despondent and angry about some of the abuse the festival took,” he said of some behind-the-scenes administrative issues. “Today is just a totally different feeling.”
Frustrated (happily) like many festivalgoers with running back and forth between stages and some performers in favour of others, North said he felt a sense of jubilation Sunday night.
“I actually had people come up and hug me and say ‘I don’t even know where to go anymore.”
Over the top, is how North describes the response from the musicians.
“Success comes from having really talented musicians who are also really nice human beings. And that’s what we had,” he says. “Nobody wanted to be on the bus hiding away; everyone was collaborating, they all wanted to see each other and I saw them in the merch tent buying each other’s CDs.”
North says John Oates told him Roots and Blues is a beautiful festival and that it is refreshing that everyone on the site really wants to listen to music.
“Him, Marty (Stuart) and Cyril (Neville) talked about how the big, cool American festivals have become huge corporate brandings, with too much alcohol, while this one has such a great vibe,” says North.
Like board chair Lody Kieken, North is pumped by production manager David Gonella’s return to the festival and his improvements in making the site more comfortable.
He also had high praise for busking co-ordinator Roxy Roth, whose organizing went beyond musical artists to include puppets and stilt walkers, which helped turn the event back into a folk roots festival.
“What we have assembled is a really good team, and communication is the key,” he said, pleased with the overarching sense of community. “We have that folk fest model and we’re not competing with pop-rock culture.”
North was also pleased that several artistic directors from other festivals attended, offering their advice and getting a feel for what this festival is like.
“They hadn’t been here for 15 years and they sensed we’re on a really good road.”
One of this year’s festival interns told North that prior to the festival, she heard several comments from people who were worried because they didn’t know of many of the performers.
“On the field, she heard I can’t believe how great the performers were,’” he says happily.
On the business side, North says organizers have to find more sponsorships.
“We remain fiscally responsible and I think we did a lot with what we had. I am proud of the lineup,” he says, noting organizers budgeted for the numbers to be down a bit. “But we have to keep dealing with the reality that this is a destination festival and we have to find ways to deal with accommodation issues.”
As he did onstage Sunday night, North promised there will be a festival next year and thanked festivalgoers for using social media to tell others to come to the festival.
The volunteer party was a rocking affair with “a vibe that was jubilant.”