The rain did little to dampen the spirits of attendees at the 15th Annual Bella Coola Music Festival. On July 19 and 20, a diverse and talented lineup of artists performed against the striking backdrop of billowing clouds and soaring mountains. The songs of the Nuxalkmc singers and drummers echoed through the crowd on Saturday afternoon, welcoming them to the Valley.
MC Al Simmons kept children and adults alike entertained with his bag of tricks and peculiar gadgets while comedic MC Howie Miller amused the audience with his wit and irony. Local favourites AKA took the stage as well as the talented duo Rollah and Laina.
For the first time, the Music Festival was broadcast live on Nuxalk Radio 91.1 FM and the sounds of the Festival could be heard through the Valley. It was an exciting collaboration for both parties and they plan to repeat it every year from now on.
Don Amero, a Métis artist from Winnipeg impressed the audience with his soulful yet upbeat musical style. While singing ‘Turn These Grey Skies Blue’ the sun literally broke through the clouds providing relief from the downpour. His message of inspiring his listeners to do well in life and follow one’s own path comes from his ability to thrive despite seeing the struggle of those around him.
With four albums released, including Heart On My Sleeve, The Long Way Home, Deepening and Change Your Life, Amero has been touring across Canada for the past 6 years. The success of his career has earned him numerous awards, including Aboriginal Songwriter and Male Artist of the Year at the 2009 Canadian Folk Music Awards and Male Entertainer of the Year at the 2012 Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards.
The accomplishments Amero has earned are credited to his ability to stay focused on the bigger picture. He also had a trustworthy teacher that he could depend on for help and noted the importance of that experience, “She took me under her wing. People like that become mentors that we need in our lives, especially when our own lives are falling apart,” he explained. “I’m really glad that she was there.”
While Amero strongly believes music is medicine that touches the soul, he explains why that is, “I’m literally talking about music and the sonic waves itself. Not necessarily the lyrics, not necessarily the type of music but sonically something is happening that reaches deeper than language.”
In fact, Amero discovered the healing influence of his song ‘Dark Horse’ when he received a message from a person that heard the song on the radio. The person was struggling with alcoholism and after listening to the song decided to turn away from the liquor store. Recognizing the impact the song had, Amero stated, “That is the biggest honour for me. Knowing that the songs I’ve been writing and have been inspired to write are reaching other people.”
Currently Amero is working on his fifth album and looks forward to touring and spending time with his family. In the future he hopes to mentor other up and coming artists.
On Saturday evening 54-40 returned to headline the Music Festival and had the crowd dancing the night away. Such hits as ‘She La’ and ‘Ocean Pearl’ were performed, radiating energy throughout the crowd. After hitting the 30-year mark of writing music and performing together, the group shows little sign of slowing down.
Several other bands were obvious hits with the crowd, including the incredibly energetic Shred Kelly, who entertained the audience with their upbeat banjo tunes and tales of their misadventures down at the estuary. Kobo Town delighted the audience with their beautiful accents and sunny demeanours. During their last set they ventured right into the crowd to play and sing along to an audience who gladly surged forward to meet them.
The unique sounds of Petunia and the Vipers captivated the crowd and left them with an appreciation for the variety of genres the Festival works hard to present. With a style that includes old-time country, yodeling, and rock, Petunia has an indescribable voice and an aura that leaves the audience curious for more.
As always, the rockstar of the North Rachelle Van Zanten was a hit with the crowd. With her down to earth attitude and ability to relate directly to people, Van Zanten delivered a dynamic performance that brought the audience to their feet.
The Fugitives had the honour of closing the show on Sunday evening and they delivered a stellar performance that included comedy, a little political humour, and a lot of dancing. MC Howie Miller, who is now famous in Bella Coola for his ability to handle a dozen rowdy kids, led the finale with a pretty awesome rendition of ‘Stand By Me.’
With the rugged beauty the Valley has to offer and the friendliness of the “Bella Coola wave” when driving the Highway 20, guests and performers were captivated by the experience. Organizers, volunteers and vendors were ecstatic with successful Music Festival, and surely many more to come.