CFUR's Music Department took the backroads through valleys and ranchlands down to Horsefly, BC last weekend for the 10th annual Arts on the Fly Festival. Though the campground was full, we lucked in and set up camp in a nearby field surrounded by ripe saskatoons, which provided an added boost of antioxidants each morning. Yum!
On Friday at sunset, we watched the Little Horsefly Country Band jam out with Horsefly residents Pharis and Jason Romero (who are known not only for making custom banjos but also for their kick-ass string plucking). They were joined on stage by silhouetted Horsefly neighbours bear, moose, crow, goat, rabbit, and wolf.
Miss Quincy and the Showdown took the stage next and, as usual, wowed the crowd with their raunchy blues and mesmerizing stage presence. The show ended and the crowd definitely wanted more.
Luckily, they had two more shows on the 'Tweener stage (a.k.a "in between" acts) the next day: a solo act from Miss Quincy highlighting her country and bluegrass roots from up in the Peace, and another act late Saturday night that drew just as much crowd as the mainstage.
Headlining Friday night were fiesta band Entangados. On the Canadian festival circuit this summer all the way from Argentina, they donned clown suits and bounced on stage with their groovy mix of ska, rock, and cuarteto.
Saturday was a scorcher. 35C and sunny/smoky. We started the morning with a refreshing swim in nearby Horsefly Lake and quickly realized that between acts, most of the festival-goers would be found cooling down in the Horsefly River. Secretly, we wished the acoustic stage would wander down to the shore and play for us while we basked in the river.
Another tactic to stay cool included finding whatever shade is available. Experimental artist and festival MC Doug Koyama did just this, choosing a nice, contemplative spot next to the mainstage where this introspective sign helped us remember which direction is "sky" and which direction is "earth." In case we get dehydrated, start seeing mirages and lose track of time and space.
Mid-day, Lexi Marie of Lillooet, BC took the stage and roused the crowd with her powerful vocals and soulful folk. The audience listened thoughtfully to her stories of adversity, resilience and strength.
Although we were lost on the backroads of the Cariboo-Chilcotin on Friday night and missed festival favourite Sam Tudor's set (come to think of it, we were so lost that we decided to turn around when we passed his remote hometown of Gavin Lake and realized for once and all that we were definitely headed in the wrong direction), we were lucky enough to catch him again on the 'Tweener stage Saturday afternoon. Even more lucky, he played our favourie song, "Modern New Year." We've pretty much been listening to it on repeat here at CFUR for the last month straight.
After the dinner break, the temperature finally cooled enough for Drum and Bell Tower to get everyone up and dancing. Brent Morton's psychedelic folk-rock was the perfect kickstarter to the festival's evening finale. The entire crowd sang along to his anthemic, "Very Star." And that was that, we were swept into the festival's oscillating rhythm.
The evening continued with a bang, especially when Quesnel's own Bottoms Up Burlesque burst onto the stage, dotting it with layers and layers of shiny outfits and wearing the most creative pasties we've ever seen (i.e flower petals and bananas). To top it all off, they ended the show with a chainsaw spraying glitter. If you ever get a chance to see them, they rock.
Next up was Dawn Pemberton. She had everyone gettin' funky and groovy and her authentic demeanour made us hope she could stay on stage forever and emanate more warmth. We danced and danced and danced. It seemed we couldn't get enough of the 'Tweener stage this weekend because the highlight of the night was Salty Jo and Co.'s bluegrass reunion, which included Sam Tudor, fiddler Tegan Wahlgren, Marin Patenaude, and Brent Morton. They took a rowdy turn back to a 1950s country sound and we all sang along to mischievous tunes of whiskey and cocaine.
When the night ended, we had no energy left for an after-party. Completely ready to hit the sack. This was good timing because some much-needed rain arrived just as we got into our tents and it didn't stop until morning. The party did continue for a large group of 16-21 year-olds who flock in their trucks to Arts on the Fly each year and celebrate with a laser bush party. We never saw them at the festival, but word is they show up every year and party alongside Arts on the Fly partiers. We got along great and had fun sharing the river and sharing tunes. Horsefly's calm, homesteading atmosphere returned Sunday morning when we woke up to deer passing by as we packed up our tents.
Missed Arts on the Fly? You can always catch it next year, or head to one of many festivals around northern BC, like Artswells or Bella Coola Music Festival or Robson Valley Music Festival or Music on the Mountain. Most of the bands who played Arts on the Fly are on the summer circuit so they should be easy to find on stage somewhere. Cheers from CFUR and the next stop for us is Artswells!
Article by Alycia Mutual