Afterthoughts from a festival ridden summer

It’s been a summer of festivals. Follyfest, SappyFest, Evolve, Dooryard, Mestival, Future Forest and the list goes on forever. Yes, the season is over, but that doesn’t mean we can’t reminisce about those nights before the school load kicks in. We would need a whole issue to review them all, so we could only pick one, but a wicked good one at that.

A particular field in a particular place. That place being Antigonish, N.S.. For the last several years, this field has become home to the biggest music festival on the East Coast: Evolve.

By Thursday evening there were clusters of cars zooming around the quiet town, looking for a dirt farm road which leads the way to this sought-after field. Attendees know they have arrived upon spotting an older waving couple with an ‘Evolve this way’ sign nailed to their porch.

Out of nowhere, the sun is setting and your very own vehicle has somehow been hit by a wall of colourful painted parked cars and smiling people who are greeting you with a phrase which will become all too familiar over the next four days: “Happy Evolve.”

It’s like you’ve just stumbled onto Christmas Island. Before you can even unbuckle that constraining seatbelt, you’re already anticipating a great time.

***

Soon, the moon and the stars are shining like mad as speakers and turn tables appear out of nowhere. A sea of face-painted kids groove to an anonymous D.J.

Meanwhile, a stuffed monkey hovers over the crowd and a wolf-man in an Oiler’s jacket howls along the outskirts of the jittering mob. The rest of the night is filled with tight embraces from long-lost friends, perfect strangers or the people you just rode down with.

Friday morning brings saggy wet clouds, but this appears to have little effect on everyone’s pumped up spirits. For some, plastic yellow ponchos come out while others strip down to their bathing suits as we all lug tents, coolers and blankets up a hill the size of Windsor street.

After all that climbing, it was time to party. And so began the bouncing noises of a didgeridoo to be heard by all. Upon hearing those tubular hoots, we all knew it was time for one of the weekend’s headliners, Xavier Rudd.

An excited screech came from forever away and continued all the way down the hill to the Sunflower stage where three didgeridoos were placed on a stand. Xavier Rudd held his guitar while his bare feet banged a stomp-box. An assortment of drums, banjos and harmonicas kick in as the crowd gravitates closer.

Within 15 minutes even the most self-conscious dancers were raving like madmen. Hula hoopers twirled on the side-lines, while well-known live painter Sharon Epic started another fan favourite.

Dancers dispersed to sit down while others begged for one more song. One more song turned into one more set as Xavier Rudd dismantled and A Tribe Called Red plugged in. The three hoodie wearing guys took over the place with their unique sound which has been dubbed “powwow electronic” – a mash up of Native tribal beats and house music.

Somewhere in the midst of the non-stop music and costumed dancers, the sun began to peek through and as with the night before, the crowd mumbled off into light-hearted conversations and a short nap in a makeshift bed.

***

The next few days of Evolve were reminiscent of the first two and the weather turned hot and clear. People headed down to the river to lazily wade and lap up some free refreshments from the fresh spring which flowed nearby.

Soon, all of the big acts had come and gone. Classified, Keys N Krates, Skratch Bastid, Scientists of Sounds and slews of others had provided a great weekend. But the time had come to take down those mangled tent poles and pack up for another year.

Evolve isn’t the biggest or most impressive music festival around. In fact it’s small and tight-knit, but it’s that same atmosphere which brings people back each year. This is just one man’s opinion though and everyone is free to their proper perceptions. So, for next year, you’ll just have to discover your own Evolve.

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