Fields are white canvasses in the winter time, but when the sun comes out, these canvasses are painted with people and tents.
The campers come to see music and art, but end up becoming art themselves. Tom Smith sets up a booth where he paints anything from canvases to bodies, choosing to participate in the festival scene.
“There are other artists that I hang out with, and they do their art. There is lots of hooping and fire spinning and stuff too, you know. So it’s not just the music part of the festival, it’s the community,” said the New Brunswick artist.
Summer seems just out of reach and that means the Canadian summer music festival circuit will soon come to life. Montreal’s Osheaga festival will release the line-up today, adding to headliners The Black Keys, and Sackville’s SappyFest is now selling early bird tickets.
Smith takes his paints with him to local festivals like Folly Fest in Gagetown, N.B., Evolve in Antigonish, N.S., Sunseekers in Chance Harbour, N.B., and the Dooryard Arts Festival in Woodstock, N.B. Smith has been going to festivals since the 70s, and said the culture is “evolving.”
It’s not just about the music anymore and Smith is evidence himself. There are more activities and people aren’t restricted anymore to main-stage headliners.
“I like to be a participant at least in some way as opposed to just a spectator. I usually take my art and shenanigans along, and some tickle trunk stuff and usually have some ideas about stuff we want to do.
“I have a group of friends, and we’re all kind of on the same page for that,” said Smith.
Jared Wilson is a 22-year-old Saint John native. He’s attended many of the same local festivals as Smith.
Wilson went to his first festival to hear the music, but was quickly enveloped in everything going on around him.
“I love live music and the energy felt when attending a live show,” he said.
“What I realized when I went to my first music festival is that the energy level away from the stage, through the camping grounds, around the vendors is almost equal – not equal, but almost equal,” he said.
Smith said he’s always looking for items to put in his trunk he takes with him to the festivals. The snow doesn’t stop him from scanning the racks at Value Village. Costumes help festival-goers become part of the show.
“There are multiple stages with multiple bands, and the best part is the breaks in between when you journey through a field full of tents and fun-filled conversations begin,” said Wilson.
The gathering of these people doesn’t go without some planning, and it’s not just at the thrift store. Committing to a festival involves taking time off work, organizing transportation, and let’s not forget, the physical strain.
“Number one tip? Good footwear. Seriously, because it’s a long haul. It’s a marathon. Even if you’re only in it for two or three days. But it can be four or five days, and you’re on your feet,” said Smith. “A lot of walking, the campsites are very rarely near the venues, you’ll be dancing all night. It’s the Maritimes, the ground gets wet. If your feet aren’t happy, you’re not happy.”
But even with the age difference between Wilson and Smith, they both flock to the fields for the same reasons: music, art and a sense of community.
“Infants, teenagers, young adults, even the elderly, and what is surprising is I find most of the older, middle-aged people party just as hard as the young,” said Wilson.
Tom Smith’s art can be found at www.feelsgood.ca.