“Summer festivals,” smiled Royal Tusk frontman Daniel Carriere as he soaked in Friday night’s crowd at the Beaumont Blues & Roots Festival. “This feels good.”
Nestled between a spray park, a small lake and a row of homes sits the main stage of the growing town’s growing fest, now in its ninth year, and now expanded to include rock, pop, rockabilly and folk.
Canadian veterans Lee Harvey Osmond, Jr. Gone Wild and Sloan are scheduled to perform this weekend, while Hawksley Workman and power couple Chantal Kreviazuk and Raine Maida played last year.
The three-day event, located in Beaumont’s Four Seasons Park, is one of a handful of music festivals around the perimeter of Edmonton — including Stony Plain’s Blueberry Bluegrass & Country Festival, St. Albert’s Seven Music Fest, and Fort Saskatchewan’s inaugural Right From the Roots Festival, which will feature The Elwins, Joe Nolan, Jenie Thai and Danny Michel on Sept. 17 at the Shell Theatre.
Beaumont’s outdoor bash, about a 30-minute drive south of Edmonton’s downtown, feels more like a backyard BBQ party — where 50-year-old men can tote their cans of Palm Bay anywhere on the site, where little girls and older women feel free to dance by themselves in front of the stage, where no one yells at each other about the height of their camping chairs.
“We try to make it a really fun, family-friendly atmosphere,” says Jeremy Kornel, president and creative director of the BBRF.
He helped launch the festival in 2008 — as a two-day, 500-person, end-of-summer event at the Beaumont and District Agricultural Society Fairgrounds. In 2013, the festival moved to June and its current location — helping BBRF attract a wider range of artists and as many as 2,500 fans per day. The town itself is expanding — boasting a population 17,720 or an increase of 5.7 percent from 2015, according to its municipal census. But Kornel said only about 30 percent of residents attend the festival. The rest come from Edmonton and other parts of Alberta, even Saskatchewan.
“We wanted to bring people out to Beaumont,” said Kornel, who relies on 85 to 100 volunteers each year. “We started with a very small budget. We spent as much on this year’s headliner as we did on the whole festival in its first year.”
Friday’s lineup included Redemption Sons, a pack of Beaumont boys, and Edmonton rockers Savage Playground and Rend, starring acrobatic vocalist Carol-Lynne Quinn. She’s got the type of pipes that would make all four judges on The Voice turn their chairs in less than a second. Rend’s 45-minute set was a smouldering (and at times synthy) affair — highlighted by moody power ballads such as Is It Just Me and Supernova.
“It’s nice to do a family event,” Quinn said after Rend’s set, as she was surrounded by young children wanting her autograph. “One little girl came up to me and said: ‘I love you.’ It’s pretty cool. Everyone’s been really nice and supportive of us. I’m excited to check out Royal Tusk … and the food trucks.”
Edmonton’s Royal Tusk, featuring former members of Ten Second Epic, were Friday’s headliners — their blue-collared, rootsy-rock tunes serenading about 500 fans and the setting sun. Singer/guitarist Daniel Carriere’s melodic and raspy pipes took the chill off the evening, while guitarists Quinn Cyrankiewicz and Michael James added layers of sweet, squealing riffs to Fever and DealBreaker, the title track of their second and latest album.
As the rockers were revving into third gear, some festival goers started slowly heading to their cars, parked (for free!) in the nearby lots of Ecole Secondaire Beaumont Composite High School, Jeb’s No Frills or Aquafit Centre.
“I’d come back next year for the whole weekend,” said Sylvia, 66, who was attending for the first time with her husband, Jim, and their daughter and granddaughter.
The Edmonton couple, who used to be long-time Folk Fest supporters, didn’t want to give their last name. “The Folk Fest is wonderful — but it’s a victim of its own success,” she said. “I like this festival and Interstellar Rodeo, they’re smaller and friendlier.”
BBRF passes are still available via yeglive.ca. Saturday’s acts include Lee Harvey Osmond, Philip Sayce, The Fuzz Kings and Rooster Davis Group with Ann Vriend, while Sunday features Jr. Gone Wild, Sloan, Bobby Cameron, Paula Perro, Trent Severn.