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Stewart Park Music Festival: Music from the Banks of the River Tay

Good things come in small packages. That's a fairly common term that in this particular case is perfectly true. What a pleasant weekend that was. There was no shortage of people to play for and no shortage of excellent bands to listen to. Stewart Park is a free festival situated in the middle of Perth, one of the most beautiful of Ontario towns. The River Tay meanders by the site and the kids (and adults) escaped the heat by wading and playing in the small creek that bisects the park itself. A high July sun followed the torrential downpours on Friday, and remained for the weekend.

We drove through a drumming rain on Friday, arriving just in time to find out that the festival was moving indoors to Codes Mill, a restored stone mill in downtown Perth. The shift of location seemed to be carried off without a hitch and we found ourselves in the cavernous upper floor of the mill, festively decorated and packed with damp festival goers. We managed to arrive in time to catch Stephen Fearing. He performed selections old and new, and was his usual captivating self. I couldn't think of a better start to the weekend. Apparently neither could the crowd.

Stephen Fearing


I left that venue for the other pubs and restaurants around town that were hosting evening shows as part of the festival "after hours". There was no shortage of bands to see, but I opted to catch the Bill Hilly Band from Victoria. If a finer body of men exist in the music world I haven't met them yet. To a man they are some of the most enthusiastic, accomplished and compelling performers I've seen. If you get a chance to see them in action by all means do so. As always seems to happen when I meet up with the Bills, the conversation tends to wind its way into the dark hours, before I finally go to bed and they find someone else to jam with. Such is the power of youth. Many thanks to Beau Kliebert (of the Bill Hilly Band) for joining Dave and I on the main stage with his fiddle.
I managed a game of hacky sack with the Bills before they left for another gig. I think they may have played a couple of times before. I'm looking forward to the next round in Owen Sound.

Beau Klaibert

This is a very well run festival. There is no pretension to the place, and for the musicians it was an opportunity to join up in the workshops and play for the joy of it.


Highlights for me were singing with Caitlin Hanford and the boys from Matapat. If you can't enjoy yourself with Matapat, check your pulse. It might be all over. Even me -who dances like a standing stone - couldn't help but shift myself when the Quebecois tunes ripped out of the speakers and across the park. Glorious sun, a dancing crowd and a bucolic setting among the stone buildings and still water will be an image that will stay with me for a while.


Gaston Bernard and Simon Lepage of Matapat

Our night set took place upstairs at Harry and Rosie's, and we managed to do some of the new songs from the next album and mix in requests as well. It was a pleasure to play, particularly because Jenn Cianca, the "other" inspiration for Lucky Man, was there to sing with Dave and I. As always, Jenn was effortlessly brilliant on the harmonies and irrepressibly humorous in her approach. My ego takes a beating around her, but it's worth the pain.



All things considered, this festival has to rate as one of the hidden gems of the summer circuit, a wonderfully relaxed place to play and listen, in a most beautiful setting. We'd like to thank Carolyn Sutherland for all her efforts on our behalf and for inviting us to share the weekend with some of our favorite musical friends. It was a lovely three days on the banks of the Tay.





David and Dave, main stage Saturday night

back home

photos by Beth


cooling off in the Tay, Stewart Park

duck race down the river, through the park


sunshine on Saturday

Hacking with the Bills


Postcards from the Edge workshop - Andrea Koziol and band, David Woodhead, Scott Merritt, David and Dave



kicking up their heels to Matapat


Caitlin Hanford

David and Jenn, downtown Perth

 



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