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article imageReview: Dozens of acts perform on six stages at annual Canadian festival Special

By Mark J. Allan     Jul 13, 2015 in Entertainment
Courtenay - About 10,000 music lovers experienced unexpected rainfall during the annual Vancouver Island Music Festival in the middle of the hottest, driest summer on record locally.
MusicFest, as it's known, presented its usual dozens of outstanding acts on six stages at the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds in Courtenay, British Columbia, off Canada's western coast.
Although B.C. is not especially British, headliner and English native Graham Nash, veteran Scottish blues belter Maggie Bell with English slide guitarist Dave Kelly, and venerable English folk-rock band Steeleye Span provided some Brit content during the three-day festival.
Lyle Lovett and His Large Band and blues guitarist Buddy Guy were the other headliners booked by artistic director Doug Cox, himself an outstanding musician.
After the opening ceremony Friday, July 10, that featured local singer-songwriter Helen Austin (another English native) and the K’umugwe Dancers from the local K’ómoks people, Bell and Kelly helped to warm the crowd on an unexpectedly chilly evening.
Lovett and his 16-piece band played their only Canadian date on a daunting 57-stop North American tour that ends Nov. 7. His outstanding set was by turns energizing, heartbreaking and funny, courtesy of his sly between-songs comments.
Guy’s Saturday-closing set was preceded by Quinn Sullivan, a sensational 15-year-old whiz kid whom Guy has taken under his wing as a guitar protégé.
Nash’s crowd-pleasing performance Sunday included a mass singalong of his Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young Hit Teach Your Children.
The festival was closed by Colorado band Leftover Salmon, featuring Little Feat pianist Bill Payne.
As usual, Cox did an outstanding job of daytime programming as well as booking world beat acts that included Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba from Mali, the Bulgarian Voices Trio, Alpha Yaya Diallo from Guinea and Boujou Badialy Cissoko from Senegal, and Brazilian multi-instrumentalist Celso Machado.
Talented roots performers included Los Texmaniacs, Hot Rize and the John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band.
Legendary saxman Pee Wee Ellis played with Canadian jazz-reggae group the Jason Wilson Band. Ellis, who invented funk while he was a bandleader for James Brown, later served two stints as Van Morrison’s bandleader.
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