TALL TREE FESTIVAL FALLOW IN 2018
Organizers cite rising production costs, proliferation of competing events around B.C.
Rising production costs, market over-saturation and an unfavourable exchange rate have resulted in the postponement of another popular local music festival.
Port Renfrew’s Tall Tree Music Festival will not proceed in 2018, the Times Colonist has learned. The largely volunteer-run event was expected to enter its ninth year in June, but organizers were set to announce this morning that they will be taking the year off to ensure the festival’s financial stability.
It’s the second high-profile Vancouver Island festival to go dark in less than a year. Organizers of Colwood’s Rock the Shores festival skipped the 2017 edition and have said they expect to return to full strength in 2018.
“It’s the right decision for us,” said Mike Hann, Tall Tree co-founder and festival director. “I’m not regretting it at all. It’s not a closed door — we’re taking a year off to re-evaluate.”
A weak Canadian dollar is being cited as an issue, as many artists get paid in U.S. funds, Hann said.
However, the proliferation of festivals big and small is also hurting the bottom line of established festivals in the province, he added.
Last year, Tall Tree drew its largest audience to date, with more than 2,500 people at the Brown’s Mountain site through the weekend (it also hit capacity in each of its seven previous editions, but those years operated with a smaller capacity.) It still wasn’t enough.
“These events cost a lot of money to produce,” Hann said. “The hidden costs that come along with them would blow people’s minds.”
The festival, which in the past has attracted acts such as Mother Mother, Shad and Pickwick, has grown steadily to become one of the most popular summer events in the area. Part of its appeal is the site’s treed setting and stunning vistas — rare for an event of this size.
The festival relocated to Brown’s Mountain in 2011 from the former Wild Coast Cottages grounds in Port Renfrew, where the festival got underway in 2010.
The four-day festival is run by a core team of 30 organizers, with an additional 200 volunteers and 200 crew.
Staging the event on a mountain in a remote area makes life difficult for all involved, Hann said. “I’d say it’s one of the more logistically challenging events around. The costs we bear would be above and beyond a lot of other festivals.”
Tall Tree brass drew headlines across the province in May when they offered tickets to those left out in the cold by the Pemberton Music Festival, which was cancelled after its organizers declared bankruptcy.
Pemberton’s demise followed the cancellation of another largescale B.C. music event, the Squamish Valley Music Festival, which ceased operations in 2016.
“I hope festivalgoers are paying attention to what’s happening.” Hann said.
“The rate at which these festivals have been happening, and what has become the status quo, is not sustainable. In a market that’s saturated, you need to stand out. But with that, your costs go up.”
The Tall Tree festival will return in 2018 with a new mindset, Hann said.
It may be smaller, or look different, but those who have supported it in the past will not be disappointed in 2019, he said.
“It’s not like that community of people is going to go away. The Tall Tree vibe and the Tall Tree community will still be there. It serves everybody better by us taking some time to evaluate exactly what we’re doing.”
Tall Tree organizers are still moving forward with Song & Surf, their winter festival in Port Renfrew. The event is set for Feb. 9-11 at various venues.
Last year, Tall Tree drew its largest audience to date, with more than 2,500 people on site at Brown’s Mountain through the weekend.
Dancers enjoy warm, sunny weather during last year’s festival.