Band Camp

Un­plug and play at this out-of-the way mu­sic fest in north­ern B.C.

Vancouver Magazine - - Travel Summer Getaways -

Artswells Fes­ti­val in north­ern B.C. is es­sen­tially sum­mer camp for mu­sic and art lovers, a place to “jam, ad­ven­ture, frolic, loi­ter,” says Vancouver Is­land mu­si­cian and artist Jenny Rit­ter. “We go north and par­tic­i­pate in that won­der­ful mad­ness.” The four- day party is set near Bowron Lakes in the neigh­bour­ing towns of Wells and Bark­erville (a Na­tional His­toric Site from the Gold Rush era). A nine-hour drive from Vancouver, it’s iso­lated (read: no cell ser­vice). And that’s the ap­peal, says Rit­ter. Ev­ery­one who comes this far is com­mit­ted to be­ing there, in the moment—with mo­ments that in­clude vis­ual in­stal­la­tions, wan­der­ing per­form­ers, pa­rades, ar­ti­sans, gal­leries and work­shops. But the magic re­ally takes place in the ex­tra­or­di­nary mu­sic venues, from St. Saviour’s Church in Bark­erville (one of the orig­i­nal build­ings from 1869) to the Sun­set Theatre (built in 1934, it was B.C.’S first gam­bling hall and a for­mer morgue) and bright-yel­low Wells Com­mu­nity Hall (a 1938 struc­ture that once housed a pis­tol range). “Ev­ery year there is in­evitably some band I’ve never heard of that blows my mind, play­ing in the most in­ti­mate set­ting,” says Rit­ter. It’s what hap­pened dur­ing her own per­for­mance at the Sun­set last sum­mer: “We had a six-piece band, and got to play as loud and as soft as we wanted…i felt like a god­damn su­per­star.”— B.S.

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