GillBilly attracts music lovers of all ages

Held last weekend, the two-day festival was a celebration of old time music, fly fishing and food.

The Fernie Heritage Library was transformed into a music hall on Saturday as acoustic, bluegrass and old-time music lovers jammed together between the bookshelves.

People of all ages gathered in the library to listen in to the public jam session, which featured as part of the 3rd annual GillBilly Festival.

Hosted by the Old Time Music Society, the two-day festival is a celebration of old time music, fly fishing and food.

Society director and GillBilly co-organizer, Anie Hepher, was thrilled with the turnout at the library jam, which spilled into the basement for the first time.

“It’s lovely to see the mix of old and young, there are so many generations that come out to these kind of events, and that’s a wonderful thing,” she said.

This year’s festival featured a new line up of acoustic, bluegrass and old time music artists, including acoustic guitarist and singer-songwriter, John Lowell, and bluegrass outfit Nomad Jones, who performed at The Arts Station on Friday and Saturday nights.

New additions to the program included a “Mashed Potato Mingler” with a mashed potato bar, live music and square dancing on Friday night.

“It was so much fun,” said Hepher. “We have this wonderful caller, his name is Paul Silveria. He’s from Vancouver and he came, and he also ran a dance calling workshop.”

There were about a dozen workshops over the weekend on topics, ranging from casting and fly tying to banjo and fiddle playing, and songwriting.

The Elk River Alliance was also involved for the first time, hosting a workshop called “Know your bugs”.

Single event passes were popular this year, while 35 people bought weekend passes, which Hepher said was nearly on par with last year.

“We don’t necessarily get more people coming every year,” she said.

“We doubled last year and it’s stayed about the same because we are limited with The Arts Station building… But I think where I’ve really seen the growth is that people are excited to see live music and especially acoustic music, because acoustic music you can play during the day, unplugged, you don’t need a sound system.

“You don’t need anything special, you just take your instrument and you stand up and play it, and I think people really appreciate that. It’s a very participatory kind of music, which is pretty rare.

“A jam circle like this,” she said, referring to the library jam, “everyone gets an opportunity at every song to play a solo if they want or to sing a verse.

“There’s not a performer, everyone is playing along or dancing along … I think people love that, that sense of community.

“And it’s old themes – love, liquor, loss, jail time. There are these old themes and I think they’re just storytelling and people love a good story.”

Hepher thanked GillBilly volunteers and sponsors, with many locals businesses and organizations helping to raise funds for the Society or hosting workshops and other events.

Going forward, the Society plans to host more workshops, with the first being a vocal workshop with Juno Award-winning folk musician Pharis Romero on October 14.


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