By Malissa Dunphy
June 27-30, 2014
ROCKY MOUNTAIN HOUSE — Most resident Albertans love a good camping trip, and a mere two-and-a-half hours away from Calgary sits the privately owned land that hosts an annual camping-style festival, Frog Fest. What started as a community hall birthday party has blossomed into a weekend long music and arts festival, stretched over 10 acres of gorgeous Alberta landscape. The natural setting of the land and the relentless work put into setting up the technical requirements for such a large-scale festival cradled each band’s musical delivery beautifully.
With acts starting in the late hours of the morning and early afternoon, the variety of bands and lay of the camping area lets you enjoy the festival at whatever pace you please. There is ample space to dance and room to relax around a large communal fire pit, which showcases a custom stage 15 feet above the soft mossy ground below. There’s no pressure to maintain the pace that typically comes along with the large camping festivals that many flock to south of the 49th parallel.
Many of the acts that trekked out to this year’s Frog Fest call Calgary home, and the variety of musical tastes I was craving were covered by All Hands On Jane, 36?, The Bitterweed Draw, Petunia and The Vipers, The Suppliers, Mammoth Grove, Laser Cake, among others.
Two catwalks stretched out from either side of the stage, which is one of the first areas of the campsite you come across when entering. The first band of the weekend was 36? Taylor Cochrane, the lead singer, danced along the catwalks singing directly to the crowd below. The sun was just starting to break through the overcast weekend and it set a tone, almost a dare, for the rest of the performers throughout the weekend.
Some of the acts that filled out the bill on Saturday didn’t connect directly with the crowd above them, but the clarity and warmth of the sound made up for it. That was until the last band on Saturday, The Psychic Alliance, filled the catwalks off the stage with balloons and donned lab coats during their set. Clearly, they were a crowd favourite. Sleep Kit was a pleasant surprise for me on Saturday, filling the forest with ghostly harmonies that caught my ear clear as day as I walked back to my campsite toward the back of the property in “tent city.”
“Tent city” was just that: what you would expect, equipped with fire pits, picnic tables, recycling and garbage bins. As you walked in there was a list of requests, which included no foraging wood from the land. The festival organizers would deliver bundles of wood to your campsite for a small fee… Bundles measured by how much you could carry. An appreciated kindness considering all the other areas the festival organizers had to attend to.
The area was well suited for campers of all levels. Cabins were available for rent for the more indoors-y attendees, and just feet from my own tent there was one camper who donned only a camping hammock for the weekend, utilizing his clear woodland skills to enjoy the weekend at his pace.
Many paths wound through the property, giving you multiple options back to where you pitched tent. These paths were peppered with art installations, including an area called “Wonderland.” Toward the back of the designated festival area there was a row of chairs facing a clearing that, at night time, was speckled with glow bugs off into the far distance.
Overall, Frog Fest brings together the best parts of Alberta camping and a musical artistic experience with your friends. You don’t have to turn the music down at your campsite when it gets late. You don’t need to worry about impressing anyone with “festival fashion.” You get to make your own schedule at your own pace. You get to relax, party and be outside with 300 of your friends and family. Frog Fest has come leaps and bounds, probably manifesting into something the founders didn’t even imagine at first. It is well worth the chance and the drive up across our rad province.36?, AB, Alberta, All Hands On Jane, Frog Fest, Frog Fest 2014, Laser Cake, Mammoth Grove, Petunia and The Vipers, Rocky Mountain House, The Bitterweed Draw, The Suppliers