Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival at Deer Lake Park

Wednesday 02nd, September 2015 / 17:59
By Reid Duncan Carmichael
The Sheepdogs at the Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival. Photo: Tiina Liimu

The Sheepdogs at the Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival.
Photo: Tiina Liimu

August 8, 2015

VANCOUVER — Deer Lake Park has always been one of my favourite concert venues. Even in the dreary, grey weather that plagued it on August 8, it provided a wonderful spot to grab an overpriced beer, chill in the grass and listen to some of the fantastic performances that took place there for The Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival. There really was a little of something for everyone, which was made apparent by the diversity of the crowd. People of all ages — there was even a playground to leave your kids in — and walks of life traversed the festival ground, braving some less-than-wonderful weather to experience some very intimate performances by a very cool lineup of musicians.

While Nathan & The Zydeco Cha-Chas were cheesier than a six cheese omelet, they got a growing crowd of folks dancing to their sweet, accordion-squeezing, washboard-strumming, zydeco-style blues music. It was neat, but even at a roots festival it felt a little dated. Instead of rehashing something classic into something fresh, Nathan and the gang were emulating without elaborating. But damn can Nathan Williams play the hell out of that accordion.

During The Devin Cuddy Band’s set, it didn’t take long for a mildly intoxicated middle-aged woman to latch on to me and express her love for Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy. This happened during the group’s first song actually, which was too bad. Devin’s crew could stand alone out of Cuddy’s shadow no problem, their simple tracks pushed Devin’s impressive piano skills and dry, gentle voice to the forefront of their music. It’s just too bad that the tracks that really stood out were both covers (Jack Mark’s “Maggie’s Hardware Store” and Randy Newman’s “It’s Money That I Love” were both fantastic additions to the set). Even so, this performance was one of the highlights of the festival. Be very ashamed if you missed it.

Ruthie Foster at the Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival. Photo: Tiina Liimu

Ruthie Foster at the Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival.
Photo: Tiina Liimu

Ruthie Foster was powerful. Her voice, her band, her attitude, everything during her set was like a sudden and much needed spritz of vitamin D-laced sunshine on the overcast Saturday of the festival. So awe-inspiring was her gorgeous take on gospel and blues that any man, woman, or child that didn’t feel their heart soar into the clouds is either soulless or deaf.

From a gigantic introduction to a soulful set, Lee Fields & the Expressions brought the house down on the main stage. Audience members were treated to one of the most incredible musical performances of the day, featuring one of the most personable showmen ever to grace the stage in a blue and yellow plaid-print suit jacket. The Expressions graced the park with some of the best horns and strings of the day and, as the sun peeked through the clouds and the band left the stage, the crowd shouted for more. Luckily for everyone, one guitarist returned and asked the crowd if “[they] would like Mr. Lee Fields to come back onstage.” Good thing there was, like, a half an hour left in their set or that would have been awkward.

The Sheepdogs at the Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival. Photo: Tiina Liimu

The Sheepdogs at the Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival.
Photo: Tiina Liimu

Finishing off the day was The Sheepdogs. The band echoed through Deer Lake with their trademark vintage rock sound. It was a tad disappointing to hear that the band still hasn’t changed their live show very much since Learn & Burn debuted, but it was still a welcome way to cap off the afternoon. Obviously, the entirety of the festival crowd felt the same way, because the main stage was flooded with people from the beginning to the end of their set. I even saw a baby in a stroller jamming to the beat.

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