Passion, energy and positivity. Those emotions resonate across the table when you sit down with Gary Bailie, the main architect behind the Blue Feather Music Festival. The festival is entering its 17th year and Bailie says the festival is still holding true to its roots, providing healing, sharing culture and providing positive opportunities for youth to grow.
“Whatever your beliefs, music speaks to everybody,” Bailie said. “This year’s theme, The Eye of the Storm, really shows what we are about. The festival is about finding that quiet place where you get a break from all the craziness of life. Music can do that for everyone.”
Every year, the Blue Feather Music Festival brings in professional acts from Outside. Prism headlines this year’s lineup on Friday night. The Juno award-winning group has released 13 studio albums since they first formed in Vancouver in 1977.
“Prism is one of the classic Canadian rock bands that are making a resurgence,” Bailie said. “They still have the main guys performing and put on a great show.”
Bailie is also excited about Philip Sayce on Friday night. Sayce has toured with rock heavyweights like Jeff Healey and Melissa Ethridge. His three piece band performs rock and blues. “He’s an amazing musician,” Bailie said. Yukon’s Klukshu Flats Boogie Band will also perform Friday, as well as the two youth musicians known as Tahltan Havoc. Tahltan Havoc is a hip hop group who first performed at the First Nation youth magazine Shakaat launch, but Blue Feather will be their first major show.
“Saturday we have the award-winning Digging Roots and Miss Quincy, an all-woman rock band,” Bailie said. “Miss Quincy’s lead is back-up for Digging Roots. It’s those sort of connections that make the festival happen.”
Rounding out Saturday’s lineup will be Brandon Isaak’s new blues trio and Whitehorse’s own Ukes of Hazard.
“I’ve seen Ukes of Hazard in town and they’re just the hardest working band,” Bailie said. “I told them, ‘You guys have to come play at the festival.’”
Bailie likes to put the artists front and centre. “I think artists are the most generous people,” Bailie said. “They don’t have a lot, but give so much. Because of that we like to treat them well. We compensate our artists well and we treat them all with respect, whether you’re the rock star from Outside or one of our youth performers.”
The event is also about mentoring youth and providing opportunities for positive growth. Youth get trained in putting on the show and the technical skills needed.
“I found lighting as a way of my expression and finding accomplishment,” Bailie said. “By having youth help put on the festival, we teach them to try new things. We show them that’s the way to finding your passions.”
Many youth have helped over the years and their skills are growing. Bailie is proud of the work they’re doing. The new youth who are joining are now being mentored by older members who have worked on the show before.
“The skills our youth are learning provide so much self-confidence and self-esteem,” Bailie said. “Last year, a 19-year-old did the whole lighting show, not just the lights, but getting her hands dirty setting them up. She was told she was the youngest to ever do lights for Buffy Sainte-Marie. You could see her just fill with pride.”
It’s that legacy to the community that the Blue Feather Music Festival wants to share. Bailie is torn on what that might mean in the future. “If one of those youth stepped forward and said ‘Gary, I want to organize and put on the show,’ I’d be so proud,” Bailie said. “I’d be a little sad not to be involved the same way, but I’d be so proud to tell them to run with it.”
The doors to the substance-free event are open to anyone who wants to take some time to enjoy some positivity in a turbulent world. For more information, check out their Facebook page or email at [email protected].
“There’s always so many terrible things on the news, like the hurricanes this year,” Bailie said. “I like to think of Blue Feather as a healer-cane that spreads good energy instead of destruction. If you like what we’re doing, we’re honoured.”
The Blue Feather Music Festival takes place Friday, November 3 and Saturday, November 4 at the Yukon Arts Centre. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the show starts at 7:30 p.m.