“Welcome to paradise,” Kevin Jack says. Thus begins my tour of a property that edges onto the swampy back of Marsh Lake.
An old gold mining site, it is a refuge for old gold mining things: a tiny log cabin with grass growing out of the roof; metal drums sunken into the ground on a dance floor in front of a stage made out of trees; metal — fine-ground into a sand-like substance — now a surface on which to dance in bare feet; backhoes and Cats parked in a cluster next to the forest.
Soon, on the last weekend of August, the site will be ready to host an electronic music festival. Tall lights will be erected where the backhoes and Cats are parked, to light up the tenting area. There will be a St. John Ambulance station next to the log cabin, which will be the volunteer headquarters.
There will be stage lighting, a sound booth and DJaying boxes on the stage, which Jack says has a name: The Big Sleeping Giant. Kettley Creek flows next to the stage. It is dammed into a pool, and there are plastic chairs that look like they were re-purposed from a Greyhound Bus station in the trees. “The chill out area,” says Jack.
More chairs will be placed around the pool, which will be lit up with solar-powered coloured lights.
Down from the stage, near where the creek would fl ow with more gusto if it weren’t for the human-made logjam, is a volleyball net and smaller stages for hula hoopers, fi re spinners and silk acrobatics.
Carts selling things will line the forest across the clearing from the creek. “Food trucks and merch stands,” confi rms Jack.
Ron Davis will be there with his truck, The Gravy Train; Sportees will have a stall to sell festival flare.
What is festival flare? “Funky tights and skirts,” says Jack after a slight hesitation.
Bella Woods will be there for the requisite festival feather earrings and other hand-crafted jewelery. And the stall where a painter decorates faces and bodies, of course.
The Paradise Electronic Music Festival has been going on for 10 years on this property at Kettley’s Canyon, south of the Lewes River Bridge. The first was in 2005 for Jack’s best friend’s going away party.
Jack’s other good friend, Adam Greetham, owns the property, and they built the site and the festival together.
They’ve brought up some big names in electronic music over the years — in 2008, “Krafty Kuts, the biggest break-beat DJ in Brighton, UK,” played the festival, according to Jack. Krafty Kuts drew 500 guests. Normally about 100 people show up — that’s with no advertising. This year, Jack is advertising, and he’s hoping for about 500 guests again. “We’re taking it above ground.”
Jack, who takes the moniker DJKJ when he’s behind the booth, has been an electronic music DJ for 12 years. He will play the festival, along with acts like SLYNK, the headliner, from Australia, and Sickophant, Durdy Kurdy, Doctawub and more.
Why the tour, why the advertising, why above ground? “We realized there was something unique about the property and the space.”
What do you want Paradise to become? Jack says he likes the idea of Shambala — the monster-sized festival on the Salmon River, tucked in a green corner of B.C.’s Kootenays.
Jack knows Shambala now has a reputation related to drug use and disrespect for the land that overshadows the names and skills of the musicians who play the festival.
He hopes to mitigate drug use and drinking at Paradise by having a strong security presence at the gate and banning glass from the grounds.
He says he doesn’t want alcohol and substances at the festival, but he’s being realistic about the difficulty of enforcing prohibition. That’s why he’s encouraging camping and will have St. John Ambulance on site. There will be a shuttle service from the site to town.
Jack says his following is mostly a contingent of professionals — nurses, teachers and paramedics — a mature, 25- to 50-year-old crowd that prefers venues other than bars. Jack says that over the course of the festival’s run, the property has matured. Now, for the 10- year anniversary, he says it’s time to shine a light on the electronic music scene in the Yukon.
The festival starts at 3 p.m. on Saturday, August 29 and runs till 5 a.m. on Sunday. Tickets are available at Dean’s Strings and Triple J’s Tattoos. The Paradise Music Festival Facebook page has information on the shuttle, performers, camping and more.