The Otalith Music Festival in Ucluelet, BC might not be located in Victoria, but the Victoria and Vancouver influence on the festival is clear. The festival boasts heaps of talent from the Victoria area that include Current Swell, Freedom Pony, Northcote, Kathryn Calder, The Archers, and a handful of others. These acts alone made up at least half of the festivals roster and were prominently featured as headliners and sub-headliners.
There is a feeling of community that surrounds the Otalith Music Festival which is rare in the current music festival scene. There was a connectedness with artists, promotors, volunteers, vendors, and festival goers. It wasn’t a strange to sight to see bands like Brasstronaut or Yukon Blonde sharing beers with their fans in the beer garden or chatting over fish tacos in front of Tacofino.
Otalith has the laid-back Cascadian vibe of a VIC Fest, but is essentially a destination festival like Sasquatch or Squamish without the feeling of panic or rush that comes with it. You can take your time getting to the festival, you can disappear to swim in the ocean, or head back to your campsite to get changed without the threat of security not letting you back in. Similar to a Sasquatch or any destination festival you instantly become like long lost friends when you see your neighbours from the campground and Otalith boasts a smaller and more intimate setting for connection.
The festival hosted a surprising amount of rare gem acts like The River & The Road and The White Buffalo that were the buzz of the festival. The latter of which I assumed might be a Ted Nugent cover band, but was delighted to find this gruff singer/songwriter has had his music featured in several episodes of Sons of Anarchy.
Every band put on amazing performances, but The Cave Singers stood out. As Victorians we might be spoiled by getting to see this great Seattle band often, but in Ucluelet they were a big hit. A rare treat for the crowd and the band fed off their energy, getting more and more dynamic as their performance went on.
Over the weekend the weather fluctuated as it does here on the West Coast, but the torrential downpours that came down on the Friday night couldn’t keep the crowds or the artists from enjoying themselves. The Saturday hosted beautiful sunshine, clouds and a sharp breeze, but it held the rain and fog off. It’s why you pack tarps and rain jackets every time you go camping out here.
Otalith is the perfect kind of destination festival for anyone on Vancouver Island. It means you don’t have to spend all that extra money to take a ferry and you also don’t have to go to another country. It’s a relatively short drive but an interesting trip up island with the ability to stop and be a tourist in Coombs or Cathedral Grove. Plus it’s an excuse to camp in some of the most beautiful places on The Island while seeing great music.
The Otalith Music Festival is something special. It’s different than any music festival I’ve ever been to before, and from now on will be the festival I base others on. I’m already looking forward to the next year.
More of Tyson Elder’s photos and posts about the festival can be found at rocktographer.ca