This summer’s Evolve was my first music festival. I didn’t know what to expect going into it, but I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to have worn a pair of rubber boots.
This past weekend Evolve celebrated its 16th anniversary in a brand new location on a 500 acre organic farm in Beersville, New Brunswick. This year marked a dramatic change from its longstanding Antigonish home. Despite the unexpected displacement, the Evolve Team was more than successful in pulling things together on relatively short notice without compromising the acclaimed down to earth nature of the event.
With three big outdoor stages, and a smaller stage inside a friendly yurt (aka The Palace), there was always a fresh cycle of alternating artists to keep the crowd wild, and with the help of some buds, festival goers were on cloud nine. Stages were stoked with energy, hosting crowd favourites like hip hop artist Danny Brown, who held fans new and old way up, and South African alternative duo Goldfish who delivered a killer set that kept the party raving until 2:00am Saturday night. Earlier that evening, Melbourne artist Dub FX delivered a powerful message between songs on cultural appropriation and racism–super important and well timed for a society still dealing with racial violence.
On top of the festival’s focus of music and social awareness, artist Sharon Epic captured the events of the Sunflower Stage in the traditionally untraditional fashion of festival live painters. A long time staple of New Brunswick festival culture and a regular at these events, Sharon’s massive 6×9 canvas featured Skratch Bastid‘s set amidst a throng of festival-goers and sold on the spot.
Each night (aka morning), as the performances and events would come to a close, we would make the long journey back to the commune. The nightly process of rediscovering my own tent involved first locating the weed flag, and from there journeying past the Santa with the black eyes, until finally reaching the rather notoriously named Camp Nipples. I was their neighbour! A+ name in my humble opinion too–intense and provocative, my fave combo.
Evolvers in general are a super friendly and respectful bunch. They’re always inviting me to sit down with them, and asking me where I’m from. They’d be curious whether I had gone to any festivals before, and what I’m doing there, but I guess having a large camera strapped around one’s neck can make for a pretty conspicuous conversation starter. Nonetheless, it proved to be a mighty tool; not only capturing the artists, the crowds, the scenery, but it allowed me an ‘in’ as I got to know people from all over the Maritimes. East coast hospitality is very real thing, and doubly so at festivals. Where else would you get offered Molly twice before 10:45am on a Sunday morning?
But back to the boots. Personally, I feel these are an absolute must for those who enjoy not having cold wet muddy feet, pneumonia, trench foot, hepatitis, or any number of conditions that range from mild discomfort to the very nearly fatal, and any seasoned veteran of festivals would agree. As per the unpredictable nature of our weather, good foot care is imperative, so make sure you get your hands on some quality booties. Awesome entertainment and well organized events aside, the weather was bound to turn, and so it did, but it failed to curb the enthusiasm of my fellow Evolvers.
The resulting outcome was my most memorable experience of the whole kebab. There in the mess of it, I ran into one unfortunate guy who managed to get a chunk of glass in stuck in his bare foot. Evolve has a strict no glass policy, and rightfully so. Right then, I saw first hand just how shitty it can be for people around you if you leave bottles and mason jars for people to break. They check for them at the gates, but inevitably some make it through. Not all of them make it out. This one made it into this guy’s foot. Being the son of healthcare professionals, I long ago swore a solemn oath not to travel anywhere without iodine prep pads and bandages. Swinging my camera over my shoulders, I flicked on my overhead light, and did my duty to serve my fellow festival-goer as best I might. And so, there in the dark, in the wet, and the mud, I played doctor. Make sure you get your tetanus shot, Glass Foot Man.
With a greater turnout than ever before, a growing community of loyal Evolvers, and a new home, this already hugely successful festival has so much room for even more growth.
For more information visit www.evolvefestival.com