Editorial: A really, really big weekend

Trent Ernst, Editor


This is it.

In a year filled with big events (Fivestar, TR’s thirtieth, Canada Day, etc), The BC Day long weekend still rules the roost, as this is the weekend of Grizfest.

While some people have a love/hate relationship with Grizfest, it’s hard to argue that it isn’t an important event on the Tumbler Ridge calendar.

As a music lover and a musician, though, Grizfest is a twice-blessed event. Not only do I get to go and listen to more live bands than come through Tumbler Ridge the rest of the year (though that is slowly changing), I also get to play this year with my band Downwater Union.

I thought I’d share with you what it’s like to play on stage in front of a crowd. For some people, getting up in front of a crowd is a nerve-wracking event. For others, it is an ego boost like no other. Most performers fall somewhere in the middle.

Most crowds tend to react well to music they know and love, but are fairly ambivilant with music they have no relation to. As a result, Downwater Union usually perform mostly originals, with a fistful of covers tossed in just keep people’s attention.

As a music lover, I am a sit back and analyze listener. You will rarely find me up front dancing like a mad fool. More often than not I like to find a spot just behind the people who are dancing, and stand there, letting the music wash over me, picking out parts of the song and analyzing what is happening on stage.

As a musician, I hate people who listen to music like me. But those mad fools up front and dancing? They are my favourite people to play to.

Why? If you’ve never been in front of a crowd, it’s tough to explain, but there is a symbiotic relationship that forms between you and the crowd. If everyone is sitting down and analysing the music, the performers tend to be more introspective, too.

If someone is standing there, staring at you, arms crossed, you might start to think that something is wrong with what you are playing. You might make adjustments to how you’re playing and play more conservatively. Start to overthink the process and you start to make mistakes.

But when there are people in front of the stage, dancing and cheering? Well then, the music becomes more…primal. More instinctual. More fun to play.

It’s been said before, and it will be said again, but there is an energy that is produced when people get up and move to music, and performers feed off that energy. I’m tempted to say that musicians are a type of psychic vampires, but that both cheapens the relationship that is shared between performer and audience, and fails miserably to capture what it’s all about.

A more appropriate metaphor would be the idea of feedback. A note is played on a guitar, which is changed by the amplifer and increased, which in turn causes the string to start to vibrate, which goes back to the amp, which returns to the string, and voila; you have a feedback loop.

Come to think about it, that’s a lot like Grizfest itself. The Grizfest committee is setting up the festival for all comers, be they from Tumbler Ridge or Dawson Creek or Grande Prairie or even farther away. It’s hard work, and if the town just stands there with their collective arms crossed, well, it isn’t very encouraging.

But the thing to remember is that this is not an us and them situation. This is about we as a town. Okay, so maybe you’re not a big fan of Trooper. But there’s more to this than what happens on the main stage. Friday night, for instance, is the free Battle of the Bands/Vocalist competition.

Last year, there were more people at the Battle of the Bands than were at the first Grizfest, but I’d love to see an even bigger crowd this year, cheering on the contestants.

Or on Saturday, a whole bunch of people are putting on a parade, simply for you to come out and enjoy. All you have to do is come out and enjoy it.

Because that’s what community is about. It’s about supporting others in your community. It’s about encouraging others when they  do something for the betterment of this place we call home. Because the opposite of a feedback loop is an open system, where a note is played on a guitar and nothing comes back and the note dies. I don’t want to be a community where people try to better the community and are met not with opposition but with apathy. And instead of growing, things just die.