By Scott Roos
The Northern Lights Bluegrass Old Tyme Music Camp, taking place at the Ness Creek Site near Big River August 15th - 19th, will surely prove to be a highlight of the summer for those in attendance. Over the years that this camp has been running, it’s given campers the chance to work with top flight instructors in banjo, guitar, fiddle, stand up bass, vocal harmony, songwriting and so much more. It’s family friendly, with separate things for the little campers to do. Most importantly, however, it’s also helped foster a burgeoning Saskatchewan bluegrass scene over the years. Rockabilly sensation Jake Vaadeland, and The Local Group’s quirky banjo picker Jaxon Lalonde attribute their early experiences at the camp to their current success with the Sturgeon River Boys and The Local Group respectively. Other groups like Regina’s Hummingbird Crossing, and Birch Lake’s Raven She Hollers tip their cap in the direction of the camp as well. In fact, the list would be a very long one if one were to be made of all the bluegrass pickers over the years that have been inspired or reached musical epiphanies through involvement at the camp.
“Seeing musicians around all the time at the camp and just thinking of it as a normal thing and not this thing that's unattainable but something that people do and can do served as a source of inspiration to me. I never thought of it as this absurd goal to be a musician. I saw that people come to the site every summer and play music. I began to think of music as a thing you do for fun and for socialization I guess rather than just this thing you present,” explains The Local Group’s Lalonde of his camp experiences in a recent conversation with NSMZ.
Lalonde was a camp kid at a very young age. Probably since he was around seven or eight years old. At age ten he began attending the camp as a “student” having started taking formal banjo lessons two years prior. Thus, to say that he was “raised” at the camp is not an understatement. Things have come full circle for Lalonde as he will be a vocal harmony instructor this year at the Camp. Meanwhile, all the guys in the Local Group will be playing the accompanying festival from August 19th - 21st. Band members Elliott Dillabough and Eithan Peters glowingly recommended the camp experience and are looking forward to being on site for the festival.
“I think community is one of the most important aspects of music and music as a social activity. Jaxon, Elliott and I sometimes when we're bored will just be like 'hey do you wanna just get together and jam and play some standards?'. We don't call it playing standards, we just call it jamming, but it's a way of interacting with people that I think most of the population doesn't understand. It's really special to be able to go to a camp like The Northern Lights Bluegrass and Old Tyme Music Camp, eat great food, hang out with people and play music sometimes till 2 or 3 in the morning, and then get up at 9 or 10 and do it all over again,” explains Local Group bassist Ethan Peters.
“I think what's unique about bluegrass, There's other genres like blues and jazz that kind of share the same, is that there's a common repertoire and anybody can play with anybody. But I think coming up into the bluegrass community is just the fact that it's not out of the norm to approach other people. I think that was huge for me getting into this kind of music is that in some ways I feel like everybody is a lot more accessible because there's this sociable aspect of the music,” adds Dillabough.
For complete information on the camp including the facilities and registration cost, check them out at their website here: https://northernlightsbluegrass.com/2022-music-camp/
In the meantime, there is also a festival the weekend of August 19th - 21st that will feature many of the camp instructors performing . For a full list of performers at the festival, and festival costs, check out their website here: https://northernlightsbluegrass.com/2022-lineup/
NSMZ will be reporting periodically this summer on other artists that will be featured at both the camp and festival. Stay tuned!