Two weeks ago was the inaugural Rockin’ the Island music festival in Campbellton, and the turn out was…well, let’s call it underwhelming.
I was covering the event for this fine publication, and as such, I came and went numerous times throughout the day for photos of the musicians, and I would have liked to get some crowd shots, as well. Unfortunately, there was no crowd.
Those few in attendance seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves, but the field was mostly empty. If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say there were more musicians, vendors, and support staff (including security) on the grounds than there were paying patrons.
This is why we can’t have nice things, Campbell River.
“There’s nothing to do,” people moan, but when someone tries to provide an experience like 10 bands playing in one place on the same day, nobody shows up to it.
Sure, I heard the complaints about the price, and the location, and the condemnations of, “I don’t know any of these bands,” all over various social media platforms and around the community, so I will address these things briefly one by one.
In regards to the price complaints, I ask the following: What is musicianship worth? We, as a society, need to decide where we put out values, and I, for one, consider the arts an integral part of that society.
Granted, $70 per (adult) ticket was probably a bit steep for a first run at it, all things considered. On the other hand, when you put it in context, sometimes I pay close to $20 to go see a two-hour movie, and that money goes to a multinational cinema conglomerate and a bunch of already-wealthy people who don’t care about me or where I live, so paying $70 for 12 hours of live music that supports my local community doesn’t really seem like that bad an entertainment investment.
In regards to the location, I ask the following: Where would you have chosen to put a massive stage and sound system pumping out those kind of decibels? Where would you put 1,000 or more people enjoying themselves and the infrastructure to support them?
Nunn’s Creek Park and/or the Willow Point Sportsplex aren’t about to have people gallivanting all over their baseball diamonds, I don’t think. Also, the Campbellton Neighbourhood Association are the ones who stepped up to the plate to put it on, shouldn’t they get to host it?
In regards to the, “I don’t know any of these bands,” complaint, I ask the following: How would you approach your favourite internationally recognized band to play a festival in Campbell River the first year you put it on?
I’m sorry, but you just aren’t going to woo bands like Pearl Jam, U2, or even Arcade Fire or the Tragically Hip to headline your event until you have a track record built up and some name recognition.
Also, by not attending, you’ve likely ensured that you won’t know the bands in the line up next year, either (assuming the organizers want to continue this endeavour).
I can tell you from personally hearing some of the acts at the event that you missed out on some exceptional musicians that you didn’t know the names of.
The long and short of it is this: If we want to have nice things, we have to start somewhere. Did Rockin’ the Island demonstrate that we don’t deserve to have nice things, or are we going to support their development in the future, assuming anyone ever bothers to try again?