Feature: Kulth Festival, Coombs, B.C.

Kulth: The Little Festival That Could
July 16 – 17 in Coombs, B.C.
Featuring Ron Sexsmith, Stars, Aidan Knight and more.


Anyone who’s ever been to a music festival will tell you that it’s pretty easy to make friends. There’s just something about camping alongside fellow music fans that does something to break down social barriers. As someone who attended their first music festival this year, I can vouch for that.

The Kulth Festival, however, wants to take that one step further.

The Music Festival Next Door

“What we’re trying to do is create an environment that’s a little more … community oriented. It’s a real grassroots type of thing,” said James Boatman, Kulth Festival’s music director. “We strive to make everybody matter.”

The Kulth Festival, which is in its inaugural year, is being held in Coombs, B.C., just minutes outside of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. July 16 and 17 will see the festival set up for two days of music, art and community fun.

“We want people on both sides of the fence to feel like they’re going over to a friend’s house. It’s something a little more intimate,” Boatman said of the festival’s approach.

The Kids Are Alright

Despite the selection of festivals to choose from in the Pacific Northwest – Sasquatch, Bumbershoot, Live at Squamish and so many other smaller festivals – Kulth knows that there is a specific niche of festival attendees who are looking for a family-friendly event and not a drunken four-day bender.

Boatman described the kids’ zones being set up near each stage where families can relax without missing out on performances. The festival’s organizers – many of whom have kids themselves – have also included children’s musical acts and family activities.

Keep It Green

Another interesting twist: Kulth also aims to be a completely environmentally sustainable festival. While many festivals include green initiatives into their organization, Kulth builds its identity on the Coast Salish land where it takes place.

“Picking a (Coast Salish) name like that brings in that we’re aware of where we are we are and our surroundings,” said Boatman, adding that the festival will not be selling bottled water, but instead, selling $4 re-usuable bottles and providing water-refill stations.

Additionally, the Nanaimo district has a “zero-waste policy,” which Kulth will be taking into account. Festival organizers will measure all resources brought into the festival and at the end of the weekend, all waste will be calculated, leaving organizers with an idea of how much waste was produced, a number that they will aim to lower in 2012.

“We would hope whatever people are bringing, they’re bringing reusable products … anything that would not be left behind.”

Keeping Famous Company

Although Kulth is young and will be competing against larger festivals in the area, their lineup is nothing to scoff at. Boatman, who has been in the Vancouver music scene for more than 15 years, had more than his fair share of connections to tap into when he agreed to become Kulth’s music director.

“We’re playing with good karma. We’re very lucky they said yes,” Boatman said of Canadian indie darlings Stars. Of the festival’s main headliner, the legendary Ron Sexsmith, Boatman added, “He’s just one of these guys that we think is a Canadian icon.” Other acts include TopLessGayLoveTeknoParty, Current Swell, Louise Burns, Memphis and Piper Davis.

“I think the island has a number of little festivals and we want to maintain this high quality of artists so we’re doing something a little different there. We’re going to bring in some bigger name artists,” Boatman said. His own personal highlight, however, is homegrown talent, Aidan Knight.

“He just blew us away. He’s the next thing,” Boatman said of his first experience with Knight at Canadian Music Week months earlier.

Aidan Knight – “Knitting Something Nice For You”

Starting At Square One

How the festival fares in its first year, however, remains to be seen. While organizers originally planned for 2,000 people, the city has since notified Kulth the festival grounds can hold close to 5,000. But Boatman is realistic and understands that it’s merely a “stepping stone.”

“We would be happy with under a thousand people. We understand it’s the first year,” Boatman said. “We just hope people come and we hope we do a good job for everybody.”

Louise Burns – “What Do You Wanna Do?”

Tickets are available to purchase at Red Cat Records, Beatstreet Records, Zulu Records and Subeez Café. Adult weekend passes are $135; youth/student/senior weekend passes are $100. Adult single day tickets are $65 – $75; youth/student/senior single day tickets are $50 – $60. Camping prices vary. Children under 12 years are free. For more ticket information, visit http://shop.thekulth.ca. For more festival information, visit http://thekulth.ca.

Photo: Ron Sexsmith, Google Images.
Video: Aidan Knight – “Knitting Something Nice For You”, Youtube.
Video: Louise Burns – “What Do You Wanna Do?”, Youtube.