The Whistler driving range resounded with the reverb of guitars, drums and some of the most powerful voices in the country rock world from 10 a.m. until late into the night on Saturday.
While the second year of the event featured performances by some big names in the business, like The Road Hammers, Trooper and Jason Blaine, and the weather co-operated moreso than last year, the turnout at the festival wasn’t as strong as organizers had hoped for.
Byron James is co-owner of Echo One Productions, the company that organizes the annual country rock festival.
“It was a great weekend — the sun shone, at least it came through the clouds a little bit,” he said with a laugh.
During the first year of the festival, last year, about 1,250 people attended. James said they reached about the same number again this year. But it still wasn’t as high as the 2,000 people they were hoping for, due in part to the two large festivals held earlier this summer — Whistler Music Festival and Pemberton Festival.
“To be honest, they definitely did impact us,” James said. “I mean, we would have liked to have seen growth in numbers, we were hoping to do maybe 2,000 at least… and we just matched what we had last year. So in that aspect, we didn’t see the growth that we were looking for.”
The three-day Pemberton Festival drew a crowd of 40,000 people.
“We don’t have pockets that are that deep and it’s hard to compete with Live Nation on a scale like that,” he said. “We’re the little guy.”
But James pointed out that, despite the broad range of music offered up at Pemberton Festival, it didn’t touch on the genre of country-rock.
“For us, it’s looking at where we’re pulling from and how we can get the type of people out that we’re looking for,” James explained. “I mean, obviously with the other two festivals, the great thing is that they’re different. The Pemberton Festival did not have country rock music — the closest person you could look to would maybe be, on the offshoot, Tom Petty.”
“Same with the Whistler Music Festival,” James added.
So Campground “C” Country-Rock Festival still has the country niche to cater to, and organizers are considering this year’s event a success, with energetic sets from all of the artists.
“The quality of performances was fantastic. Everyone really liked the lineup and the eclectic mix and at one point, Trooper blew out our sound system!” James said. “They were on their finale and whatever happened, it blew out the whole system and it took about three minutes for us to reset it, and then they just kept going and kept rocking out, so it was pretty cool.”
The festival drew a combination of locals and people from the Lower Mainland, and an impressively all-ages crowd, with more families with small children earlier in the day, and older music lovers later in the evening.
James also said they had some repeat customers.
“We saw a number of people, also, that were wearing shirts from last year, because we had different shirts this year, so we saw that we had repeat people, which was great,” he added. “… People were there because they had a great time last year.”
So far, organizers have gathered positive feedback from concertgoers, through on-site conversations and e-mails. To his knowledge, only two rowdy people were ejected from the site.
“Otherwise, it was a worry-free experience,” James said. “It was great, there was no violence, no fighting, no problems!”
Feedback from the performers was also overwhelmingly positive.
“Everyone had nothing but good things to say, and they were really happy with the organizations,” James said. He even heard one manager say they did a better job of handling the logistical side of things than some larger festivals that have been around for a lot longer.
Despite the slightly disappointing turnout, James said they’re hoping to bring the event back for another year next summer. Right now, they’re recuperating from the weekend, getting a wrap-report ready to send out to the partner organizations, Tourism Whistler, Whistler-Blackcomb, and the Resort Municipality of Whistler, who all have a hand in the festival, to ensure they’re pleased with the outcome.
They did the same thing after the inaugural event, and were given approval to hold it again this summer.
“They were pleased last year, which was great,” James said. “They welcomed us with open arms again this year, and we would probably do the same thing.”