Fun under the sun at the Tall Tree Festival
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Fans cheer at the Tall Tree Stage on Brown`s Mountain during the Tall Tree Music Festival. darren stone, times colonist Photograph By DARREN STONE, Times Colonist
Producing a multi-day festival with many moving parts is a difficult task, no matter the location. But when you’re putting dozens of bands on several stages before an audience of 3,000 people, the middle of a remote forest isn’t the most ideal site.
In many ways, that’s the appeal of Port Renfrew’s Tall Tree Music Festival, which celebrated its eighth year of operation this weekend. It’s an unlikely success story, but one that has enduring appeal.
Each year, thousands flock to Brown’s Mountain in Port Renfrew, an otherwise tiny community on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. The festival, which books mostly electronic and rock acts, was headlined this year by Beats Antique, Tokyo Police Club, Shapeshifter NZ and Easy Star All-Stars, among others. The festival made its name by mixing genres, from mainstream pop Mother Mother (in 2016) to indie rock Dan Mangan (2014), but for many the appeal is more about the site than the acts themselves.
“We’ve worked very hard to make this a community,” said Emmalee Brunt, the festival’s communications manager. “We have so many returning people every year , so there’s a collective responsibility.”
The influx of patrons each summer, coupled with the delicate natural environment, has resulted in a comprehensive recycling program — including recyclable and compostable plates and cutlery. Brunt said more than over 60 volunteers are part of the festival’s Green Team, which sorts through compost, recycling and garbage on an immediate basis.
“It’s an insane operation,” she said.
Tall Tree is designed to be safe and user-friendly: Included among the 200 volunteers is a harm reduction team and staff for a full field hospital, while ambulances are on site and available on call, should a medical emergency arise. “I’ve never seen anyone taken off the mountain,” Brunt said. “You can be fully treated on site.”
A reaction to drugs laced with fentanyl is a new reality for music festivals countrywide, so Tall Tree has concertgoers covered in that regard. Fentanyl test strips and naloxone kits are on site, with the full support of area RCMP. “We hope so deeply we do not have to deal with that whatsoever,” Brunt said. “But in case there is anything, we’ve set ourselves up for the best success possible.”
Attendees are participants in more ways than one at Tall Tree. “It’s something we’ve worked towards, and it’s fostering an environment of environmental stewardship. People really care for the festival, and each other.”
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