Earplugs Optional: The Vancouver International Jazz Festival 2011

Looking through the programme of the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, which ran from 24 June until 3 July 2011, earlier today, it occurred to me that I pretty much missed all the big acts. I didn’t get to see Paco de Lucia, Madeleine Peyroux, Lucinda Williams, Erik Truffaz, Ana Moura nor Trombone Shorty. Contemplating this, for a brief moment, made me wish I’d bought a Hopper Pass and had NOT volunteered. But then, of course, it would have been a whole different festival for me.

I wouldn’t have met volunteers from as far as Switzerland, Slovakia, Turkey, Japan and even, believe it or not, Vancouver. I wouldn’t have learned to make the perfect chicken wrap, which earned us a thumbs up from the VanJazzFest staff. I wouldn’t have learned some interesting quirks about some of the performers and their backstage requests. I wouldn’t have danced at the volunteer party and I definitely wouldn’t have had (yet) another festival t-shirt for the collection in the wash on Monday night.

The gigs I did catch were all really intriguing and fell into roughly two categories for me: a) easy on the ear and b) ear-popping. I used to think I’m quite open to all sorts of musical styles, but at this festival I realised that maybe I am not. In fact, I had to fashion myself earplugs out of tissue paper on at least two or three occasions just to be able to TRY and appreciate the skill of the musicians on stage. No doubt, the likes of Colin Stetson, The Listening and Atomic are amazing musicians and I admire their creativity and raw energy. Still, when I looked around the auditorium at the Laila Biali or Brad Turner Quartet concerts I saw a lot more people smiling, swinging to the rhythm and generally enjoying themselves. I guess I am old-fashioned after all.

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