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Homegrown blues festival picks up again with top talent this weekend

Pender Harbour Blues Festival features three days of performances, June 3 to 5.
A. Blues Fest
At the 2019 Pender Harbour Blues Festival, Brandon Isaak (returning for the 2022 event) plays guitar and drums while Keith Picot strums the bass.

The strains of blues, rock and gospel are set to echo across Madeira Park and Egmont as the annual Pender Harbour Blues Festival returns from a two-year hiatus for its 17th annual celebration. The event will feature over a dozen acclaimed headliners during three days of performances from June 3 to 5. 

The festival, which has previously drawn crowds of 500 people to its free community hall outdoor concert, is hosted at a variety of venues throughout the Pender Harbour area. 

The Pender Harbour School of Music is the setting for Sunday morning’s Gospel Show featuring BC Entertainment Hall of Fame inductee Marcus Mosely and The Grand Koolios, a five-member collective of professional blues, country and roots musicians. The Royal Canadian Legion in Madeira Park provides the stage for four unique ticketed shows. An All Star Jam performance on Sunday afternoon at the Legion will incorporate nine acts, including veteran bluesman Brent Parkin of Winnipeg. 

Jazz, blues, and old-school country and western singer Russell deCarle will appear alongside guitarist Steve Briggs at both the Legion and a free Saturday afternoon show. The playbill highlights Sunshine Coast-based soloists and ensembles: guitarist and vocalist Simon Paradis, acoustic troubadour Joe Stanton, jazz songstress and sax ace Karen Graves, the four-member Steve Hinton Band, and the Peter Van Trio. 

The Steve Hinton Band includes bassist Trevor Sully Antonyk, who has also coordinated the Saturday afternoon “Blues in the Park” show for 15 years. 

The festival is a non-profit organization that employs a music director, Vancouver drummer Chris Nordquist, to recruit headliners and coordinate the house band. Nordquist will also appear alongside Tim Hearsey, Rob Becker, Jerry Cook, and Darryl Havers as part of The Grand Koolios. 

“[Nordquist] herds the cats,” said Marilyn MacLeod, president of the Pender Harbour Blues Society. “It always works out. The rest, it’s all volunteers.” 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, festival organizers decided to suspend the event rather than go virtual. Approximately 40 per cent of audience members travel from off-Coast, according to surveys conducted in previous years. The popular dance at the Community Hall has been cut from the 2022 program — a casualty of continued vigilance about public health — but MacLeod expects it will return next year. 

“Our festival is unique because you can come in by boat and you can get to all the different shows by boat,” said MacLeod. “It has appeal for anybody that’s coming in on the water. And it’s a smaller festival — the musicians, they love it because they can come meet everybody. Most festivals are out in a big field, whereas ours is at different venues and this year, we’re even a little smaller.” 

The free outdoor show on Saturday afternoon will be accompanied by a craft fair with six local artisans. A food truck from the Aquí Es México restaurant is booked to provide onsite nourishment for blues-binging live music aficionados. 

Brandon Isaak, a Yukon-born nominee for Guitarist of the Year at Canada’s national blues awards, is scheduled for two solo shows at the Painted Boat Resort. Prodigious songwriter and vocalist Jim Foster performs at the Backeddy Pub. Vancouver-based duo Ruth McGillivray and Sheldon Bradley will deliver their trademark blend of roots and soul at the festival closer. 

Each event is individually ticketed. Schedules and ticket sales are available online at

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