Follow the dirt road to EVOLVE

By: Kayla Byrne

Once upon a time there was a field.

A particular field in a particular place. That place being Antigonish, Nova Scotia. And for the last several years, this field has become home to one of the best music festivals on the East Coast.

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Across the black and white ticket read the word Evolve in large block letters. Beginning Friday July 19 until July 21, but for many, this party would start a day early with the pulsing parking-lot party which occurs just out of reach from the weekend’s destination.

By Thursday evening, there are clusters of cars zooming around the quiet town, looking for that dirt farm road which will lead the way to this sought-after field. Pebbles and mud flick windshields as visions of munching cows pass by. Attendees know they have arrived upon spotting an older waving couple with an ‘Evolve this way’ sign nailed to their porch.

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Out of nowhere, the sun is setting and your very own vehicle has somehow been hit by a wall of colourful painted parked cars and smiling people who are greeting you with a phrase which will become all too familiar over the next four days: “Happy Evolve.”

It’s like you’ve just stumbled onto Christmas Island. Before you can even unbuckle that constraining seatbelt, you’re already anticipating a great time.

The moon and the stars are shining like mad as speakers and turn tables appear out of nowhere. A sea of face-painted kids groove to an anonymous D.J.

Meanwhile, a stuffed monkey hovers over the crowd and a wolf-man in an Oiler’s jacket howls along the outskirts of the jittering mob. The rest of the night is filled with tight embraces from long-lost friends, perfect strangers or the people you just rode down with.

Soon enough, the birds start bopping and chirping so most of us know it’s time to get some rest as tomorrow’s festivities await us.

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On Friday morning, saggy grey clouds lay low just waiting to burst, but this appears to have little affect on everyone’s kindred spirits.

For some, plastic yellow ponchos come out while others strip down to their bathing suits and embrace the cool mist as we all lug tents, coolers and blankets up a hill the size of Windsor street.

After hours of preparation and hauling, the crowd was ready and so began the bouncing noises of a didgeridoo which could be heard by all.

High on the hill, there is little cell phone reception so daily lifelines are mostly kept hidden in a backpack. Also, it’s fair to say that the wristwatch is no longer the sporty accessory it had once been, therefore at Evolve, there is little sense of time.

However, upon hearing those tubular hoots, we all knew it was time for one of the weekend’s headliners: Xavier Rudd.

An excited screech came from forever away and continued all the way down the hill to the Sunflower stage where three didgeridoos were placed on a stand. Xavier Rudd held his guitar a guitar while his bare feet banged a stomp-box. An assortment of drums, banjos and harmonicas kick in as the crowd gravitates closer.

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Unlike many other concerts and festivals, Evolve doesn’t get that claustrophobic vibe. Nobody is hurdling over one and other to be front row and centre.

Sure, there’s a few fumbles here and there, but they’re made up with a quick wave and a ‘Happy Evolve’.

Within 15 minutes, even the most self-conscious dancers were raving like madmen. Hula hoopers twirled on the side-lines, while well-known live painter Sharon Epic started another fan favourite.

Dancers dispersed to sit down while others begged for one more song. One more song turned into one more set as Xavier Rudd dismantled and A Tribe Called Red plugged in.

The three hoodie wearing guys took over the place with their unique sound which has been dubbed “powwow electronic” – a mash up of Native tribal beats and house music.

Right after that, the party was nowhere close to slowing down as Five Alarm Funk got ready to wail on their horn section.

Somewhere in the midst of the non-stop music and costumed dancers, the sun began to peek through and as with the night before, the crowd mumbled off into light-hearted conversations and a short nap in a makeshift bed.

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The next few days of Evolve were reminiscent of the first two and the weather turned hot and clear. People headed down to the river to lazily wade and lap up some free refreshments from the fresh spring which flowed nearby.

Soon, all of the big acts had come and gone. Classified, Keys N Krates, Skratch Bastid, Scientists of Sounds and slews of others had provided a great weekend, but the time had come to take down those mangled tent poles and pack up for another year.

Evolve isn’t the biggest or most impressive music festival around. In fact it’s small and tight-knit, but it’s that same atmosphere which brings people back each year.

Evolve is one of the few music festivals where you’ll constantly be bumping into someone you know or given the opportunity to sit with a group of strangers to discuss whatever just flowed into your head.

But, this is just one man’s opinion and everyone is free to their proper perceptions. So, for next year, you’ll just have to discover your own Evolve.

Just follow the dirt road and the smiling faces.



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