Phil DeMille, coordinator of the Coal Shed Music Festival, which begins Aug. 14.
ERIC BOURQUE PHOTO
By Eric Bourque
What began as a two-day event in 2007 has grown to an eight-day celebration of music, one that continues to evolve, says Phil DeMille, founder and coordinator of the Coal Shed Music Festival in Yarmouth.
This year’s event is scheduled for Aug. 14-17 and Aug. 21-24. The festival will feature over 100 acts on the Yarmouth waterfront.
As usual, the festival will offer a variety of musical styles, something for just about everyone.
There are new elements to the festival too. Chief among them, DeMille says, is that the festival has lined up special sponsors for certain acts – performers the festival otherwise wouldn’t be able to get.
He cites as examples Juno Award-winning blues artist Morgan Davis, as well as John CampbellJohn and the George Carter Trio.
“We’ve never done it before,” DeMille said, referring to the new sponsorship initiative, “but it’s opened up a whole new realm of possibilities for us.”
Other headline acts for this year’s festival include country performers Johnny Burke, Naomi Bristow and Harold MacIntyre, who will perform Sunday evening, Aug. 17, in what is billed as a traditional country show.
Sunday evening concerts also are new for the Coal Shed festival and the second of those Sunday-nighters – Aug. 24, this year’s closing show – will feature Yarmouth’s Ryan Cook.
Festival offerings will include a blues night, Irish/folk night, 50s-60s night and much more. The kitchen parties were a big hit last year, DeMille says, and they’re back. There is also a children’s show and, for the first time, a comedy night.
The idea of a comedy night had come up over the years, but DeMille says he wasn’t sure how to organize it.
“Then I started talking with a number of local people who have contacts with amateur comedians and we’ve put together what I think should be a great comedy show,” he said.
In addition to the eight days of performances, organizers are planning a series of mini-concerts for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Aug. 18, 19, and 20, to help bridge the gap between the two festival weekends. The plan is to have these in Frost Park.
“We’ll probably just do one each of the three nights,” DeMille said. “We may do something down by Pharmasave at lunchtime too. It depends.”
The Coal Shed Music Festival again will benefit the Yarmouth Food Bank and local school breakfast program.
In terms of participation and interest, DeMille says the festival is growing every year. He has a waiting list of acts that would like to perform at the festival but says he can only accommodate so many.
Planning for this year’s festival started not long after last year’s – back in September – whereas DeMille says he used to start in January.
He describes the festival as “a work in progress,” saying they try to stick with things that work, maybe change things that don’t work so well. For example, he says, while there used to be festival performances early Thursday afternoons, these are gone, given that festival crowds on this particular day and in this time slot tended to be small.
“Thursday afternoons people are working, people have other commitments,” he said, “and I felt bad for people up there performing because there was nobody there to watch them.”