Coldsnap is second to none at bringing national and international folk-roots music acts to Prince George. It is also second to none at shining a spotlight on all local talent. Best of all, there is, on a nightly basis, a mix of talent from here at home and come from away.
This year the list of locals tells a tale of maturation of our homegrown music scene, especially when one considers the names not on the list. Every one of these local openers for the mainstage concerts are experienced in touring, experienced in multiple local gigs, and are also experienced recording artists. They are Amy Blanding (a swiftly added substitute for Out Of Alba who had to decline their show due to illness), Naomi Kavka, Zavan Trio, and Genevieve Jaide.
Add Kym Gouchie who is also all of those things and is featured at one of the workshop events.
And then add Isabelle Houghton who is only 10 years old and won this year's Limelight Quest competition.
The local inclusion gets thick when you factor in four strong performers per night at a pair of all-regional showcase shows at The Legion (one on Tuesday night, the other on Feb. 1).
The first night offers the audience Trina Chivalo, the Danny Bell Trio, Adam Winn, and Far From Linear.
The second of these showcases gives us Andrew Twining, Kiera Dall'Osto, The Alkemist, and Crowmarsh.
"I think the local music scene is alive and well, certainly for some genres like folk and roots," said Dwight Wolfe, host of the CFIS-FM radio show Homegrown that exclusively plays the music of this region. "Musically, there is a lot of cross pollination and playing between bands. New artists have moved to P.G. - specifically Brin Porter, bassist with The Party On High Street from Victoria. He is well known locally because of touring and the summer festival circuit, and he can sit in with anyone. He's already part of Saltwater Hank's album project."
The layers of interconnectedness have been building the local scene for years. Jaide took part in the regional showcase last year, and is now advancing to a mainstage opening slot. She credits veterans from the city like Matt Robinson, Jeremy Stewart, Dawn Boudreau and Nick Tindale with coaching her from aspiring rookie to someone with a fresh new album on the market and tour dates pending.
"I don't know what it's like to have this sort of Coldsnap experience, but it is great to get these chances because people in your hometown see something in you they want to support," she said. "The regional showcase last year, to be really honest, was the kickstart of everything. I was already recording, but I didn't know why. I had all these songs I'd written so I figured I should do something with them, but there was no plan or goal to it. But then last year happened, the regional showcase night, and it all came tumbling together. I met other musicians that night, I saw a community of musicians in action, I suddenly felt part of something I really didn't realize existed. I got inspired and it kicked my butt into gear."
Part of that was the concert she got to perform, and part of it was the workshop she took in instructed by import headliners Matt Epp and Andrea Ramolo. She got a strong connection from Ramolo and that sparked confidence in Jaide that set her on a year of concise musical activity.
Far From Linear has had quite a year as well. The Prince George pop-punk rock trio (comprised of Demmy G., Renee Conway and Olivia Kozoris) got industry notice at the Breakout West music conference, performed on the buskers' stage at a Prince George Cougars game, Kozoris made the finals of Limelight Quest, and other notable highlights. They even have a freshly recorded demo CD and merchandise that will be available at their Coldsnap appearance.
"We're super excited about Coldsnap. This is actually our very first festival as Far From Linear and we're happy to get the opportunity to do it in front of our home crowd," said Conway. "Coldsnap is great for Prince George because it will also bring in people from surrounding communities to listen to the music. It helps to get word out of your band before ever actually playing a gig in that town."
The reverse is also true. The regional showcases are indeed not reserved solely for Prince George artists. One of those coming in a few extra miles is singer-songwriter Adam Winn from the Fort St. John area, where he already has a strong fan base and established creative career.
"I am excited to come down to Prince George (for Coldsnap). I have never played in the area before so I'm curious what the music scene is like there," he said. "I really like the fact that Coldsnap embraces that we live in the north and should celebrate culture in the winter months. It's important for people to not just stay cooped up all winter. What is really cool is the support local artists find from their community at festivals like this. One of the biggest components to having a good music and arts scene is local people coming out to show their support."
Jaide had some cautionary observations about that, though. She detected a frustration but also an opportunity.
"I still feel there's a big segment of the population of Prince George that still doesn't know what Coldsnap is, even though it's been doing this for years," she said. "I'm still amazed at how many people, when I tell them I'm performing at Coldsnap, respond by saying 'what's that? Never heard of it.' I'm not sure how to go about it, but this festival still needs a lot of support and attention from its own community."
Wolfe, who is also a locally noted stage performer himself, routinely volunteers his time to boost Coldsnap's fortunes, and said the behind-the-scenes organization (P.G. Folkfest Society) was stellar in its production of this annual music smorgasbord.
"Putting over original music is a challenge in this town and the artists have to really be dedicated," he said.
Starting Friday night and running on to Feb. 3, the city comes alive with one of the best streaks of local and import music all in one collection.
Tickets to all the events are available for online purchase on the Coldsnap website, or get physical tickets at Studio 2880 and Books & Company.