By Jane Deacon
Longview will become a hive of arts activity this weekend when the Longview Music and Arts Festival returns for its sixth year on August 17 and 18.
A true celebration of Alberta talent, the festival — which has earned the nickname Longstock over the years — hosts artists from across the province for a two-day celebration of music and visual art.
Fourteen musical acts will take the stage this year, with performances by Denis Davies, Jay Coda Walker and T. Buckley part of the lineup.
The genres of music will include folk, blues and country, with most of the acts featuring original music, said festival organizer Eva Levesque, who will perform with fellow members of folk-county trio The Travelling Mabels on Sunday afternoon.
In addition to the live music series, 18 to 20 area artists will showcase their work, including Longview artist Gaile Gallup and pencil artist Bernie Brown, who is based near Okotoks.
There will also be booths from local vendors, a beer garden, concessions and an area where kids can take part in the action and create their own art.
Levesque expects around 800 to 1,000 festivalgoers to attend, with people travelling from across Alberta to take in the weekend.
“They’re coming from all over the local area, from Nanton to Drumheller to Calgary,” said Levesque. “People kick off their shoes and have a good time.”
Husband-and-wife duo Lynae and Denis Dufresne are the artists behind PEAR and will perform on the Longview stage with Craig Bignell on Sunday afternoon. They’re internationally renowned as fiddle musicians and have played festivals around the world, but relish the opportunity to play on Alberta’s festival stages.
“Those are the festivals you want to do,” said Denis. “They’re caring people who are there to listen to some great music. There’s always a great reaction from places like Longview, High River and Okotoks.”
Fans who saw PEAR’s high-energy fiddle show at last year’s festival can expect a new dynamic at this weekend’s performance.
“We did the show at Longview last year with just the two of us, which is great — we’ve been used to going out as acoustic duo,” said Denis. “But with Craig there, he adds that third voice. That’s why we added him to band, his voice just blended really well with ours.”
They’re also in process of recording a new album, due out next year, which fans can hear songs from at Sunday’s performance. Lynae and Denis are taking a slight departure from their last pop-country album by experimenting with new sounds and acoustic instruments, said Denis.
“The best way to tell if you’ve got a good song or not is to try it out in front of an audience. If they respond favourably to it, then you should probably put it in on your record. And if they don’t really respond to it, don’t ask any questions after the show. It’s probably a good indication that you like it more than other people,” said Denis with a laugh.
The Shannon Smith Band will also take the stage at this weekend’s festival for a lively performance.
“We try to be as diverse as we can,” said lead singer Shannon Smith of Sunday’s performance in Longview. “We’ve got a wide range of music from ’50s and ’60s to the pop that you hear currently on the radio. We’ll do a mix of classics and new material.”
The group will also be performing material from a new album, said Smith, who was nominated as a Female Vocalist of the Year by the Association of Country Music in Alberta this year.
The Calgary-based group has a family connection with the Longview Festival, noted Smith, festival organizer Eva Levesque’s son performing on the keyboard for the Shannon Smith Band.
The Longview Music and Arts Festival will take place in Smith-Fuller Centennial Park, about 25 minutes west of High River, on August 17 from 12 to 9 p.m. and August 18 from 12 to 7 p.m. Admission is pay-what-you-can and proceeds will be donated to the Therapeutic Riding Association in Okotoks.
For more information on the festival and performances, visit www.longstock.org.