It’s hard to believe that it’s already been five years since the first Arboretum Festival went down at Arts Court. The first edition that took place back in the summer of 2012 amazed us all, and featured artists such as Cadence Weapon, Jokers of the Scene, Ohbijou, and local powerhouses Steve Adamyk Band, Crusades, Boyhood, Bondar, and more. Since then, Arboretum has grown and featured artists such as Sloan, Constantines, Austra, Mykki Blanco, U.S. Girls, Tim Hecker, just to name a few. However, the festival is scaling back the lineup this year and focusing on the experience as a whole.
Creative Director Rolf Klausener and Managing Director Stefanie Power have always envisioned Arboretum Festival actually keeping true to its name – having it take place in the wilderness. The original conception will become reality August 18-20, 2017, as this marks “year six in the sticks” and will be the first time the festival moves outside city limits and into the countryside. It will happen at Rideau Pines Farms in North Gower about 25 minutes from downtown Ottawa. While on-site accommodations won’t be an option for attendees this time around, the organizers have made it clear that shuttle transportation will be made available for attendees living in Ottawa.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled about Rideau Pines Farms” says Power. “Hosting the festival on a rural site, close to downtown, has always been our dream. We love the idea of escaping your own city, but being surrounded by familiar faces. This smaller, more intimate setting is likely be the closer to our original vision for the festival when we started in 2012.”
“Our first meeting with Rideau Pines was one of mutual admiration and excitement. We’ve known their head farmer Matt ‘Spicoli’ Vandenberg since he headed our corn roast at our 2013 edition behind Arts Court. He’s ebullient, charming, and deeply passionate about his work, as are all the Vandenbergs. The farm is a family run business as is ARB, really.”
The 2017 lineup includes Deerhoof, Le1f, TOPS, DIANA, Cadence Weapon, Un Blonde, L.A. Foster, as well as local powerhouses Claude Munson, Future States, Isaac Vallentin, Boyhood, Gianna Lauren, and FEELS DJs. More will be announced in the coming months, but this is a strong start.
“We made a conscious decision to create a really tight line-up of friends and dream shows,” says Klausener. “LE1F (NYC queer rap trailblazer) has been a dream booking for a while, and we’re expecting his headlining show to be a ridiculous party. We’ve been mega-fans of Deerhoof (Oakland art-punk legends) since their 2003 album ‘Apple O’, and are basically an incendiary case study on lifelong, uncompromising artistic expression. TO/Edmonton hip hop icon Cadence Weapon and electro-pop friends DIANA come back, and represent past artists we really admire as both creators and leaders in their own communities.”
Even more, the organizers have announced that there will be a hand-built stage, swimming pond, forest dance parties, intimate barn shows, all-night cinema, vast fields of pick-your-own fruit and vegetables, concerts in the fields, local cooks, farm-to-table food, communal meals, and plenty of room for the kids to run around.
“The main stage area is an intimate clearing, stockaded by tall evergreen, featuring a sweet hand-built wooden stage,” explains Power. “Beyond the main site are vast fields of fruit and vegetables, with 200+ varieties. Festival-goers will be able to buy pick-your-own baskets from the farm store, and pick their own fresh food all weekend long. It’ll also supply the hot meals prepared by our restaurant partners. Beyond the fields is a small red-clay pond, beside which smaller solo-ish acts and late-night DJ’s will play. And then there’s a gorgeous barn with a back slatted wall that let’s the light – perfect for late afternoon sets.”
Arboretum Festival has always been more than just a music festival. The organizers have made a point to incorporate many names in Ottawa’s food and cooking community, affording attendees the opportunity to try out food from spots in town they might not otherwise visit. Being on a farm, the festival is truly embracing a farm-to-table approach this time around.
“The fact that Rideau Pines supplies so many of the great cooks and restaurants we’ve worked with in the past isn’t lost on us,” Klausener explains. “I don’t think I know of any music festival where you can literally pull meals out of the ground. I remember when I was five, eating my first carrot pulled fresh from a neighbour’s farm in the Laurentiens, and my taste buds exploding. It’s a chance for us to really give the city a fun way to connect with the wild abundance that surrounds Ottawa.”
While Arboretum takes steps towards a new experience for festival-goers, it stays true to its core values – staying a strong supporter of Ottawa’s music scene and local businesses, as well as working hard to represent marginalized communities through diverse and boundary-less programming.
Full weekend passes are available online now for $75, and includes “Pizza Bus” transportation to-and-from the festival or a parking pass. Day passes are not yet on sale, but keep your ears open for more announcements soon.
I had the chance to join Ming Wu on his CHUO radio show Photogmusic Live (89.1 FM) on New Year’s Eve. In the hour-long segment, we discussed his Top 12 picks of 2012, playing a track from each of the albums he chose as this year’s best. It was lots of fun, and we also got to talk to Alaska of Yamantaka//Sonic Titan (who will be in Ottawa Jan.11 with Boyhood) as well as Jonas Bonnetta of Evening Hymns. Take a listen to the different segments on the Photogmusic blog, hope you enjoy the show!