Bluegrass bonanza 

With the Brackendale Art Gallery up for sale, the 14th festival may be its final pluck at the banjo

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - MURFITT & MAIN The Vancouver four-piece opens the 14th annual Brackendale Bluegrass Festival at the BAG on Saturday, May 7, at 8 p.m.
  • Photo submitted
  • MURFITT & MAIN The Vancouver four-piece opens the 14th annual Brackendale Bluegrass Festival at the BAG on Saturday, May 7, at 8 p.m.

With the "For Sale" sign up in front of the Brackendale Art Gallery (BAG), the 14th annual Brackendale Bluegrass Festival is possibly one of the final opportunities to spend an evening at the venerable old arts centre, located north of Squamish.

The BAG is currently on the market for $2.7 million.

But for now, the wooden floors are still there for dancing and for toe tapping, and the bar is ready with food and drink.

Four-piece bluegrass ensemble Murfitt & Main opens the festival for Seattle's North Country Bluegrass Band, featuring Squamish picker Michael Kilby.

Warren Murfitt and Kate Main are bringing the band to the BAG for the first time, which includes an upright bass, acoustic guitar, banjo and a mandolin.

"We all sing and pretty much stick to our own music; we have a big body of original stuff. We'll probably play our own tunes at the festival and cover some of the standards in bluegrass," says Murfitt.

Their songwriting skills have led to several albums in country, Americana and swing, as well as bluegrass. The most recent is country album Rust and Bone.

Main adds they have regular shows in Vancouver and feature appearances around the region.

"We keep busy and keep our hats in the ring," she says.

The band — which includes Matt Kennedy on mandolin and Chris Murphy — have played together for the past seven years.

"We all came together through the bluegrass scene. The Pacific Heritage Bluegrass Society has a fantastic jam on Monday nights," Main says.

"It's where we met Chris and Matt, and have gotten to know so many players, playing the canon tunes of the bluegrass genre."

Murfitt pipes in: "We live a sort of double life, I suppose. We play a bit of bluegrass and a bit of country."

When asked about the dearth of opportunities to play bluegrass, despite the great love fans have for the genre, he says it often comes down to Canada not having as deep a history for it compared to the U.S.

"There are a lot more opportunities to play in the States, you're right," says Main.

"Darrington is an amazing bluegrass festival (in Washington state) and the last time we were there, I was blown away by the number of jams and opportunities compared to here."

The bluegrass festival takes place on Saturday, May 7 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 and available at the BAG or XOCO in Squamish.

The annual slow pitch jam for musicians of all abilities wanting to play bluegrass takes place earlier in the day at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5.

Meanwhile, BAG owner Thor Froslev, who along with his wife Dorte built the venue in 1972, was named a recipient of a 2016 B.C. Community Achievement Award on April 26.

"When I started it, I don't think even Whistler was happening!" Froslev laughs.

"I am very pleased (by the award), it was totally unexpected."

The award recognizes individuals who have made a significant contribution to their community as volunteers or in the course of their work.

As for the festival, Froslev refers to the weekend as "a hoot."

"People come up from Vancouver and down from Whistler. The bands are so good. Last year I sat in the front row and watched North Country and they are great.

"Even my dentist came up (to play in the slow pitch)!"

For more information, visit or call 604-935-9434.


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