Lessons learned at Tall Tree, the island’s biggest smallest festival

Culture Music
Illustration by Leone Brander, Graphics Contributor
Illustration by Leone Brander, Graphics Contributor

Tall Tree Music Festival owes its name to the ginormous trees that comprise Vancouver Island’s endangered rainforest. A lot of people don’t know that our red cedars, Douglas firs, and sitka spruces can grow to be over 60 meters (200 ft.) tall and over 1 000 years old! These giants started small but grew bigger every year until they became prominent cultural icons for Vancouver Island. Tall Tree is no different: a small but growing festival located just outside Port Renfrew, B.C. The festival’s friendly atmosphere allows people to quickly dissolve from being strangers to acquaintances to friends seemingly overnight.

It’s a proven fact that jiving with new friends will make you enjoy the music more. Not that it’s needed; Tall Tree has just the right balance of artists you know and artists you don’t. For example, Current Swell easily plucked the heartstrings of Vancouver Island locals, and Tim Snider’s violin solo during their set stole my heart. But even a lesser known Canadian band like Hollerado knows how to put on a show. After sending a call out for a rapper in the audience, they found an individual that didn’t bomb after being placed on stage, much to my surprise.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for some of the comedians looking to entertain the sleep deprived. But, there’s something magical about watching a comedian bomb his set. Maybe it plays to my fear of presenting in class? That’s not to say I wouldn’t recommend bringing your breakfast beer for some light-hearted comedy because other comedians like Evan Mumford were hilarious.

Artists I would recommend for the forgetful and the absent include: LABS, Bousada, Neighbour, Weird Party, Moon Tricks, NAKHO, Band of Rascals, Hollerado, Kytami, Current Swell, and of course Mother Mother. These were my favourite sets which teased between jazzed-up funk and alternative rock.

My major recommendation for future Tall Tree goers is this: remember where you parked. Also, please do not make the mistake of leaving the friend with a terrible sense of direction responsible for parking the car. (To be fair, most people are pretty faded after three days of festivities.) The thought of walking up and down logging roads for hours searching for a car after three days of dancing, among other activities, would be, in the words of Trailer Park Boys’ Ricky, “worst case Ontario.” However, we lucked out by befriending and camping with Scott and Sam, a couple volunteering at the festival who parked our car. They remembered the name of the road (which is an important thing to write down) and were nice enough to drive us to our vehicle.

Another thing to remember is that Tall Tree is a festival on Browns Mountain, located in B.C.’s rainforest, which brings both a spectacular view and variable weather. Last year, it was all sun and no shade. This year’s weather was indecisive, bringing sunshine, clouds, fog, and rain, so bringing rain boots is a good idea. However, the common mistake this year wasn’t footwear but remembering to close the tent door before your head hits the pillow, which can make for a wet start to the day. Also, Port Renfrew has no cell service or gas station, so establish a rendezvous point ahead of time if you are meeting friends at the fest and fill up beforehand.

All in all, there’s a reason Tall Tree has been going on for seven years while holding onto dedicated community members: every character is a new addition that builds up the Tall Tree experience. One volunteer has been adding to his camping spot every year; this year he brought in a tin roof to protect his nest of hammocks. And someone else unassociated with the festival had set up lasers lighting up a section of the forest on the way to the Spirit Stage. All these quirks and more demonstrate that Tall Tree is more than just the music, and it has earned its growing reputation amongst festival goers as the place to be.