Music Rags: New festival brings funk and soul to Victoria

Culture Music

For Nathan Ambrose, known to many as the host of “Music of My Mind” on 101.9 CFUV, hip-hop was the key to opening up the rabbit hole of funk and soul he’s been caught in ever since. “What it leads back to is that I started off as a hip-hop DJ quite a long time ago in my hometown of Saskatoon,” recalls Ambrose. “Like so many hip-hop heads trying to find out where the music came from, I discovered a love for the genres that hip-hop producers going back to the late ’70s, early ’80s used. I wanted to find out about them and their history. I’m a big history buff. I’m a social studies teacher too.”

It’s through old records that Ambrose, like many of us, found the basis of his hip-hop groove. Deep, elastic bass and bouncing drums that make you want to move. It’s scientifically proven that dancing boosts happiness in the human body, and once you start to get it into your system, it can be nearly impossible to get the groove out.

It is this infectious love that has fuelled Ambrose’s move from radio to the first annual live extravaganza christened “Garden City Grooves.” The festival may just be a reminder that a lot of people do indeed love funky bass music, even if they’ve forgotten that they do. “I think you’d be hard-pressed to find people that wouldn’t feel like moving when any of these kinds of music are played that are part of the festival,” says Ambrose, with regards to the funky sound that will make up the premier instalment of Garden City Grooves (GCG).

“Last year, myself and Reuven Sussman, who is the other co-ordinator of GCG, had the idea to basically celebrate our local scene—funk and soul bands, anyone who was mixing up afro-beat. So we organized Funk Fest in November last year,” Ambrose says, as he recollects the beginnings of his festival. “I had just had major surgery and was in the first stages of my recovery so I couldn’t be there, but from what I heard it was quite a successful night and everyone had a good time. It was the kind of thing that we wanted to do again, but we wanted to take a bit of a new angle, incorporate some different kinds of music—music that really moves you— but we wanted to take it a couple of steps further.”

The result is Garden City Grooves, a festival dedicated to celebrating the best funk and groove that Victoria has to offer. “All of the bands, except for Miami Device (Vancouver) and Gabriel Palatchi (Argentina), are from Victoria. We want to show people that this kind of music is going on here. To put it all together in a way that celebrates the music and the city.  And to be able to do that economically for people, so they don’t have to go spend $150 to see a festival.”

The festival road hasn’t been all sunshine and lollipops though. “A few people have told me, ‘What are you thinking, starting another music festival in Victoria?’ In some ways we have thought about that. There are some festivals that do celebrate this kind of music, don’t get me wrong, but without trying to be extremely genre-specific, we’re trying to create a vibe,” Ambrose says about the festival. “We don’t have any big names. We thought about it, but we’re just starting out and we’re really grassroots. We just wanted to take it another step forward and really celebrate the burgeoning scene that’s going on in this town.”

Ambrose’s show, Music of My Mind, airs Thursdays at 5 p.m. on 101.9 CFUV.


Garden City Grooves
Sept. 27–28
Weekend passes $27, individual tickets $15 per show
After-party jam $6
Pre-party @ Felicita’s, Sept. 27 — FREE