As Manitoba’s festival season has slowly started winding down, festivalgoers were introduced to a new local festival that had a familiar feel.
Hoot Owl Festival is the reincarnation of the late Shine On Festival of Music and Art that took place from 2005 to 2017 in Kerry, Manitoba, at Beavercreek Park. This year, the festival ran from Aug. 23 to Aug. 26.
Fans of the old festival were relieved to learn the festival remained mostly unchanged, with the same do-it-yourself type of setup and kind-hearted organizers. Kevin Repay and Rylie Saunders of the Village Idiots, a collective of local music lovers and organizers, promoted the event, managed the stage and acted as MCs.
“It can certainly be a challenge to get a new name out there,” said Kevin Repay.
“However, being born out of the ashes of a previously successful festival, Hoot Owl had a great head start.”
The festival started Thursday evening with the sound check night. Attendees that could slip out of the city a day early were treated to an evening of music featuring the Remedies, HipShake and an open mic for aspiring future Hoot Owl Festival artists.
The weekend crowd started rolling into Beavercreek Park on Friday afternoon. There was no need to rush out as there was plenty of space to camp. Unlike most camping festivals, tents were not lined up a foot from each other, a sign of either below-standard attendance or relative obscurity from the name change.
Friday night’s music kicked off at 7 p.m. with local indie quintet House Handshake.
The evening continued with performances from Skylar Bouchard and Deep Dark Cave and ended with an upbeat, hearty set from Colour By Numbers.
In true DIY fashion, after the main stage music ended Friday night, the party kept going with a Smoky Tiger after-hours set with the help of a car battery from festivalgoer Zach Van’s car, some instruments and some friends.
“It just sort of occurred to me that we could make it an after-hours stage because my car has a 120 volt outlet in it,” said Van. “Josh Letkeman brought out all his low-wattage practice amps for his tweener set [and] it just sort of happened.”
The music kicked off at 1 p.m. on Saturday with a tweener set, a performance in between two main bands, from Ashley Bieniarz, followed by another praiseworthy performance from the talented Letkeman brothers in June Killing Stones.
After their set, there was a short break in the music when one of the tweeners did not show up for their set. While it was not the hottest August weekend, the break gave attendees a chance to grab some food, from the house that doubled as a café, and refreshments before the next performer.
The tweener stage was conveniently located in a corner on the right of the main stage. It allowed for the tweener acts to steal the crowd that was watching the main stage act and it showcased great stripped-down performances from the Letkeman Bros, Ocean Boy and a very comical Snarky Remarkable set.
The rest of Saturday afternoon’s lineup gave people few reasons to leave the stage. Performances by Northern Royals, Odder than the Otters and the Bloodshots kept the crowd on their feet until the 6 p.m. pig roast dinner.
Once everyone’s bellies were full, either from the delicious pig or their own prepared meals, folks made their way back to the main stage for some more music from Greg Arcade, Disraeli Dreamers and a toe-tapping, melodic set from the Middle Coast. The crowd was treated to another break with fireworks in the field, accompanied by some impromptu background music.
After that, it was back to the stage for more music. Having Red Moon Road play before Moon Tan was an odd pairing due to their differing sounds, but both bands pulled off dynamic sets in their own regard.
The evening was topped off with a performance from Super Band, a more suiting combination of bands in Red Moon Road and the Middle Coast.
While Hoot Owl Festival is still working to establish itself among the array of Manitoba-based music festivals, the roots that Shine On Festival of Music and Art have laid give it the potential to become something special.
“We already have a lot of notes for ways to improve next year,” said Repay. “Each year this will get bigger and better, so stay tuned.”