Starbelly Jam - Tour Journal

Wow, Starbelly Jam happens in a very special place on the east shore of Kootenay Lake. The pebbles on the beach of this temperate inland rainforest are shot through with rose quartz and gold dust, the mountains are towering, and the flora and fauna are diverse and profuse. We were lucky enough to be invited to play, and we made the trek across mountains and lake with our friends and family.

 Ruth with our friends Amri and Piers at the Kool Bus, Balfour Ferry Terminal.

Ruth with our friends Amri and Piers at the Kool Bus, Balfour Ferry Terminal.

 On the ferry crossing Kootenay Lake.

On the ferry crossing Kootenay Lake.

We played three different shows over the weekend. On Saturday we played our rock n' roll show on the Moonbelly Stage, and then on Sunday we played two sets in the Be Stage tent: singalong songs for young children, and a storytelling acoustic set. Here's us doing Dust Pan on the Moonbelly Stage:

The singalong workshop has become one of our favourite parts of performing at these festivals. This time we got to jam with Vern from Vancouver's Carnaval Band, and our old percussionist friend Bruce. The tent was filled with little ones and their parents. We must have sang Down by the Bay for a good 10 minutes, with kids raising their hands to add their verse.

Here we are in the Be Stage tent, sitting on the grass to start the circle before the kids started to arrive:


By the time the three sets were over we were pretty exhausted. Here's us backstage just before our last set:

 We were pretty tired at this point.

We were pretty tired at this point.

After our last show we went down to Kootenay Lake to cool off and refresh. The beach was in a secluded bay, with a cool stream emptying into the warm water nearby. We made it back to the festival in time to catch the fabulous Begonia's set. We also got to meet the legendary children's entertainer Rick Scott.

Starbelly Jam was a weekend of great music and memorable times with our friends and family in one of the most special places in beautiful British Columbia. A little piece of our hearts is in the Kootenays.

Love always,

The Oot n' Oots

Midsummer Music Festival - Tour Journal

What makes the Midsummer Music Festival so special is that it is put on by the Bulkley Valley Folk Music Society, an organization of musicians in and around Smithers, BC. In addition to the 20 or so acts they brought in from around Canada, about 50 of the performers at the festival were local - many of them the organizers themselves.

Another thing that makes this festival so special is the scale. Now in its 35th year, the organizers know what kind of party they want to throw. When in previous years the festival started to grow too big, the organizers gave grants to neighbouring communities to start more festivals, seeding a festival circuit across Northern BC, and shrinking their own festival to a size that nurtures their community without overwhelming it.

jamming at the campsite before our show

We were honoured to be invited to play this year. We arrived on Friday and set up camp. That evening we played sing-along songs and told stories around a campfire in the children's area of the festival while kids roasted marshmallows.

On Saturday we got to enjoy the festival and see a lot of incredible talent from the Bulkley Valley. That evening we played an "in betweener" next to the main stage as The Kwerks finished their set and Zimbamoto set up. The side stage didn't have inputs for all of our instruments so we played with acoustic guitars and hand percussion, and shared two vocal mics between us. 

the side stage chalkboard marquee

We opened in a mellow way with "Tomato Jungle", but really got the crowd's attention with "I Like It Saucy", and kept it for three more songs. It was a great opportunity to introduce ourselves to the audience and preview our main set the next day at the Children's Stage.

playing "I Like It Saucy" on the side stage

On Sunday as we set up for our show all kinds of people starting finding seats; not just kids and parents, but teenagers and seniors, too. It was truly an all ages crowd! 

Here's a video of our second number of the set, just as we and the crowd were getting warmed up:

We loved playing at the Midsummer Music Festival and the experience of journeying to a place we'd never been, stopping in small towns along the way. The best part was meeting all of the musicians that call this beautiful place home, watching their shows and listening to their songs.

We hope to visit Northern BC again soon.

Love always, The Oot n' Oots


P.S. Here's some more pics from the side stage:

 Our friends Ezra (we call him Lil' Ezra) and Noah from Hazelton, BC camped with us at the festival. Noah took the video of Where the Purple Geese Fly, and Noah's dad Jacob took all these pics of us playing on the side stage.

Our friends Ezra (we call him Lil' Ezra) and Noah from Hazelton, BC camped with us at the festival. Noah took the video of Where the Purple Geese Fly, and Noah's dad Jacob took all these pics of us playing on the side stage.

International Children's Festival - Photo Journal

Now home, west of the Rockies, we are reflecting on our magical week at the Northern Alberta International Children's Festival of the Arts. Here are a few of our favourite moments in pictures:

9 of our 13 performances were on the "TD OUTDOOR STAGE". It was a nice big, covered stage right in the middle of the fest. We made good friends with the other artists playing the stage, especially GUSTAVO THE IMPOSSIBILIST! Here is a picture of us and Gustavo, taken on the very last day:

We played two shows at TODDLER TOWN, which was a sweet zone for wee ones. We've never played for kids that small before. During the evenings we hung out in our hotel room and learned how to play classic songs like "I've Been Working on the Railroad" and "Five Green & Speckled Frogs", made up new rhymes for "Down by the Bay", and unleashed brother Matt's sound effects for "Old McMatthew's Farm". Yup, we shamelessly played the hits. Rather than use the stage, we decided to sit in a circle with the kids on the mats. It was one of the most fun parts of the festival and deeply soul nourishing to have such fun with the little ones and their parents.

One of the best shows was our part in the finale concert. It was a thrill to play a short set in the beautiful Arden Theatre...

...and I was so proud of Ruth when she went up in front of the curtain all alone to sing Ruth B's "Lost Boys" and accompany herself on the ukulele. She was so brave!

There were some really special moments, like when kids lined up to try my guitar and Ruth's ukulele after one of the shows:

We learned a lot on this trip and we got to meet hundreds of really bright and shining young people. In the end, this was the best part.


Connecting -Tour Journal, May 29, 2018

On the night we arrived at the Children's Festival, after sound check, we went to a reception for all of the performers. There we saw an old friend: Kurai, whom I know as Blessing.

When Kurai first moved to Canada, he didn't know that Blessing was not a normal kind of name, and he called himself that for a while. I liked the name Blessing because it suited his personality. Blessing used to play mbira and marimba in Grandview Park. Once I tried to jam with him, but he would stop and say, "You are not feeling my pulse." It was true! I wasn't.

The next time we saw each other was at the Komasket Music Festival about eight years ago. He was Kurai by then. We jammed again, and this time it went much better. 

Kurai has always made such beautiful music. He is playing at this festival with Jackie Essombe's Singing Africa. We met his band mates at the reception and they gave us good advice about playing for children. I told them about our act, that we are basically a rock n' roll band, and that kids don't always know what to do at a rock show. "That's easy!" Kurai said. "Be silly! Be total goofballs! And give the kids permission to have fun." That didn't sound like too much of a stretch for us.

We are scheduled to play two shows a day for the next six days. Today was day one. On the same stage as us is Gustavo the Impossibilist, a hilariously acerbic clown and prankster who had our cheeks and bellies hurting from laughing too hard. 

Our first show, following Gustavo, was not a disaster, but it was not great. There were technical difficulties, but the real problem was our energy. We just weren't feeling the music or connecting with the kids.

We regrouped over lunch. (The performer's kitchen had a delicious vegan spread with kale salad, rice, hummus, roasted potatoes, and carrot ginger soup. Yum!) After the meal we headed back to the stage. Ari, Gabe and Matthew had naps while Ruth and I checked out some other performers at the festival. We woke everyone up about a half hour before we were scheduled to start, and got everyone in a circle. We talked out a few kinks in the set and did some warmups and spirit building before hitting the stage. This time we connected! From the first song kids were on the dance floor cutting a crazy rug, and in between each song we talked and laughed with the crowd. Ari and Gabe were dancing like total goofballs, and I was digging into my guitar solos with a most passionate zaniness.

Halfway through our set, we invited the kids on stage for "I Like It Saucy" and taught them all our best rock moves. One boy asked to say something into the microphone, and when I gave it to him he said, "Let's give it up for the world's greatest captain!" And he bowed as he accepted his rapturous applause. Classic!

It was a wonderful feeling to connect with the audience like that, and to laugh and to dance together. Tomorrow we will do it again, and nine more times after that before this festival is over.


Today we saw a bear! -Tour Journal, May 27

Today we saw a bear! A big, brown one.

On our way from Kelowna, over the Rocky Mountains to the Northern Alberta International Children's Festival of the Arts in St. Albert, Alberta, we pulled off the highway in Malakwa, BC to watch the spring melt water flow and listen to the birds. Rio and Ruth stayed in the car, because Rio is afraid of bears, while Ari and I walked into the woods. We didn't walk far before we saw what were unmistakably bear droppings. We only stayed a couple of moments to marvel at a waterfall, try to identify a few wild plants, and be eaten by mosquitos before we turned back towards the car. As we neared the clearing we heard Rio yell to us. A big, old grizzly bear had just crossed right in front of the car and headed into the same patch of woods as us! We hooted and hollered and jogged back to the car. What a thrill!

Now we are safe in bed at the Swiss Village Motel in beautiful Golden, BC. Tomorrow we will drive the rest of the way to St. Albert in time for sound check.


New Music Video!

Here it is, the first music video from Electric Jellyfish Boogaloo! It's Dust Pan!

This was the most fun video to make! Not only did we get to make a tremendous mess, but we got to animate regular objects by using them as puppets. So fun!

When we were originally thinking about making this video, we were trying to figure out how best to tell the story. We liked the idea of puppets, but we had ideas about what a puppet was supposed to be. They were things on strings, or things that you put your hands inside with googly eyes. Right? We consulted with a master puppeteer, Cathy Stubbington, who opened our minds to the idea that ANYTHING could be animated, and thus become a puppet!

Our dear friend Denise Kenney, associate professor of Interdisciplinary Performance at UBC-O, helped us direct the shoot, along with her daughter Mae, fellow UBC-O instructor Miles Thorogood, and Oot n' Oots family Megan and Rio providing production assistance.

We had the youngest members of our family, Akivah, Eleorah, and Uma plus our friends Tylan and Rylee, play the part of "Mary, Larry, Lenny and me".

It was a blast! Enjoy, like, share and please subscribe to our youtube channel!

Uncle Johnny's Holiday Jokes

Uncle Johnny's back with more jokes for the holidays!

If you don't know John, he is a light in our lives. With a great sense of humour, John comes up with puns and jokes as he goes about his day. We always tell him to write them down, and one day we decided that it would be even better to start capturing them on video!

So without further ado:

We love performing these bits with John. He is a natural! If you enjoyed this video, and can't wait for more, please subscribe to our youtube channel at the link under the video.

Happy holidays! Love from The Oot n' Oots and Uncle Johnny