Starbelly Jam Music Festival will return in July. The East Shore event hasn’t been held since 2019. Photo: Louis Bockner/Starbelly Jam

Starbelly Jam Music Festival will return in July. The East Shore event hasn’t been held since 2019. Photo: Louis Bockner/Starbelly Jam

After 4-year hiatus, Starbelly Jam Music Festival returns in July

The East Shore event was put on pause during the COVID-19 pandemic

Shanel Samadhi has never attended Starbelly Jam before, and now she’s been tasked with reviving the East Shore music festival.

When the Crawford Bay event returns July 28 to 30, it will have been four years since Starbelly Jam was last held. The festival, which began in 1999, was put on hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic.

That means this year’s show will be the first for Samadhi, Starbelly’s executive director who moved to the Kootenays while the festival was on pause. She can’t wait.

“The personality that Starbelly is, is so apparent. Anyone you talk to on the East Shore, and any long-timers who have been around here have grown up going to Starbelly. Now their own kids are going to Starbelly, and I think that’s immeasurably beautiful.”

Tickets went on sale April 25 for the festival, which features headliners Five Alarm Funk and BC/DC with one more main act still to be announced.

Starbelly typically has a diverse selection of family-friendly music. This year it includes acts such as Argentinian DJ El Papachango, retro-rock group Peter and the Wolves, the 1930s-inspired sound of Misery Mountain Boys and children’s entertainer Kiki The Eco Elf.

Samadhi said some musicians who had previously played Starbelly were chosen as a way to bring back the passion that had faded since the last event was held in 2019.

“We wanted some of the past favourites like BC/DC,” she said. “But we also were looking for people, like for example, Shred Kelly who has made a little bit of a name for themselves and Starbelly was the second festival they ever played. So some of our old-school favourites, people who are as passionate about Starbelly as we are.”

The festival’s return wasn’t always a given.

Last year, West Kootenay music events such as Kaslo Jazz Festival Etc. and Tiny Lights Festival held their first full shows since 2019. But Samadhi said Starbelly organizers made the decision to err on the side of caution while the pandemic played out. She also acknowledged the financial risk to the festival if another provincial shutdown had occurred.

The biggest challenge, however, was staffing. Starbelly previously scrapped its 2016 dates due to volunteer burnout, and this time required an entirely new board and staff after past contributors had moved on.

“Everyone who has worked Starbelly before is more than willing to give their knowledge up for the sake of this festival. So it’s had its challenges with most of us being new, but we have some star players that have been around for a really long time who have been helping us through.”

The show also represents the East Shore’s biggest tourism draw. Samadhi said the festival is aiming to sell 1,500-to-2,500 tickets and has estimated 500-to-800 attendees won’t be locals.

That, she said, will be a boon to the region’s economy.

“We create jobs, there’s people working more. We’ve got feedback from the local Crawford Bay businesses that they have to hire additional staff during Starbelly festival weekends, and it brings in lots and lots of money.”


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