Over the weekend of July 29th-31st I had the pleasure of attending the sixth annual Shazamfest, perhaps the most diverse and unheralded summer festival in Canada. While the proprietor, Ziv Pryztyk refers to the event as an open-air music festival, it far exceeds the narrow confines of the term. The bill includes acts guaranteed to draw out even the most suppressed inner freak.
Situated on the Pryztyk organic farm in Ayer’s Cliff, Quebec, the venue itself is a marvel of nature. Nestled in a crook on the Niger River, the festival grounds sit at the bottom of a natural amphitheater. The farm is currently home to three generations of the Pryztyk family, but its history goes much deeper than that. Local legend has it that Abenaki First Nations peoples have been using the site as summer gathering site for untold generations. In keeping with the spiritual significance of the site, Shazamfest is guided by principles of respect for the earth and strives to draw together people of all backgrounds, languages and ages.
The Rasslin’: I’ve been a professional wrestling addict since I was six years old and this is a big part of what drew me to the show. Donnie “The Boss” Myers has been promoting wrestling shows since the early 70s and his company, the Eastern Townships Wrestling Association (ETWA) has just hit its 20th year in business. The ETWA is at a crossroad as Donnie “The Boss” attempts to stave off a hostile takeover by Wallstreet Ziv and his crew (Joe Eclypse, T Payne, Jobz, the Wrecker and Donnie’s turncoat son DJ “The Buzzard” Myers). The Boss is slowly building a resistance movement with his other son D-Fresh Myers, Aaron Fire, and The Jaba King. Did I mention the guys from the ETWA invited me to referee the entire card? Many thanks for allowing me become involved in such a great show.
In the cutthroat world of pro wrestling the ETWA is an anomaly in as much as it’s a non-profit organization. ETWA workers put their bodies on the line for the love of the game and local communities of the Eastern Townships benefit from that. Proceeds from many of their shows are put towards worthy causes such as local sports arenas and children’s hospital charities. Just because they donate to sick kids doesn’t mean they’ve gone soft. Inside the ring they’re 100% badass.
The Music: The musical choices were perfectly suited to an outdoor eco-conscious, family friendly show. The mixture of reggae, folk, bluegrass, rockabilly and funky jazz set the proper mood for a carefree weekend. Headlined by Montreal hip-hop/reggae/funk collective Nomadic Massive got the crowd dancing so fast I thought the grass was going to start on fire. Mike Goudreau (who boasts a record eight appearances at the Montreal Jazz Festival), the dynamic duo of reggae Mello G and Jah Cutta, Gasoline, the LennoxVillains, Bloodshot Bill and Mononc’ Serge rounded out the bill.
Burlesque!: Not content with a mere single night of burlesque, Shazamfest features the talents of two separate troupes of dancers. Four performers from Ottawa’s Rockalily Burlesque strutted their stuff Friday night during ETWA Wrestling. They even escorted uber-heel Joe Eclypse to ringside, helping him obtain a somewhat tainted win over fan favourite Aaron Fire. Saturday night belonged to the Capital Tease duo of Koston Kreme and Allura Hindsight. I could go on for ages about the sheer entertainment value of their show. Instead of listening to me drone on for the obligatory 1000 words, I’ve included pictures. Check them out:
The Freakshow: There was so much funky weirdness going on it’s hard to know where to begin. The evening’s entertainment was provided by the lovely freaks of The Blue Mushroom Sirkus Psyshow. The show opened with strongman Reverend Carl Nickerson bending, ripping and generally smashing his way through a stack of solid re-bar and phone books. From there on in it was a non-stop carousel of sword swallowing, broken glass walking, nail bed sitting, cinder block smashing chaos. An act lovingly referred to as the “Human Dartboard” was enough to make most in the audience squirm and cringe. I’m reasonably certain at least one person vomited when Rev. Carl drove a four-inch spike into his nasal cavity with a ball peen hammer. MC/dancer Bonbon Bombay provided the showstopper by showering the crowd with draught beer issued forth from two strategically placed taps in her bustier.
The SK8ing: Saturday afternoon featured a skate competition on one of Quebec’s largest outdoor ramps. Made famous by their exploits at Montreal’s Jarry Park, the Valoiz Boyz skate crew tore up the ramp and put on a clinic for the youngsters. Held together by the love of the sport, the Boyz have been together since 1986. Now in their mid-30’s the Boyz are a Sunday afternoon fixture at the concrete jungle of Jarry Park and have shared their skills with countless admirers.
The Workshops: The weekend was about more than just having a good time. Organizers set up a separate kid’s area, complete with play structures and on-site babysitters. Unlike many other festivals, Shazamfest can lay genuine claim to being kid and family friendly. There was plenty to keep the youngins’ busy, with workshops featuring juggling, unicycling, diabolos, devil sticks, African percussion and metal forging.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of attending a Shazamfest do yourself a favour and keep an eye out for next summer’s festivities. Shazamfest Wow! You’ll be saying wow every time.
*Shazamfest logo courtesy of Shamzamfest
*All photos courtesy of David Strange of http://www.davidstrangephotography.webs.com/ and Stephanie Postigo.