Five Questions With… Nelson From Nelson (MASSiF Music Festival)
The fourth year’s edition of Nelson BC rock fest MASSiF is shaping up as the best yet. Here its key organizer reflects upon the reasons for its success, his love of hard rock bands and headliner Propaghandi, and the importance of diversity.
By Jason Schneider
For fans of heavy music in the BC Interior, the MASSiF Music Festival in Nelson has grown to become a must-see event since its inception in 2016. This year’s edition, set for Sept. 20-21 at Eagles Lodge, is shaping up to be the best yet, with Winnipeg hardcore legends Propagandhi as the main attraction.
What sets MASSiF apart is also an emphasis on diversity (much like the philosophy Propagandhi espouses) with many other bands in the line-up, such as Portland’s Summer Cannibals and Calgary’s HARSH, providing strong female representation. It’s the core of the vision one of the festival’s co-founders Bobbi Barbarich had at the outset to champion female and non-binary artists within the underground music scene and further implemented by key organizer, the man only known as Nelson from Nelson.
We spoke to him as final preparations were being made. For more ticket info go here
Congratulations on the fourth year of MASSiF. What makes this year's festival different from the others?
Thank you! This year is different than in previous years for several reasons. I feel the board and I have distilled our mission statement, objectives, and focus. We sent a questionnaire out to last year's bands, and we took that constructive criticism to heart. We have less “repeat bands,” a single venue for the entire festival, and, thanks to some generous grants, a huge headlining band for Saturday night. This is all based on user feedback and our growth as a board with three MASSiFs under our belts.
I love the festival's focus on promoting hard rock bands. Is that a growing scene in your area?
The local Nelson scene has lots of different kinds of music, but the origins of MASSiF began because The Board and I didn’t feel the music we love—metal, punk, alternative—had enough representation here in the Kootenays. By doing this festival, and shows throughout the year in local venues, we hope to promote, maintain, and encourage these different and heavy musical forms. It's a huge source of pride to see teenagers and peers start bands because they went to MASSiF or other shows we've promoted, and say “I can do that,” and begin their musical journey.
It's getting riskier to put on music festivals these days. What's made MASSiF successful to this point?
There are a few reasons: We’ve adhered to a “sustainable growth” model; we curate the festival with amazing bands, and we treat the bands we bring in with a huge amount of love, thusly they reapply or come as spectators the following year or years. Finally, punk and metal fans like us are very loyal, and so they come out to shows whenever they can.
The festival's focus on diversity is also essential. Who are some of the artists playing this year that you think people should be paying attention to?
Diversity and representation IS very important, and it’s in our Mission Statement. I would hesitate to single out any bands, as that seems counterproductive to the goal of Equality For All and a disservice to all the diverse and amazing bands and musicians coming this year. Instead, I would encourage our audience to pay attention, listen, watch, and move collectively beyond patriarchal terms like "female-fronted", "female rhythm section" or "all-female"—as I have evolved from—into recognizing all persons as valuable, talented, worthy, equal. I will state for the record, however, Propaghandi's entire discography kind of sums up our mission statement to a T!
On a personal note, what got you interested in hard rock?
It hit me emotionally, physically, mentally, and its band members were and are misfits, outliers, deviants, and freethinkers, like my friends and I. That struck a chord with my angsty teenage self. It gave me a sense of belonging, although later I thought I might grow out of it. But here I am at 48, and now it's too late to sell out. I'm a lifer!
PR: Mavis Harris / Nice Marmot PR