Oak Harbor Music Festival rocks again

— Created September 1, 2021 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

Music lovers near and far are ready to rock, roll, dance, clap, tap, snap, stomp, clomp and generally get their groove on this weekend, as the sweet sounds of the Oak Harbor Music Festival fill the air once more. The Nick Drummond Band starts things off at 6:15 p.m. Friday, immediately following the opening ceremony at 6 p.m. on the Island Thrift (east) stage. Seattle-based band Asterhouse kicks things off on the Peoples Bank (west) stage at 6:30 p.m. Music begins Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m. and will feature a wide range of genres and styles sure to please just about everyone over the course of the three-day festival.

Organizers say they are more than ready to be back, following last year’s cancellation due to the pandemic.

“[I feel] honored, proud, blessed, excited, over-the-moon, filled with joy to show off the town I call home and rest-in-the-knowing of we really do take care of each other here on Whidbey Island,” said OHMF board president Cynthia Mason. “We are ready to rock this rock! Larry Mason has stacked this lineup! It’s just loaded with an incredible variety of music.”

The full lineup of performers is available online at oakharborfestival.com, and Larry Mason would seem to agree this year’s performers – whether nationally known or local favorites – are top notch, with too many highlights in the lineup to list them all.

“I have tunnel vision when it comes the festival, so my answer is the music – Naked Giants, Locarno, LeRoy Bell and his only Friends, Heart by Heart, Larkin Poe, local favorites Janie Cribbs and the T. Rust Band, PETE, Nathaniel Talbot, Broken Banjo, The Hot Club of Troy and Andre Feriante,” he said.

“Larkin Poe, currently from Nashville, is a national act featuring the siblings Rebecca and Megan Lovell,” Larry continued. “They are incredible musicians, classically trained, and together with their band put on a great show! I was trying to secure them last year for the 2020 music festival, until we were interrupted. When I booked them back in March of this year, they only had seven shows booked. Currently they have 47 more shows this year alone in [24 states. Their appearance Sunday] at the Oak Harbor Music Festival is their only show in Washington state this year; we are very fortunate to have Larkin Poe coming to Whidbey Island.”

You can see Larkin Poe perform on the Island Thrift (east) stage at 5 p.m. Sunday.

“Naked Giants are touring everywhere, and they are coming to this beautiful island,” added Cynthia Mason. “Are you fans of ‘The Voice?’ I’ll just say Stephanie Anne Johnson and The Hidogs. So many favorites to list here – see the line up!”

Naked Giants will close the west stage Friday night starting at 9:45 p.m. while the R&B group BroHamM will wrap things up on the east stage beginning at 9:30 p.m. Saturday night’s closers feature Cytrus on the west stage at 10 p.m. and Heart by Heart takes over the east stage at 9:45 p.m.

This will be the second appearance at the OHMF by Heart by Heart, a group consisting of original Heart bassist Steve Fossen and drummer Michael Derosier, plus vocalist Somar Macek, Lizzy Daymont on guitar, keyboard and vocals, and guitarist Chad Quist.

As a founding member of Heart, Fossen said Heart by Heart’s goal is to do justice to the music and have a great time doing it.

“Most of my career with Heart was spent doing basically what Heart by Heart’s doing now,” he said. “We play, make enough money to keep everybody happy. Heart was lucky enough to get a record deal and make ‘Dreamboat Annie,’ one of the top debut albums ever. It took it to a new level.”

Fossen left Heart in the early 80s. He and the other original members of Heart were inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. By then, though, Fossen had already teamed up with Derosier and Macek (to whom he is now married) and formed Heart by Heart.

“Playing the Heart music is very satisfying,” he said. “Mike, Somar and I decided if we are going to do this, we want to do the songs as they were conceived, written and recorded, so when people come to see us, they get the nostalgia. We want to play the music the way we remember it, they way fans remember it, that’s the only way it taps into your soul, it’s what made you like music in first place.”

Fossen said he and the band are very happy to be back in front of live audiences once more. A Seattle-area native, he said music is something which came naturally to him. He and his sister took slack key guitar lessons as children and he remembers a band teacher sending him home with a trumpet one weekend and telling him to “see what he could come up with.” He took the challenge to heart.

“The next week comes around and all the kids are trying to show how they could play a couple of notes, or make a sound and everything sounds weird,” he recalled. “I was so intent on this instrument, I learned the ‘Star Spangled Banner.’ When I was younger than that, my parents had friends who had an organ with a double keyboard and they’d tell me ‘See what you can do on the organ.’ I was able to pick out melodies. For me it was fascinating. I’ve always been musically inclined. Musicality is a gene, you either have it or you don’t.”

While Fossen does compose new music, he said Heart by Heart sticks to the material fans want to hear.

“Heart by Heart performs the music in the way it written. Nobody else in the Heart camp is doing it same way we’re doing it,” he said, promising a good show Saturday night. “People are going to see five musicians who are fairly good friends, who hang out together, who practice and do lot of rehearsing. Our motto is ‘Do our best to do our best.’ Every night we try out do the last gig. We try to be personable with the audience, in the moment. We just really, really try to play the music properly, so people can experience the nostalgia of it.”

Of course, one can’t talk about events these days without talking about health and safety protocols. Cynthia Mason said the festival will adhere to all current safety regulations, which currently (as of press time) call for masks in all public indoor spaces. The State Department of Health recommends people mask up outdoors when in large crowds.

“The Oak Harbor Music Festival will follow all mandates passed down to us from the state, county and city,” Cynthia said. “At the moment in time I am answering this question, outdoor events are still open. Masks are suggested. Outside of that, we have invited the Island County COVID mobile team to be on site Saturday and Sunday from 12 to 4 p.m. for any festival goers to get vaccinated, free of charge. 

“The volunteers at check in will be a little different – signing in and out stays the same. Masks and face shields will be on hand for those working the beer/wine garden,” she continued. “Hand sanitizer will be available along SE Pioneer Way. Signs will be posted asking people to mask up. It’s the board’s focus to be as pro-active as possible. The OHMF will do what is mandated, please do what’s right/best for you and your family; we’ll be there doing the same.”

Mason said the festival couldn’t happen without volunteers. Due to the delay this year in even knowing whether the festival could go forward, organizers say volunteers are still needed and encourage those interested to see the website for information (oakharborfestival.com). It’s never too late to get involved.

“Show up at the volunteer sign-in location any day of the event if you haven’t done so pre-event – we’ll find a place for you to lend a hand and your time,” she said.

The festival, which awarded more than $22,000 in scholarships in 2020 and 2021 to Whidbey Island high school students wishing to pursue musical education, will once again feature the teen talent showcase on the east stage at noon Sunday. Inspiring young members of the Whidbey community through music continues to be the organization’s main purpose.

“It’s why we do this. All of us,” Cynthia said. “It’s their home, their future. We want to make sure they are supported and understand the foundation being paved for them, giving them the ability to follow their dreams.”

Find more information and performance schedules online at oakharborfestival.com. Find more information on Heart by Heart at heartbyheart.com.