Eclectic Blackberry Wood under the boughs at Minstrel
“I’m really inspired by vaudeville and minstrel shows,” say Kris Mitchell of Blackberry Wood.
It’s kind of an odd sentence when spoken in a surfer-ish drawl between giggles.
From the mouths of babes and avant-garde bands one supposes the comment might just be a youthful quirk, but in this case it’s probably an apt description of a muse. One of the key collaborators in the self-described alternative-country-gypsie circus band, which started on Vancouver Island, is trying to describe their, well, very mixed up sound.
It's not an easy task.
While the label eclectic gets thrown around like jam on toast these days, in the case of Blackberry Wood it might just be spot on. Put five, sometimes six, people on stage with a “rotating cast of a whole bunch of different players” and one has the very West Coast collaborative group known as Blackberry Wood, the latest B.C. band booking the major festival circuit, including Europe’s Glastonbury Festival.
Glastonbury is so big it draws 100 million British pounds to the UK with its music, comedy and theatre acts.
While the Minstrel Café likely hasn’t seen 100 million anything through its doors, it’s certainly drawing many of the more interesting acts this summer, including the now well-travelled Blackberry Wood collective.
The group is likely one of the Minstrel's wackier, though very amusing performer choices.
This is their second time playing the little restaurant, though last year the band itself didn’t have much of a chance to advertise and only a small audience got to see them bend their tunes around the venue's famous tree.
“I'm just excited to be playing outside under the stars,” Mitchell said in an interview this week as he described how he remembers the tree-fort like setting.
It’s the perfect place for a band like Blackberry Wood, he explained. Among their CV of odd-ball festivals and quirky almost-hip haunts, the band lays claim to playing a two week stint as artists-in-residence at Caravan Theatre, where they studied clowning, and a brave venture to the Frostbite Festival in Whitehorse, Yukon in February. By comparison, the serene backyard of the Minstrel should literally feel like a walk in a park more than work.
Asked what their goal is now that the group appears to be picking up steam—their first two gigs were exactly one year apart—and Mitchell is predictably, though playfully, coy.
“World domination,” he says. “I think we can run the world a lot better than a lot of those politicians.”
True or not, spontaneity and impulse seem to have won Blackerry Wood a good following. Their last album, Travelling Horse Opry, was remixed by Stephen Drake of the Odds and he is said to be doing the same for the album they’re planning to make this fall.
As one might almost expect, the band claims a good friendship with Conduit Festival organizer Gabe Cipes whose family winery sits just up the street from the Minstrel offering Cipes a great space to explore his own circus of alternative and eco-friendly experiences.
The band is hoping some of the Conduit crowd hears about the show. One way or the other, the Blackberry Wood concert should make for a fun night of good music and people watching.
Blackberry Wood plays the Minstrel Café July 9.