Creekside Music Festival in Apsley returns for its fourth year in September

Taking place on a scenic property abutting Eels Creek in Apsley in North Kawartha Township, the Creekside Music Festival runs from September 8 to 10, 2023 with a musical lineup on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon and evening including visiting performers Dwayne Gretzky, The Good Brothers, and I, the Mountain and local performers Melissa Payne, The Weber Brothers, Hunt the Hare, The Ireland Brothers, and more. (Photo: Creekside Music Festival)
Taking place on a scenic property abutting Eels Creek in Apsley in North Kawartha Township, the Creekside Music Festival runs from September 8 to 10, 2023 with a musical lineup on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon and evening including visiting performers Dwayne Gretzky, The Good Brothers, and I, the Mountain and local performers Melissa Payne, The Weber Brothers, Hunt the Hare, The Ireland Brothers, and more. (Photo: Creekside Music Festival)

For those convinced that size does matter, we take you to village of Apsley, some 40 kilometres northeast of Lakefield, in North Kawartha Township.

There, off Highway 28 on a scenic property abutting Eels Creek, the little music festival that could is set to return in September for a fourth year, featuring a performance lineup that the organizers of any much better known and larger local music festival — such as Peterborough Musicfest or the Peterborough Folk Festival — would love to bring to their respective stages.

Returning from Friday, September 8th to Sunday, September 10th with performances on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon and evening, the Creekside Music Festival has earned a place in the local music festival conversation, and this year’s lineup will only serve to increase that chatter.

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Billed as headliners, Toronto-based cover band collective Dwayne Gretzky is alone worth the price of admission but, as the late night TV commercial hawkers bellow, “Wait, there’s more.” Much more.

Add eight-time Juno award-winning country/bluegrass/folk group The Good Brothers to the mix, alongside acclaimed Kitchener indie-folk quartet I, the Mountain. And then there’s a generous sprinkling of local flavour, represented by The Weber Brothers Band, Melissa Payne, Blue Hazel, The Ireland Brothers, Hunt The Hare, and Montana Sky.

Yes, the little music festival that could still is.

Montana Sky returns to perform at the 2023 Creekside Music Festival in Apsley from 7 to 8:10 p.m. on Friday, September 8. (Photo: Creekside Music Festival)
Montana Sky returns to perform at the 2023 Creekside Music Festival in Apsley from 7 to 8:10 p.m. on Friday, September 8. (Photo: Creekside Music Festival)

According to Alicia Scriver, who oversees ticket sales and manages social media for the festival as well as liaises with the acts and vendors, the Creekside Music Festival grew from a less ambitious undertaking.

“A friend of my parents (Mike and Sandy Del Mastro) had a family reunion that he was doing every year,” says Scriver. “He kind of goes big with everything. He hired bands and decided he was going to build a beautiful timber frame stage just for his family reunion. My dad and him just got talking, like ‘What if we just had a festival here? Why don’t we bring more bands here and open it up to the public?’”

That they did, hosting a one-day festival in 2018 featuring four local bands with just 300 tickets available. When property adjacent to the site became available, the Del Mastros bought it, not only enlarging the venue but also providing a location for Del Mastro’s business, Mikey D’s Fired Up Food Truck.

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The extra space created, the festival became a two-day affair in 2019. After the pandemic brought things to a halt for two years, it returned in 2022, bringing “a ton of people to the gate.”

“We want an intimate feel but hopefully we can build it a bit more so that those on the stage can see a big crowd,” Scriver notes. “It’s amazing how little 400 people can feel when you have the space.”

In addition to single-day and weekend passes being available, there is accommodation for trailer and tent camping, with about 100 sites available.

“We typically sell out the camping,” says Scriver.

The Good Brothers return to perform at the 2023 Creekside Music Festival in Apsley from 12:30 to 2 p.m. on Saturday, September 9. (Photo: Creekside Music Festival)
The Good Brothers return to perform at the 2023 Creekside Music Festival in Apsley from 12:30 to 2 p.m. on Saturday, September 9. (Photo: Creekside Music Festival)

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As for single-day tickets and weekend passes, Scriver says there are still some available but is optimistic they’ll be scooped up with time.

“Dwayne Gretzky is fantastic but comes with a high price tag, so we’re hoping that people are just waiting (to purchase),” she says.

Not hurting the cause is the fact that both Dwayne Gretzky and Melissa Payne headlined Peterborough Musicfest this summer and, by all accounts, were very well received by the Del Crary Park crowd.

“We are excited about the lineup,” says Scriver. “We’ve had The Good Brothers in the past. This is their 50th year of making music. Last year, they played in the middle of the afternoon — it was so hot — and they’re in their 70s, but their show was fantastic. They sound like they did decades ago.”

“And the local talent we have. Melissa (Payne) is a dear friend of mine. I was at her show at Musicfest. Blue Hazel was on the stage with her and Kane Miller of Hunt The Hare came on and did a couple of songs with Melissa as well. These are some of the most talented people in our area.”

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For his part, longtime Peterborough singer and songwriter Dylan Ireland — who performed with Melissa Payne in the past as Express and Company — is looking forward to performing again with his brother Daniel. Starting in the mid-2000s, The Ireland Brothers were a regular staple on the Peterborough bar scene as well as played out-of-town festivals.

“It’s a fun thing to return to for me and my brother,” says Ireland, adding “We don’t fight like my dad and uncles did, so we can still play together” — a reference to their dad and uncles’ band playing days.

Ireland performed has performed at the festival twice, first with his own band and then playing guitar for Payne.

“It’s beautiful, especially the nighttime slot,” says Ireland of the venue. “People are there to have a good time and experience the bands, so it’s awesome as a performer. We’ll mostly be playing our own songs mixed in with a few covers. We’ll play my dad’s songs and a couple of Swamp Band songs, which was my dad’s band with my uncles.”

Hunt The Hare returns to perform at the 2023 Creekside Music Festival in Apsley from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, September 9. (Photo: Creekside Music Festival)
Hunt The Hare returns to perform at the 2023 Creekside Music Festival in Apsley from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, September 9. (Photo: Creekside Music Festival)

Presently “super busy” with Doses, the band he’s currently part of, Ireland is looking forward to taking the stage with the quartet at the Peterborough Folk Festival on Saturday night (August 19). That will be followed by the August 25th release of the new single “Runaway.”

For her part, Scriver’s to-do list is getting a lot of her attention as the festival nears.

“It’s a lot of work, and at times you question yourself, and then the (festival) weekend comes around and it’s well worth it,” she says. “Seeing the people, having kids there dancing in front of the stage — having that feel of community. The Apsley Food Bank is there, taking donations. It really is a full community event.”

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Raised in Apsley, Scriver moved to Toronto with her husband before returning. She says the festival “fills me with so much pride. We’ve grown this beautiful thing and it makes me proud.”

A self-admitted ‘groupie’ during her Trent University days, Scriver remains a fervent fan of the local music scene.

“Music does something to us. It brings us together on a different level. Everyone there (at the festival) appreciates music as much as my family and I do, so it’s a beautiful thing.”

Attendees enjoy a performance at a previous Creekside Music Festival in Apsley. Dwayne Gretzky, Canada's best cover band, will headline the 2023 festival from 8:30 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, September 9. (Photo: Creekside Music Festival)
Attendees enjoy a performance at a previous Creekside Music Festival in Apsley. Dwayne Gretzky, Canada’s best cover band, will headline the 2023 festival from 8:30 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, September 9. (Photo: Creekside Music Festival)

On Friday, the schedule of performers is Jimbob Marsden (5 to 5:25 p.m.), Blue Hazel (5:30 to 6:40 p.m.), Montana Sky (7 to 8:10 p.m.), Melissa Payne (8:30 to 10 p.m.) and The Weber Brothers (10:20 p.m. to midnight).

On Saturday afternoon, the schedule of performers is Friends of Creekside (12 to 12:30 p.m.), The Good Brothers (12:30 to 2 p.m.), Dukes of Earle (2:30 to 3:30 p.m.), and I, The Mountain (4 to 5:30 p.m.). Following an hour-long break for dinner, the evening’s performers are Hunt The Hare (6:30 to 8 p.m.), Dwayne Gretzky (8:30 to 10 p.m.), and The Ireland Brothers (10:30 p.m. to midnight).

The pre-tax cost for single-day tickets for the Creekside Music Festival is $55 for Friday and $85 for Saturday, with weekend passes costing $140. For more information about the festival and to order tickets or passes, or to reserve a tent or trailer site for an additional $40 or $75 respectively, visit www.creeksidemusicfestival.ca.