Musicians rally to help fight disease

Twelve bands playing music festival to raise money for cystic fibrosis

Bison BC formed out of Vancouver’s deep thrash metal and indie scene. They perform at Green Mountain Music Festival in Nanaimo.

Bison BC formed out of Vancouver’s deep thrash metal and indie scene. They perform at Green Mountain Music Festival in Nanaimo.

A local music festival is a deeply personal cause for its founder.

The Green Mountain Music Festival opens Saturday (July 16) with 12 bands rocking the festival site at the foot of Mount Benson.

James Wood founded the festival in 2007 to help raise money for Cystic Fibrosis Canada, a disease that his wife suffers from. Bands from Vancouver and the Island donate their time to play at the one-day festival to help raise money for research into a cure for the disease.

“It has a very dear place in my heart,” Wood said.

The lineup this year features Bison BC and Bend Sinister headlining, backed up by the likes of Chasing Satellites, Himalayan Bear, Stumblers Inn, Earlstown Winter, Vicious Cycles and more.

The festival raises about $5,000 every year for the foundation but Wood hopes to double that number this year.

Cystic Fibrosis is a lung disease that causes difficulty breathing, constant cough with mucous, weight loss despite appetite and pneumonia. There is no cure but with research into treatment, sufferers are living into their 40s.

“The money that we raise is really making a difference,” Wood said.

But organizing the annual festival is proving to be too much for Wood, who suffered a brain injury in a car accident while on tour with his band The Hotel Lobbyists.

The band was en route to Calgary from Winnipeg in September 2008 when the van left the road and landed in a ditch. Wood was thrown 45 feet from the vehicle. Drummer Mike Gurr was killed instantly.

“I had a brain injury and they removed a portion of my brain that was damaged,” Wood said.

He went through rehabilitation at G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Centre in Vancouver and made a recovery to play a final show with The Hotel Lobbyists at the 2009 Green Mountain Music Festival.

A close friend sat in on drums for the set.

“If the band was going to end, I wanted to end it on my terms,” Wood said. “I had to re-learn all the songs that I wrote.”

Wood continued playing and writing music, forming a new band called Mega Bear, which will be playing at this year’s Green Mountain.

“It’s an addiction – I’m addicted to music,” Wood said.

But because of the level of work involved in organizing the annual festival, Wood said it will likely be the last.

Although he would be happy to help another organizer who wanted to take on the project, significant changes would be made, particularly because the venue is his sister’s farm.

“I’d be more than willing to help,” Wood said.

He said he hopes to increase the number of attendees this year to more than 1,000. About 980 people attended the last festival in 2009. Tickets for the full day are $25 and available at Delicado’s and Fascinating Rhythm. Children under 12 get in for free.

“We’re encouraging people to bring coolers and picnics,” Wood said.

For more information, please visit www.greenmountainmusicfestival.com.

arts@nanaimobulletin.com