For Maurice and Terry Rachwalski, the first annual LukeFest music festival is shedding light on just how many musicians and bands are based in the capital region.
Their eldest son Luke was 22 when he moved to Montreal in 2014 with his band of Gordon Head-based musicians, Canvas. The progressive jazz-rock band was just finding its “fit’ when tragedy struck. An early morning fire swept through the apartment building Luke lived in, killing the 22-year-old, and an unnamed 18-year-old woman on Jan. 9, 2014.
Luke died by asphyxiation, leaving his bandmates, and the music communities of Victoria and Montreal in shock. A year later, LukeFest is shaping up to be a night of musical collaboration that wasn’t happening otherwise, which is just the thing Luke would have loved.
“He was all about collaboration and sharing musical ideas,” said Devin Venoit, a Gordon Head resident who graduated from Lambrick Park Secondary with Luke. “He was the guy in the library with a guitar, always playing and teaching others his songs. You’d hear other [kids] playing Luke’s songs on the guitar at the beach, Luke would teach them.”
Rachwalksi sang in Canvas with drummer Venoit, and guitarists James Fraser and Peter Ransford. The crew was a cast of characters, no doubt about it, said Venoit.
The plan to move to Montreal was in the works for a while before it happened in 2013. For the trip, they outfitted a short yellow school bus for the tour across Canada. Rather than set up gigs along the way, however they rigged the school bus so the band could play while manager and go-getter Rudy Schwabe drove.
When they got to Montreal, the city was a better fit for Canvas’ progressive jazz rock sound than the West Coast, ska-centric scene of Vancouver Island, Venoit said.
Venoit will be joined in the LukeFest house band with Kady Savard from LegUp and Sex Weather, Ransford, who’s now with 9Volt Whiskey, George Anstey, guitarist from Saanich metal-band Scimitar, and keyboardist Marty Schoeps, among others.
“I really think there is an uncovered music scene here in Saanich, it’s one of those things that people don’t realize,” said Terry, Luke’s mom.
The Rachwalski’s have benefited from an A-list of members from the Greater Victoria music scene. Atomique, Daniel Lapp, Rocktography, the Victoria Conservatory of Music, Guitar Pal, Tartan Group and more have all contributed.
“We can’t thank Daniel enough,” said Maurice, Luke’s father.
Among the features of the evening is the VIP package, a chance to rub shoulders with Bill Henderson of Chilliwack and the other performers during the Rock Star portion of the night.
Most important is the theme of musical mentors such as Henderson and Mike Demers of The Lonely, Roy Orbison tribute band, who’ll work with up-and-coming performing musicians.
Proceeds will go towards Luke’s Gift scholarship fund for young musicians to the attend Chwyl Family School of Contemporary Music (Luke wasn’t one for classic styles), and to Luke’s Legacy, a songwriting concept in which young songwriters get an opportunity to further their musicianship through songwriting workshops with experienced professionals.
LukeFest is Feb. 13 at Alix Goolden Hall.
For tickets or more information visit lukefest.ca