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  • Writer's pictureNicolas Tremblay

20 Years of the West Island Blues Festival: Back to the roots at Dollard-des-Ormeaux

Panoramic view of the venue in DDO

Twenty years after its creation to help the community, the first free event of this festival was held in its original location on July 8 at the Dollard-des-Ormeaux Park. Streets nearby were closed for this very special occasion that started at 3 PM as hundreds attended by the end of the night. Here is a summary of the evening and a presentation of those who made this festival and historic night possible. As the Mayor of Pierrefonds-Roxboro Dimitrios Beis said that “[m]usic changes lives.”

The Artists

The host Daniel Elie Khoury

The lineup on July 8 was phenomenal and each artist brought the people together in their own special way. The host Daniel Elie Khoury did a fantastic job by presenting each band and animating the event.

Old Soul Band

The opener Old Soul Band is composed of young West Islanders who gave an amazing performance in front of the gathering crowd with a mix of their own compositions from their album “Overgrown” and covers. Their bassist Joseph (Jo) Bottaro said that it has been five years since the band exists and that “[…] it is going strong.” Concerning their participation in this festival, lead singer Loretta Triconi said it was part luck due to her connection through her dad to the President Mr. Errol Johnson and that “[…] it just kinda clicked.”

Dwane Dixon with his band

Next was Dwane Dixon, who has been a musician for 49 years and played at huge festivals such as the Montréal Jazz Festival gave an fantastic show with a formation that did not play together since 2014 at the Montréal Jazz Festival. Being friends with Mr. Johnson, this is not his first participation to this festival, but he says it is “[…] absolute honour and I am part of the furniture here lately.”

Inusaso Reggae Band

Then, the Inusaso Reggae Band made the crowd dance to their own music and reggae covers of Bob Marley and others. Created in 1983 by Mr. Buninuz Neil, the band added covers around 1994. The band was invited by Mr. Johnson due to their great performance last year in Pointe-Claire Village. Regarding his musical background, Mr. Neil said that “[t]here is no music that I haven’t experienced.” He then discussed about his hardcore, punk and metal days.

Dawn Tyler Watson and her band

After the 25-minute intermission, Dawn Tyler Watson offered an iconic performance that equals the various awards she won on an international stage. Her singing was on point and the band accompanying her was composed of brilliant musicians. Regarding the festival, she described that “it always feels like family.” She was honoured of being one of the main acts this year and stated that “it brings the community together.”

Freddie James Project

Finally, the Freddie James Project pleased the crowd by offering their energic, unique and coloured rendition of pop covers such as “We are Family”, “Flowers” and more to end this historical evening.

Some of the volunteers, sponsors and beneficiaries that participated in this edition

The Volunteers, Sponsors and Beneficiaries

At the intermission, President Errol Johnson and Vice-President Dimitrios (Jim) Beis made a speech about the twenty years of their idea and invited all contributors, sponsors and beneficiaries to make speeches on stage. The beneficiaries of this edition are Action Jeunesse de l’Ouest-de-l’Île (AJOI), West Island Women’s Shelter, West Island Black Community Association, Literacy Unlimited and Centre Bienvenue.

All beneficiaries posing with the check given by MNA Brigitte B. Garceau

A special donation

Politicians Francis Scarpaleggia (Member of Parliement for Lac-Saint-Louis), Mayor of Pointe-Claire Tim Thomas, the city council of Pierrefonds-Roxboro and MNA Brigitte B. Garceau of the Assemblée Nationale du Québec congratulated the founders and the organizations present at the festival for the 20th anniversary during the intermission. To congratulate the founders Errol Johnson and Jim Beis, Mrs Garceau gifted the founders a certificate and a donation of $20,000 as the crowd applauded and cheered on. This adds up to the $300,000 accumulated so far for this edition according to its President.

MNA Brigitte B. Garceau giving a massive donation to co-founders Jim Beis and Errol Johnson

Is there another free event soon?

Yes, there will be another free event held at Pointe-Claire Village from 3 PM until 11 PM on September 9. The lineup will consist of Old Soul Band, Uprising Band, The Contractors, Justin Saladino and The Stone Doctore.

For more information regarding the festival and its beneficiaries, visit:

The West Island Blues Festival:

Action Jeunesse de l’Ouest-de-l’Île (AJOI):

West Island Women’s Shelter:

West Island Black Community Association:

Literacy Unlimited:

Sources: West Island Blues Festival, Dimitrios (Jim) Beis, Errol Johnson, Joseph Bottaro, Loretta Triconi, Dwane Dixon, Buninuz Neil, Dawn Tyler Watson

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