SUNDRE – An organizer behind an inaugural indie hip hop concert wanted not only to introduce some alternative musical entertainment for the community, but especially to provide local and Alberta-based talent with an opportunity to get on stage and perform.
“If we can bring that to the youth in Sundre, that’s the whole goal,” said Chris “Camp” Campkin, who collaborated alongside his counterpart Colbie “Grom” Glenn to host on Friday, Aug. 18 the Scum Valley Spotlight 2023 at the Sundre Arts Centre.
While the two each have independent musical pursuits, they also team up to perform together under the name Camp X Grom.
“When I grew up here, I didn’t get to see that kind of thing,” said Campkin, who lives east of town in the Westward Ho area and graduated from Sundre High School in 2018.
“I’ve been making music since I was 16 years old,” he said. “I’ve been making it but not putting anything out.”
Throughout his adolescent years, Campkin candidly confessed it was hard for him to imagine that so much as exploring his interest in hip hop was even a possibility and that it wasn’t until his early 20s that he began to more seriously pursue that path.
“I had to go through that battle myself,” he said. “And now, I’m just trying to show all these kids that have this talent and this potential, that they can do it – I’ll give them a stage to do it on, you know. That’s my biggest driving force.”
The arts centre can comfortably accommodate more than 100 people, and advanced online sales amounting to more than 30 tickets that led organizers to anticipate perhaps 50-60 people might show up did not end up accurately reflecting the actual at-the-door turnout of nearly 90 people, he said, adding the crowd “exceeded our expectations.”
“Going into it, none of us are guys that have really even performed before,” he said.
“And so for us to be able to draw a crowd of (almost) 90 people to an arts centre was – in small town Sundre of all places – just this eye-opening thing for all of us; like wow, you can really do this out here. You don’t have to be in the city, you don’t have to be with a record label.”
Campkin arguably could not have hoped for a much more successful first crack at the bat, which including Camp X Grom featured five artists performing a range of music from rhythm and blues to indie and hip hop: 4KYaro; Enjoh; TE$KEY; and Joey Vyvanse, who came out from Invermere, B.C.
“It ended up going 10,000 times better than we expected. The energy in the entire room was just way different than what any of us could have expected,” he said.
“It was really insane to me just to be able to see what we could do.”
That pleasant surprise provided an encouraging motivational boost that further helped to convince Campkin that they’re on the right track.
“Since that turnout, we want to turn it into an annual thing for sure,” he said.
The event was put on by his nascent company, Lowland Lokals, in coordination with Calgary-based 47th Studio, both fledgling enterprises that he hopes to see come to fruition.
While his first unofficial show is now officially on the books, Campkin added he also arranges occasional open mic sessions at Salt and Soul Wellness Collective, located in the strip mall immediately north of Main Avenue between 1st an 2nd Streets NW.
“I know so many kids and so many adults that are like amazing artists and musicians from around here, and it’s just that we don’t really have a scene for people to come and bring their music and enjoy it together, you know?”
Speaking from his own personal perspective, Campkin said a variety of styles has shaped his musical worldview.
“I’ve been influenced from all different kinds of genres,” he said. “But one thing I do cling to, is lyricism and hip hop for sure.”
He carefully chose his phrasing to refrain from using the term “rapper."
“I don’t like to say rappers ’cause I don’t like that word,” he said, expressing a preference for either of the terms “vocalist” or “lyricist.”
Campkin also expressed a deep gratitude to the members of the Sundre & District Allied Arts Society, the non-profit organization that oversees and takes care of the facility, and he encourages people to consider donating in support of the Sundre Arts Centre.
“Seriously, without this place man, I don’t think I would have ever, ever thought I could even do this,” he said. “There’s so much more to come to that place; I’ll tell you that, man.”