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With Gwen Stefani Island bound, Laketown Shakedown is ready to party

Gwen Stefani’s Laketown Shakedown set on Sunday will be her first full concert on Vancouver Island since No Doubt’s show at Harpo’s in 1992.
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No Doubt singer Gwen Stefani will headline Laketown Shakedown at Lake Cowichan on Sunday. JAMIE NELSON


Where: Laketown Ranch Music and ­Recreation Park, 8811-2 Youbou Rd., Lake Cowichan
When: Friday, June 28, through Sunday, June 30

The early stages of the relationship between a touring artist and music festival exists solely on paper. Deposits are paid, contracts are signed, and both parties wait several months before for the booking becomes a reality.

Laketown Shakedown managed to crack the code in 2023, however, just days after signing its biggest headliner to date. The multi-day rock, pop, and hip-hop festival secured No Doubt singer Gwen Stefani to lead its 2024 edition, which gets underway Friday at Laketown Ranch Music and Recreation Park. And as luck would have it, when it came time to make the announcement nearly one year ago, Stefani was already in Lake Cowichan.

Stefani is married to country star Blake Shelton, whom she accompanied to the Sunfest country music festival in August. Wideglide Entertainment, which produces both Lake Cowichan festivals, announced Stefani’s Laketown Shakedown appearance shortly before Shelton took to the Sunfest stage last year. What’s more, Stefani eventually joined her husband and former co-host on NBC’s The Voice for renditions of Nobody But You and Happy Anywhere, two No. 1 singles the couple have together.

“It was a really special opportunity,” said festival manager Mike Hann. “When we [were signing her], we didn’t know at that point she was coming with Blake. The stars aligned. It was a really special moment to ignite the crowd like that, and have her walk on stage for a song or two. It was really special.”

Stefani will be back for a long-awaited set of solo hits (What You Waiting For?, Rich Girl, Hollaback Girl) and No Doubt singles (Just a Girl, Spiderwebs, Don’t Speak, Hey Baby) on Sunday. Sales thus far have been driven by her rare appearance, which will be the three-time Grammy Award winner’s first full concert on Vancouver Island since No Doubt’s performance at the former Harpo’s Cabaret in 1992.

“She is one of the bigger artists to play the Island,” Hann said. “Not ever — Prince and Elton John have played here — but she as far as current artists go, she’s huge. It will be a big production, bigger than any Shakedown show we’ve had thus far.”

Stefani isn’t the only notable name on stage in Lake Cowichan this weekend. Metchosin rocker Jesse Roper and DJ Nu-Mark of Los Angeles hip-hop collective Jurassic 5 are the top attractions Friday, while legendary rapper Busta Rhymes (a 12-time Grammy Award nominee) and alt-rocker Grandson headline Saturday. Vancouver rapper BBNO$ (he of the viral hit, Edamame) will join Stefani at the top of the bill on Sunday.

Cleveland rap favourites Bone Thugs-N-Harmony were forced to cancel their scheduled Saturday appearance, due to health issues with one of its members. The festival hired Jurassic 5 members Chali 2na and Cut Chemist in their place as the lead-in for Grandson and Busta Rhymes. the latter of whom starts his 24-date arena tour with Missy Elliott and Timbaland mere days after his Vancouver Island debut.

“He’s hip-hop royalty,” Hann said of Rhymes, a longtime Dr. Dre collaborator. “He’s also kind of the sleeper on this card. This will be a good opportunity to see an incredible artist.”

One of the big features of the festival, which in recent years brought Snoop Dogg, Portugal the Man, Shaggy, Smash Mouth, Wu-Tang Clan, and Arkells to Lake Cowichan, is on-site camping, which gives Laketown Shakedown a leg up on its competitors. Hann said 10,000 are expected to attend this weekend festival, and because Vancouver Island ticket-buyers are known for being a last-minute bunch, organizers are preparing for impact.

“During the final week of sales last year, for Shaggy, we did 60 per cent of our sales,” Hann said.

In preparation for the incoming crowds, organizers have made several improvements. The festival’s Lookout Lounge (which offers shade and elevated sight lines in the concert bowl area) has been upgraded, while additional turf in the gravel areas will improve walking conditions through the sprawling 172-acre site.

Busta Rhymes will headline Laketown Shakedown at Lake Cowichan on Saturday. CONGLOMERATE ENT.

In May, the province approved the site for a liquor primary license, which removes limits and restrictions that have been in place since Wideglide Entertainment owner Greg Adams opened the site in 2016. That give Hann more flexibility, where his programming is concerned, including happy hour parties on Saturday and Sunday from 3-6 p.m.

The licence — the first of its kind in Western Canada — was endorsed at the time of its approval in a statement by Lana Popham, B.C. minister of tourism, arts, culture and sport, but Hann believes the numerous local bands on the bill, including Neon Steve, Miina, Murge, Trophy Dad, The Bankes Brothers, and others, will also benefit from the move. “It’s not a money-making thing for us,” Hann said.

“It’s about getting people out of their campsites and in front of these regional acts.”

Wilson’s Transportation is operating shuttle service on the festival’s behalf, allowing guests who are drinking to travel by bus to the site from Victoria, Duncan, and Nanaimo. The site becomes a small city through the weekend, and with the arrival of Stefani on Sunday, Laketown Ranch will add to its reputation as one of the top entertainment venues in the province, Hann said.

“It’s a testament to Laketown and the investment and effort that has been put in here. We have A-list country artists come through, but now it’s starting to move into other genres. We have artists reaching out to us who want to play. We wouldn’t have been able to book artists like Gwen Stefani in the past, but now the word is getting out through the industry. That’s a testament to what a special place it is.”

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