Story & Photos
by Dan Davidson
It was surprising to learn that there are people who don’t know about the Sunday Night Rule at the Dawson City Music Festival. Granted that the crowd on the dance floor was really enjoying the set by the Born Ruffians and didn’t want it to end, but they were the next to last act of the night on the last night of the festival and when it gets it that point in the evening, no amount of chanting “ONE! MORE! SONG!” in loud angry voices is going to produce an encore.
All it’s going to do is shorten the amount of actual music you get from the very last act of the festival, the Bruce Peninsula.
On Friday and Saturday night the fun goes on until 2 a.m., but on Sunday all the coaches turn back into pumpkins at midnight – because the neighbours have to go to work the next day.
That final act was quite different from the rockers that had preceded them, but they quickly convinced the crowd that they were worth listening and dancing to, so it all worked out in the end.
The outlook for the whole weekend was a little iffy on Friday, as the “crack-o-doom” style storm in the wee hours of the morning convinced the CBC folk that their Front Street Gazebo concert would have to move inside the Odd Fellows Hall instead.
Of course the day got steadily better as it wore on and the ballroom was a sweatbox by the time that it was too late to change their minds and move the equipment back outdoors.
The Weather Station, Old Time Machine and The Deep Dark Words played from a cramped stage to a ballroom packed to standing room only capacity.
The rest of the weekend vacillated from cool to hot and steamy, with a bit of smoke late Saturday and Sunday reputed to be from a fire down river in the direction of Forty Mile.
Visiting musicians are always blown away by the long twilight here, but a month after Solstice it does actually get dark if you stay up long enough, and by midnight it can be a little murky in the tent. Watching a quartet of hacky sack diehards trying to play with a dark little foot bag they could hardly see was an amusing reminder of that.
The festival could be said to have begun the night before at the Palace Grand Theatre, when Molly Sweeny and her accompanist, Sheena Ko, opened for Ron Sexsmith and his keyboard player Dave Matheson in a show before an absolutely packed house that ran to about two and half hours in total.
Main Stage opened on Friday night with the Trondek Hwëch’in Singers, in what has become a tradition here over the last several years. The rest of the evening worked a progression from listening music in a roots vein to dancing tunes as the evening wore on. This is the way the three main stage evenings generally move, from quieter music to increasingly frenetic, although front-loading the Sunday concert with the energetically blistering neo-metal sounds of Zipline was a departure from this style of programming.
For those more interested in sitting and listening, there were concerts at the Palace Grand on Saturday and Sunday and one at St. Paul’s Anglican Church on Saturday night.
Saturday morning was occupied by the KidsFest, hosted by funnyman and Certified Lunatic and Master of the Impossible, Tomas Kubinek, with music by Blue Hibou and lots of games.
Music was happening all over town on Saturday and Sunday, with events at Minto Park, the Palace Grand, the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre, St. Paul’s, and the Front Street Gazebo. Some of these events were little mini-concerts lasting 15 minutes to an hour, other were themed workshop style events with names like Women of the World, Take Over; Freshly Pickled; In Chorus; and Who’s the Boss (featuring the songs of Bruce Springsteen).
A favorite Sunday feature was the Potluck session, where band members were mixed and matched into new groups and told to cover a tune as best they could.
The energy built over the weekend, leading to a heartfelt climax at the Finale, when all the bands hit the stage and churned out a version of Fleetwood Mac’s 1976 hit “The Chain”, with its exhortation to “never break the chain.”
Festival Director Jenna Roebuck ended the weekend with what has become the traditional send-off: “You don’t have to go home – but you can’t stay here.”
However, it was a beautiful evening outside the tent and people in the crowd continued visiting for some time after the tent flaps closed behind them.