A well-attended inaugural Keno City Music Fest, organized by Dawson City artists, came together at the Sourdough Tavern this August 1st. Keno City, a tiny mining town steeped in history and boasting a population of about a dozen or so, sits at the end of the Yukon’s Silver Trail highway. An eccentric vibe resonates throughout the small cluster of wooden buildings that tends to attract hardy tourists not intimidated by a long, rough road and isolated location.
“Junkyard Jae and I went up a month before,” recalls coorganizer and musician Cud Eastbound. “Never been there before. We were having a few beers and playing banjo on the porch with Jim at Sourdough Roadhouse there, and he said ‘you should come up and do a show’. I was like, ‘let’s organize a fest.’
“We contacted as many musicians as we could who could make it and it was like, ‘we should do this every year’.
“We decided what the line-up would be the day of because we didn’t know what musicians would actually make it there.” Eastbound, Jimmy James, Joey O’Neil, Dreampipe Vermin and Die Wilde all took the stage that night.
One slated performer, stand up comedian Andrea Pelletier, did not make it as the car she riding in skidded off the road and flipped over. Everyone was ok but proceedings were temporarily halted as the news arrived from attendees arriving late, attesting to the sense of close-knit community in this region of the Yukon. There is no cell phone coverage in Keno City.
“Our goal was to get as many people to Keno as possible… Keno is beautiful,” continues Eastbound, “Big Al showed up and he had all of his audio equipment. It was going to be an acoustic show, but Big Al tied into the existing sound system and had all these homemade mics and stuff … the acoustics in the Sourdough are phenomenal and very warm and Al did an amazing job last minute.”
So what was the town’s reaction to the music festival?
“It’s nothing new for Keno,” says Jim Milley, owner of the Sourdough Roadhouse. “We’ve been having bands play here for a couple of years now: Kim Beggs, Bunch of B.S., others have played here. Now that they’ve discovered the acoustics of the place more and more want to play here.
“It was a really good time. Nice evening.”
Dogs ran underfoot, locals mixed with surprised tourists and even a pair of uniformed RCMP Officers from Mayo showed up to take in the performances. The line-up of artists was, at least this time around, entirely composed of Dawson City residents as evidenced by the small mob of accompanying fans.
“It’s like Keno was discovered by Dawson” jokes Milley.