The proportion of local music acts included in BreakOut West’s lineup is exceptionally high, says an organizer, the result of Whitehorse being the host city this year.
“To be able to highlight the Yukon talent in a national, or international event like that is amazing. Partly because we are so isolated from the rest of the world and we’ve got a cool little thing going on here,” said Scott Maynard, executive director of Music Yukon, which helped facilitate the festival.
It’s difficult for local artists to get the exposure they deserve for a myriad of reasons, he continued — location being a given and, connected to that, the financial wherewithal needed to get out of here.
The festival, then, opens doors, particularly because some music industry big wigs will be in town, too. Present at shows could be managers, record producers, publicists and the like.
In total, there are 67 acts that are performing Oct. 2 to 6, 16 of which are local.
Maynard said there were a “record number” of submissions from across the country from artists. He said more than 60 Yukon acts applied.
The Sweeties got in. They play shows open to the public on Friday and Saturday.
“The greatest thing you can do at these things is just be a spectator,” said Patrick Hamilton, who collaborates with Fiona McTaggart. “I’m jealous I don’t have as much time to see every show for $20. I’m really excited to see a bunch of bands.”
The Sweeties take genres like bluegrass and slap it with a layer of doom, attributable, in part, to Hamilton’s guitar tone, which he created by cannibalizing a fuzz pedal in order to make it sound more “unhinged.” The result makes your stomach drop. Now, pair this with melodies taken from the Sacred Harp songbook, a singing tradition popularized in the American south that was established over 200 years ago. There you have it, with some nuances, of course.
“Sacred Harp doom rock,” they call their music.
“The lyrics are super hard and brimstone-y and there are really, like, intense melodies,” McTaggart said.
New material will be played during their shows, they said.
Sarah MacDougall, indie folk pop artist, said rubbing shoulders with some of the movers and shakers of the industry could give local acts a further boost.
“I think it could lead to touring, it could lead to booking agents from another country, or someone in Canada could see you, so you could like invite all those people to your shows and show what you got,” she said.
MacDougall, who splits her time between Atlin and Ontario, has been nominated for two Western Canadian Music Awards, the winners of which will be revealed during BreakOut West.
“For a small place, I think the Yukon has a pretty good scene,” she said, adding that there should be more integration with other forms of music — First Nations music, for instance — that goes beyond singer-songwriter stuff, which MacDougall calls a “theme” here.
The last time BreakOut West was hosted in Whitehorse was in 2011. Since then, maybe a little longer, things have changed, and not necessarily for the better, where local music is involved.
The internet is more prevalent — invasive even — leading people to spend more time with Netflix.
“The demographic or sort of the zeitgeist has shifted a little bit in, let’s say, the last 15 years,” said Maynard, adding that Whitehorse is more of a government city than it used to be. “There used to be an awful lot of support for the music scene, but I just don’t think it’s the same anymore.”
He said he hopes the festival will help change this around a touch and get people out of the house for a spell.
“It builds the community here.”
Contact Julien Gignac at firstname.lastname@example.org