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Atlin's music festival unveils its lineup

A Grammy nominee and a Canadian country legend will mix with familiar faces at this year's Atlin Arts and Music Festival.

A Grammy nominee and a Canadian country legend will mix with familiar faces at this year’s Atlin Arts and Music Festival.

L.A. jazz band California Feetwarmers, which was shortlisted for the music award this year, and Victoria-born country icon Ian Tyson are among the acts coming out this summer.

“Atlin’s got a special vibe, I’m sort of biased that way, but it’s got a really relaxed and community vibe to it. So it’s really important that we hire musicians who have a big heart and a good vibe to them,” said producer and artistic director Kim Winnicky.

“All of these people on the list are just amazing folks that I’ve talked to. So I’m really excited about just the level of heart that will be playing the festival.”

The schedule for the festival - which runs from July 10-12 - was released yesterday.

Danny Michel, a headliner when he performed solo at last year’s festival, is returning this time with his trio. Winnicky counts Michel’s after-party performance last year as one of the festival highlights.

The Ontario native was on stage improvising, jamming with all the other artists and “being sort of the backbone for everybody,” said Winnicky. “He just raised it to another level. It was so fun. He was like a little boy on stage playing the drum kit. He was having so much fun and it was infectious.”

B.C. folk band Good for Grapes was supposed to perform at last year’s festival but had to bow out at the last minute when they were finalists for the Peak Performance Project. It trains up-and-coming artists in all sides of the music industry, from marketing to live performance. Groups later compete for prize money.

Good for Grapes ended up taking home the top prize of more than $100,000.

“They’re young, in their 20s, but their harmonies are really great,” Winnicky said of the six-piece band. “They’ll be a really good dance band too. We’ll all be dancing.”

Winnicky saw the eight-piece dixieland/ragtime jazz band California Feetwarmers at a Folk Alliance conference last year.

“They ended up jamming with us at the Yukon Room at Folk Alliance so I went to see them,” she said.

They had all the experienced music insiders dancing.

“We’re usually a pretty calm bunch, staying in our seats and stuff. We were all dancing within half a song, we all had huge smiles. People were rushing the stage by their second workshop. It was crazy,” Winnicky said.

“Right then I’m like, ‘we have to get them.’”

Not long after Winnicky booked them to play Atlin, the band was nominated for a Grammy in the Best American Roots category for their work with Keb’ Mo’.

“A Grammy nominee is playing Atlin, which is kind of sweet.”

Country music fans will get a chance to see Canadian star Ian Tyson. “For me, he’s the icon of Canadian country music,” Winnicky said. “So we’re really thrilled that he’ll be coming up.”

On a different end of the musical spectrum is the band Death.

Originally made up of three brothers - David, Bobby and Dannis Hackney - the band thought they were headed for success in the ‘70s “playing hard music, like punk music, before there was punk music,” Winnicky said.

As the story goes, the brothers had started recording their first album, but music industry folks couldn’t get over the name and the brothers refused to change it.

“So the album was never released and they sort of went underground and nobody heard of them,” Winnicky said.

“And then in 2008 music historians rediscovered their music and said it was fundamental music and it was punk before there was punk music.”

The album has since been released and a documentary has been made about the band’s journey.

“They’ve gained sort of a cult following since then.”

David Hackney died of cancer in 2000. The band now plays with guitarist Bobbie Duncan.

The plan is to screen the film on Friday complete with a question-and-answer session.

Death will close the night on Saturday and do an earlier set on Sunday, she said.

The duo Anna and Elizabeth are bringing their music and their huge felt scrolls to the festival.

The beautiful artwork depicts the story of the song as it’s cranked through a wooden box frame while they’re singing, Winnicky explained, describing it as a “really simple film.”

“It takes you back to a simpler time and a simpler place and I think that really matches the feel of Atlin,” she said.

Along with acts from outside the North, this year’s festival will feature familiar northern names.

Burwash Landing-born Diyet and local band Soda Pony are on the lineup along with Whitehorse’s Claire Ness.

Ness will be singing and also putting on circus workshops for kids and youth, Winnicky said.

“I’m going to see if we can do an adult one too,” she said, laughing. “And maybe bring her aerial work down. So that will be really fun.”

Winnicky said the lineup is about 95 per cent complete but there may be more news to come.

Tickets are on sale at the Yukon Arts Centre, Arts Underground, and Dean’s Strings.

A schedule is available on the festival’s website.

Contact Ashley Joannou at