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Getting foolish with European folk

When you've got a band with up to 17 members, it's understandable that explaining your sound isn't simple. It takes founding member Mark Marczyk nearly a minute to describe Lemon Bucket Orkestra.

When you’ve got a band with up to 17 members, it’s understandable that explaining your sound isn’t simple.

It takes founding member Mark Marczyk nearly a minute to describe Lemon Bucket Orkestra.

There are classically trained musicians.

Some have jazz backgrounds.

There are a few metal-heads.

Some of the fiddlers grew up in Cape Breton.

There are New Orleans influences.

“And recently we’ve gotten into funk,” he said.

They’ve settled on the moniker: “Balkan-klezmer-gypsy-party-punk-super-band.”

They also sometimes call themselves “a gorilla-folk party circus,” he said.

It’s that last label that may apply the most when they come up to Whitehorse on April 2.

For those not paying attention, that’s the day after April Fools Day.

The Yukon Arts Centre has affectionately dubbed that night A Festival of Fools.

“The Festival of Fools, or All Fool’s Day, dates back at least to Roman times, when they celebrated the ancient festival of Hilaria, dedicated to spring frivolity and the pursuit of fun,” according to promos for the event.

Along with Lemon Bucket’s show, performers with the Yukon Circus Society - including jugglers, stilt-walkers and unicyclists - will be roaming the lobby.

Others, like aerial hoop performer Alyssa Bunce, will take the stage with the band.

“I don’t know how you can have circus without music,” said society founder Claire Ness, who will also be clowning around that night.

“There’s such a huge emotional component.”

Marczyk said the band is always ready to put on a show that keeps people up and moving.

“It’s not a literal circus, but the stage performance is a lot more engaging then your general rock bands or folk acts…. For us it’s a lot about the performance and engaging people.”

Based in Toronto, Lemon Bucket was born as a four-piece busking band in 2010.

Since then it has grown into a Juno-nominated crowd, with members revolving in and out on a regular basis.

They never play with fewer than 10 people but can expand to as many as 17, Marczyk said.

About 11 people are expected to make the trek north.

Violins, trombones, darbouka, flugelhorn and a button accordion are among the instruments included.

Musicians are encouraged to leave to try other things and then come back. Being able to do that makes them masters of their craft, he said.

“To be able to come in and out you have to really have a grasp of the repertoire and really make changes on the fly and to improvise, but also to stay in that really tight, arranged music so that it doesn’t fall apart.”

When he first started the band, Marczyk had just returned from a two-year stay playing music in the Ukraine.

That eastern European folk sound is at the core of much of the music they play, Marczyk said.

It’s also at the core of how they play it.

Even though the band can be the size of a preschool class, they don’t mind jamming themselves into tight quarters like bars where they make up almost half of the bodies that can fit.

Eastern Europe just has a different sense of space, Marczyk said.

“You have these really vast open fields and stuff. But where people are living, where the music happens is in the city centres and the village houses,” he said.

“Everybody sort of crams in and is shoulder to shoulder and it leads to this close intimate feeling because you’re touching constantly. That’s a feeling we like to share, not only with the audience but with ourselves.”

The band’s latest album, Moorka, is being released about a week before they arrive in the Yukon.

It will include re-worked folk songs from Romania, Ukraine, Serbia, and Macedonia.

“We learned all the tunes from local virtuosos in eastern Europe… and then came back and re-worked them over the course of our Canadian tour,” he said.

He call’s the album an international project that everyone is proud of.

The show at the Yukon Arts Centre is April 2 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35 for adults, $30 for elders and $17 for students.

Tickets are available through the Yukon Arts Centre box office, online at and at Arts Underground.

Lemon Bucket Orkestra will also perform in Dawson City on April 5 during the Dawson City International Short Film Festival.

Full details about this performance will be released soon.

Contact Ashley Joannou at