Gord Downie. The Sadies. Punk rock in Atlin, B.C.
Let those words ruminate for a minute or two. You might not expect to see all three of those things on stage together, especially on the bill of a not-so-huge music festival on the edge of the Yukon, but it’s just one of the offerings on tap for this year’s Atlin Arts and Music Festival.
A long-awaited collaboration album joining the Tragically Hip frontman with Toronto’s country rockers drops on April 15, after almost four years worth of waiting.
They’re calling it Gord Downie, The Sadies and The Conquering Sun. And if the newly-released single “Crater” is any indication, the album will be doing a lot of conquering.
The musicians describe the album as “10 songs of visceral punk rock exultation, a spirited half-hour exploration of the darkness surrounding daylight.”
But just as the Sadies themselves can’t be crammed into one genre, oscillating as they do between country, bluegrass, blues and rock, the album’s sound is equal parts old school rock and psychedelic jangle, swirling in a vortex of punk ethos and Downie’s well-worn baritone voice.
Now Magazine called it “a Canrock nerd’s dream … hardcore, near-metal catharsis – equal parts dorky, loose and awesome.”
All of this sounds like something you’d expect to hear blasting from a stadium stage in New York. And many people will. The group is taking the album on the road this summer hitting the Big Apple, The Windy City and Motor City. They’re only making seven Canadian stops, but Atlin is one of them.
But if Canadian geek-rock isn’t really your thing, fear not: David Francey will also be at the festival to sooth your angst with smoky songs of working class labours and loves.
Born in Scotland, Francey lived most of his life in Canada’s rail yards, steel mills and construction sites. His charming brogue and self-deprecating humour lends itself to easy laughs as he regales audiences with stories of a roughshod life working with his hands.
His poetry is dusty and beautiful, like a rusted-out pickup bathing in shafts of early morning light.
OK, so now your options are either moshing to psych-rock or lounging in the grass as waves of melancholy folk songs wash over you. Enter Danny Michel, Toronto’s “musical chameleon.”
With one foot squarely planted in blues and pop, and the other straddling the border with his adopted home in Belize, Michel blends sounds from around the world with lyrics that question and probe. Whether he’s astride the stage solo, or backed by a band, his witty stage banter and hook-filled guitar riffs will have you on your feet in no time.
Rounding out the Atlin line up are California singer-songwriter Steve Poltz, old-time bluegrass duo Pharis and Jason Romero, Latin Grammy and Juno winner Alex Cuba and a host of other musical offerings.
Then, you’ve got five days to rest up, because the Dawson City Music Festival follows close on Atlin’s heels.
Alex Cuba and Pharis and Jason Romero will reprise their appearances on stage in Dawson, at a festival fronted by transplanted westerners The Rural Alberta Advantage.
Pitchfork called the RAA’s sound a sort of ramshackle folk-rock about hometowns and heartbreak. Three years from their sophomore release of Departing, the band – which struggled in the early 2000s to make a name for themselves – is now squarely situated in the Canadian indie-rock canon next to names like Dan Mangan, Elliott Brood and The Weakerthans.
The Rural Alberta Advantage’s focus on acoustic folk rock
fits with a Dawson City festival that, this year, is heavy on the acoustic at the expense of rocking plugged in.
Evening Hymns is another DCMF act that follows in the same vein. Their latest album, Spectral Dust, was recorded with a host of Canadian indie giants including City and Colour, Timbre Timbre and The Wooden Sky.
For a full list of performers at both festivals, check out www.dcmf.com and www.atlinfestival.ca.
Contact Jesse Winter at