Handsome Furs, Whitehorse and Ferron headline Frostbite

Frostbite producer Andrea Burgoyne loses track of the musical genres as she rattles off the main acts for the upcoming winter music festival in February.

Frostbite producer Andrea Burgoyne loses track of the musical genres as she rattles off the main acts for the upcoming winter music festival in February.

Some of the groups are familiar, such as Whitehorse and Handsome Furs, while others, like H’Sao, need a bit more explanation.

H’Sao is an African gospel group turned afro-pop-salsa with some serious groove.

“It’s like, ‘phow,’” said Burgoyne, her eyes widening, her fingers shooting out like explosions from fists on either side of her head.

Whatever you want to call the Montreal-based francophone group, originally from the country of Chad, one thing is certain: they’ll make you want to dance.

“They’ll kill it,” Burgoyne said, smiling and nodding. “Some people don’t take to world music as much, but these guys … It’s definitely a relevant style of world music. And dance-able. Definitely dance-able.”

That’s good because that’s was one of main things organizers of the 34th annual festival were aiming for as they cast around for performers.

“We aspire to push peoples’ boundaries to the extent that we feel we can push them,” said Burgoyne. “It’s more like an introduction of a new idea, a new artist, a new blend, a new fusion. But we still keep the audience members’ and artists’ experience in mind.

“If there’s a melody, a beat, people can move to it and dance to it – that’s kind of all we need – they don’t necessarily have to love the genre.”

And after more than three decades, the territory’s festival doesn’t want to define itself by a specific genre or style either, added Burgoyne.

The festival always appeals to a wide variety of people. By taking over an of unique venue spaces at the Yukon College campus – everything from a wood shop to a dance hall to an auditorium – Frostbite is able to include a diverse cross-section of music every year.

Even some pretty racy, electronic rock like Handsome Furs.

The band topped Burgoyne’s own wish list for this year’s line-up, she said.

Dan Beockner, the former frontman for the now-disbanded indie rock group Wolf Parade, formed the Handsome Furs

with his wife, Alexei Perry.

“The music that they’re creating is really sweaty and awesome,” said Burgoyne.

On the other end of the spectrum is Canadian folk legend Ferron.

Never heard of her? Think Tracy Chapman, the Indigo Girls, Ani Difranco or Buffy-Sainte Marie and their lyric-heavy, whimsical voices.

Another familiar sound performing under a different name is Little Hawk.

As one member of Eagle & Hawk, this artist helped establish a blend of traditional First Nations’ instrumental sound with rock and country roots that reaches out to a young, modern audience. As a solo act, Little Hawk unabashedly injects his own social commentary about significant issues like the legacy of residential school, alcohol and drug addiction, and missing and murdered aboriginal women.

Finally, Frostbite is welcoming back two artists who have not only played the territory before but have named their new band after the Yukon’s capital, Whitehorse.

Husband and wife duo Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland

have a chemistry reminiscent of June Carter and Johnny Cash, complete with Doucet’s energetic guitar riffs and McClelland’s harmonizations.

When Burgoyne asked Doucet about the name, he said they chose it because of the “mystique of the Canadian North.”

And when she called the duo’s agent to book them for the festival, Burgoyne was happy and surprised to hear she had beat the agent to the punch.

“I wanted to ask you guys if you wanted to have them,” Burgoyne said she was told. “It’s not often that an agent goes and seeks you out so that’s cool.”

Frostbite has developed a decent reputation in the Canadian music world and festival circuit.

For artists it’s well-timed and provides an opportunity they may not get otherwise.

Over the years, Frostbite has been able to attract some pretty big Canadian acts early on in their careers.

Sarah McLachlan – who had both Doucet and McClelland in her touring band – played the winter festival when she was still in her 20s and just starting to make it big.

K.D. Lang and Skinny Puppy also touched down on the Frostbite stage before they took off in music.

“It is one of our goals,” said Burgoyne. “We aspire to do that every year – to find someone that we believe, or the scene believes, or other colleagues believe, is on the way up.

“This year, we went for a couple acts that people would recognize. And then we also went for a few festival acts that people might not know but will discover and then, obviously, love.”

Putting together the festival is like assembling a puzzle, Burgoyne added.

It starts with a wish list. Then schedules and logistics get in the way. Then there’s the finesse of fitting up-and-coming artists with more well known performers and the art of making sure there’s enough space in the room for everyone. Every artist is scheduled to play twice – usually once in a bigger venue and once in a smaller one.

Organizers will announce the rest of the lineup in January.

The festival runs from Feb. 17 to 19. Tickets are on sale now.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at


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