Young girls who’ve never set foot on stage will get a chance to channel their inner Joan Jett or Stevie Nicks at this year’s Dawson City Music Festival.
The annual festival is hosting the territory’s first-ever Yukon Girls Rock Camp.
From July 20 to 25, girls from eight to 15 years old can learn the basics of rock: playing music, writing songs and forming their own bands.
On the last day of the camp – the Saturday of the music festival – the newly formed bands will take to the stage to show festival-goers what they’ve got.
“DCMF has been around for over 30 years so we think it is really important to be an outlet for youth, for young girls in the territory,” said production assistant Devon Berquist.
But the camp is about more than teaching girls how to strum a guitar or keep time with a drum, Berquist said.
Alongside sessions on music, screenprinting, and zine making, the day camp will touch on issues like body image, recognizing addiction, consent and healthy relationships.
“Growing up in the Yukon, there is a lot of challenges: there’s a lot of drugs, there’s a lot of alcohol, that sort of stuff,” Berquist said.
“I think pairing up music with more of those kind of topics is really great.”
It’s all about helping girls develop leadership skills and feelings of empowerment, she said
“You can’t have that without covering the actual issues that can hinder that sort of stuff. Like body image, self-esteem.”
The camp is being run with the help of the Dawson City Women’s Shelter, Tr’ondek Hwech’in Youth Centre and North Klondyke Highway Music Society.
Five musical mentors are being brought on to help manage the bands, similar to a camp counsellor. Others will be running the individual sessions, Berquist said.
The camp will provide everything – bass, keyboard, guitar or drums – to learn on.
Berquist jokes that audience members are likely to hear songs from genres like “songs about my cat,” “girl Power” and probably some “I don’t care, I’m just here to have fun.”
“It’s not about the skill, or learning the right chords or whatever, it’s really not about that. It’s more about having fun, performing, having a good time.”
The first Girls Rock Camp was held in Portland, in 2001. Since then similar events have become popular across the world.
More than 10,000 girls have participated, according to the Girls Rock Camp Alliance.
Dawson organizers are still working out the fine details of how the camp will be funded.
Ideally it will be cheap or free, Berquist said. They are running a Kickstarter campaign online to cover camp fees for campers from low-income families.
If they make their $3,000 goal, they will probably be able to offer the entire camp for free for up to 25 girls, she said.
The camp is open to anyone in the territory. Organizers will work out a billeting system for anyone coming from outside of Dawson.
Registration is not open yet. It will be going up on the camp’s website,
Line-up includes Corb Lund and the Hurtin’ Albertans
Not everyone on the DCMF stage this year will be quite as green.
The line-up for the 2015 festival includes a Juno-award-winning country star, a B.C. rock-punk band and a platinum-selling French Canadian singer.
Executive director Jenna Roebuck said fans have been asking for Corb Lund. The Alberta-based country singer is performing this year with his band Corb Lund and the Hurtin’ Albertans.
He won a Juno for Roots & Traditional Album of the Year in 2006 and the Canadian Folk Music Award for English Songwriter of the Year in 2008.
He’s won 11 Canadian Country Music Awards, six Western Canadian Music Awards and three Canadian Independent Music Awards.
In 2010 he was named the Americana Music Association’s Emerging Artist of the Year.
“If you’ve ever attended his shows, they’re really high energy, fun dance shows,” Roebuck said.
“(It’s) good country and there’s really, I think, a crowd here for some classic country.”
French-Canadian Acadian singer-songwriter Lisa Leblanc is also coming north.
Leblanc describes her sound as “folk-trash.” Her 2012 debut album was nominated for a Juno.
Duo Maya Miller and Becky Black make up the Vancouver pop-punk band The Pack A.D.
Their latest album was released last year and produced by Jim Diamond of the White Stripes.
Roebuck said organizers are focusing on the themes of the Girls Rock camp this year and really wanted to have some experienced female musicians on stage.
“That’s why we booked people like The Pack A.D. who are amazing, bad-ass female players to tie into that camp,” she said.
The Thursday night show, which requires a separate ticket from the rest of the festival, will feature baritone saxophonist Colin Stetson.
Roebuck call’s Stetson’s work “experimental, ethereal jazz music.”
The Thursday concert is a treat mostly for the people who live in Dawson, Roebuck said.
“A lot of the people who go to that concert are locals and don’t get a lot of time to see music otherwise, because most everyone who lives here is volunteering.”
Tickets to the Dawson festival are still available. More information can be found online at www.dcmf.com.
Contact Ashley Joannou at