From erhu to ukulele, from historical to avant-garde, the upcoming Frostbite Music Festival promises to be anything but tedious.
The festival’s lineup of Outside acts was confirmed last week, and the result is exactly what you need to break up the dreary monotony of Whitehorse in February.
“We’re going for a bit more of a concentrated vision of excellence and diversity,” said Andrea Burgoyne, one of the festival’s two artistic directors (the other is Eric Epstein.)
The three-day festival, held this year at Yukon College and the Yukon Arts Centre from February 18 to 20, has been popular for 30 years despite running in a very cold place at a very cold time of the year.
Whatever the reason for its success, the irreverence of its marketing strategy flows into its artistic selection.
“Frostbite has always been a very eclectic festival,” said Burgoyne.
If you’re looking for nothing else but dancehall mayhem, the bass-heavy duo known as Bonjay are ready to provide.
Born out of Ottawa’s underground basement party scene, Pho, the DJ, and Alanna, the vocalist, have teamed up on two albums, the most recent being Broughtupsy, released in October.
Venturing through influences from reggae to soul – all done atop a constant rush of pulsating beats – Bonjay are Frostbite’s insurance policy against boredom.
But if you’re dancing is more two-step than bump-and-grind, the Weber Brothers are your ticket to ride.
The Peterborough boys are one of those bands that play together flawlessly. Their sound fuses the wailing sounds of the electric guitar with the voices of the bands’ multiple vocalists.
Like a reincarnation of the Band, the Weber Brothers began as Ronnie Hawkins’s Hawks in 2001, and have played with giants of rock ‘n’ roll ever since.
They’ve shared the stage with the Band’s own Levon Helm and Garth Hudson, as well as Jeff Healey, Tom Cochrane, Kris Kristofferson and David Wilcox.
But if you want to see talent wrapped up in one man, be sure to catch ukulele virtuoso James Hill.
Originally from Langley, British Columbia, and now a resident of Nova Scotia, Hill has climbed his way to the top of the heap of fast-strumming ukulele players.
You know that you’ve made it when the Honolulu Star-Bulletin says you have “world-class command of the instrument.”
Hill is also a pedagogue, having developed a program called Ukulele in the Classroom for kids getting involved in music.
Playing off the ukulele’s strength’s as an instrument (it’s cheap, small, mellow-sounding and not too difficult to play), Hill’s program has been liberating youth the country over from the tiresome rigours of the recorder.
Hill will host some classes with youth in Whitehorse and Haines Junction while he’s here, said Burgoyne.
While the novelty of the ukulele might be waning, the erhu is just getting started.
The traditional Chinese stringed-instrument looks like an anorexic banjo played with a violin bow and sounds just as unconventional to Western ears.
But it is flexible, at least in the hands of the great George Gao.
The Chinese-Canadian is considered one of the best in the world, and can play everything from New Agey stuff to Oh Canada on the erhu.
Gao, who is sometimes accompanied with a dozen or so other instruments, will be supported by a piano and a guitar player while in Whitehorse.
Of the festival’s solo acts, Bahamas is the one you shouldn’t miss.
The soothing and articulate music of artist Afie Jurvanen is lyrically solid – the work of a talented artist looking to tell his tales.
Bahamas has been a supporting act for Sarah Harmer, Wilco, Jason Collett, and Amy Millan and is a member of Feist and Hayden’s touring ensembles.
Frostbite has also invited a travelling re-enactment of the Mississippi Sheiks, a 1930s band who sang the God-fearing blues of American lore.
The Mississippi Sheiks Tribute Project has been performed by many artists elsewhere, including John Hammond and Bruce Cockburn.
In the Yukon, the project will be done by Jim Byrnes and Steve Dawson.
There’s also a pack of artists that Frostbite has re-invited.
Folky troubadour Nathan Rogers, merengue master Joaquin Diaz and “Canada’s first solo aboriginal female hip-hop artist” Eekwol are all bringing back their unmistakable sounds to Whitehorse.
Frostbite has gone for variety in its 2011 line-up.
“We’re putting in a coast-to-coast national vision,” said Burgoyne.
You can get your tickets early at yukontickets.com
Contact James Munson at