Blues fest brings big names to Yukon

Blues fans finally don't have to leave the territory to see some of the best music this continent has to offer. Next weekend's Klondike Roots & Blues Festival promises big talent, local gems and lots of fun.

Blues fans finally don’t have to leave the territory to see some of the best music this continent has to offer.

Next weekend’s Klondike Roots & Blues Festival promises big talent, local gems and lots of fun.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to get going here in Whitehorse, probably for 15 years I’ve dreamt of having a good blues festival in Whitehorse,” said Brandon Isaak, one of the organizers in the event, who will also be performing.

But making a living as a touring musician has kept him pretty busy, and it’s a lot of work to throw on a festival worthy of the Yukon, he said.

This came together this year thanks to a partnership with Ranj Pillai, VP of business development with Northern Vision Development, said Isaak.

That took care of the venue, as well as hotels and airport shuttles for visiting musicians.

Then, it was mostly a matter of signing up some acts.

There’s Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne, a legendary piano player and Juno award winner from New Orleans.

“He’s one of the top boogie-woogie piano players in the world,” said Isaak.

Then there’s Vancouver-based rockabilly band Cousin Harley, who are sure to get the crowd up off there feet.

And there’s Tim Williams, originally from California, who won the world championship of acoustic blues competition in Memphis, Tennessee.

“I’m excited about all the acts,” said Isaak. “I love every one of them.”

Isaak will perform with Keith Picot in their Silver Screen Scoundrels act.

It’s part concert, part comedy, part throwback to the silent film era.

For some songs, the duo plays accompaniment to black-and-white silent films of their own creation.

Isaak’s latest solo release, Here on Earth, was nominated for Blues Album of the Year at the recent Western Canadian Music Awards.

“I did what I always do,” said Isaak. “I lost. But that’s OK. I’m always the bridesmaid, and never the bride. But that’s OK. It was a lovely wedding.”

Isaak said he hopes Yukoners will come out and have a rocking good time at the festival.

He hasn’t set a dress code, but hopes that folks will dress to impress.

“I hope people always look good when they come out. They want to look good for their friends, the musicians want to look good for the people. Jesus I just wish people would look good. I’m not asking for tuxedos here.”

Isaak, for one, promises to don a snappy suit.

The festival will run over two nights, Oct. 17-18, with acoustic acts on Friday and electric acts on Saturday.

Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne will play both nights.

Tickets are $30 for Friday, $50 for Saturday or $75 for both nights. They are available at Dean’s Strings, the Gold Rush Inn and the High Country Inn.

The event is also a fundraiser for the Whitehorse Food Bank.

A portion of ticket sales will be donated to the organization, and festival goers are encourages to bring a non-perishable food donation.

Those who do will get a small door prize and be entered into a draw for cool stuff, said Isaak.

Some limited-edition festival T-shirts and sweatshirts have also been printed, he said.

“If anybody is interested in that kind of thing, they have to get them quickly.”

The festival will take place at the High Country Inn and Yukon Convention Centre.

Visit The Klondike Roots & Blues Festival on Facebook for updates.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

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