NEXT STAGE #2 Feb 25 2005

Folk gather at Frostbite as winter retreats

Multi-media technology and ping pong balls

The Yukon Arts Centre earned its name this month. Kim Beggs and Po’ Girl played a double bill on Feb. 4 and again at the 27th Annual Frostbite Music Festival.

Beggs’ set featured songs from her recently released CD, Streetcar Heart. She was right at home on the stage, chatting to the audience throughout the evening as if all were old friends. Heading out after this show on a five-week, self-confessed “Unknown Tour” of Canada, she’ll be back in Whitehorse on March 15 playing at The Boiler Room.

With Po’ Girl taking the stage, the evening shifted to a more progressive blend of jazz-blues vocal improvisation with folk-rock instrumentation. The three principals in Po' Girl are multi-instrumentalist and sing in their own vocal style. They followed this show with performances in Dawson, Haines Junction then back to Whitehorse for The Frostbite Festival.

A fluid flow of attendees seemed to pervade the Arts Centre as Frostbite’s first night began. Overall images of people staring at programs, meeting up with friends and standing in line for tickets, coat check and beer would sum up the action in the foyer.

Opening the big stage was Rae Spoon from Alberta. This young songwriter broke the ice with gritty guitar and prairie poetry.

I have a soft spot for artists who rend and squeeze their instrument of choice. In the hands of a master improvisationalist, various implements become tools of inspiration. Ping pong balls, drum sticks and guitar picks in the hands of Marilyn Lerner explored the inner workings of the festival grand piano to great effect. This is difficult listening music, not for the faint of heart.

By 10:00 p.m., the hall was filled for Irish troubadour Andy White. Po’ Girl vocalist, Allison Russell, joined him for most of his set. His songs of peace, love and understanding gave out a positive vibration for those tuned to the frequency.

Carolyn Mark and Her New Best Friends closed out Friday with a Grand Ole Opry style performance of hurtin’, drinkin’ and travelin’ songs. All of the Best Friends wore Nashville-inspired suits and Mark herself wore a spectacular black polyester dress. Yee Ha!

Saturday night, Kim Barlow staged a multi-media performance of A Lucky Burden, her songs of Keno City, to an enthusiastic audience. A documentary film by Andrew Connors, showing the town past and present, was projected above the band as they spun out a soundtrack accompaniment.

Ember Swift left the audience smouldering as she and her partners in music flashed through an hour of music. She plays an extremely fused style of music, one of those great performers who can make each song stylistically unique yet place her own signature on the face of it. She returned for a well-deserved encore. Those in attendance participated in a sing-a-long that will not soon be forgotten in the history of Frostbite.

In this part of the world there is no better way to shed the winter skins and greet the spring than The Frostbite Festival.