I’ve Never… been to a music festival.

Plaid. Beards. B.O. I was either at a logging camp or a folk festival.

The hippy next to me danced as though in a trance; her arms twisting to the heavens, unshaved armpits rustling in a breeze that carried the unmistakable smell of marijuana.

Definitely a folk festival then.

Main stage tent going up at the Dawson City Music Festival 2010

I’ve never been to a proper music festival and the 3-day Dawson City Music Festival that I was at last month was a great orientation to that world. And despite the large contingent of hippies there, the DCMF isn’t just a folk festival and included a range of great music; from rock to blues to soul and even a bit of hip-hop funk thrown in the mix for good measure.

Bigger name Canadian acts like The Constantines, Dan Mangan and Elliott BROOD were certainly big draws for the event but I realized that one of the great things about music festivals is the discovery of FANTASTIC musicians I never would have known about otherwise.

Although the entire lineup at this year’s DCMF was fabulous, I got my money’s worth and more out of these 3 acts:

  1. tUnE-yArDs: This strange and wonderful act is the work of Merrill Garbus from California. What this woman can do with a drum, ukulele and looping pedal defies categorization and is truly an experimental superstar. She stole the show at the Palace Grand Theatre, upstaging headliner singer-songwriter Dan Mangan in my opinion. Check her out on MySpace for a taste but if you ever get to see her live, DO IT. (http://www.myspace.com/tuneyards)
  2. Elliott BROOD: What a show! Elliott BROOD is a three-piece band from Toronto who know how to put on a raucous, pan-whacking good time (my friend Jared would shatter his foot if he ever went to an Elliott BROOD show from stomping so much).  They belong to a genre they like to call “death-country” and are a riot to watch live. Their song “Write it all down for you” has become my new favourite musical obsession.
  3. The Burning Hell: You’d think that with a name like that they’d be blasting death metal at you. No so however, as this Peterborough, Ontario ensemble of nine or more members rock out with a quirky, dry-witted humour and catchy, ukulele-charged songs.

Looking at my top 3 list, I’ve realized the ukulele is a common thread through all of them. My sister-in-law is giving me her old uke so keep you eyes open for an “I’ve Never… played an instrument” entry to this blog in the not-too-distant future (I hope).

Honourable mentions also go out to Coolooloosh, all the way from Israel and JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound from down Chicago way.

As awesome as all these acts were, I gotta say that the man who stole the show, the man who got the loudest and longest cheers from the crowds of 20- and 30-somethings was a 63-year-old singer of kids songs. Yes, I am referring to the man who crawled daily through a log and into the hearts of children across Canada back in the 80s and 90s, Mister Fred Penner himself. His CBC show Fred Penner’s Place was a staple in the lives of so many of the DCMF performers and attendees, including myself, it’s no wonder he turned out to be the biggest rock-star of the festival. I even got to meet him!

Highlight of the trip? Noooooo doubt.

The place went nuts when Fred started singing The Cat Came Back and I was half-expecting to see the stage littered with women’s underwear. One of the great moments of the DCMF was at the Palace Grand Theatre during the Sing-a-Long workshop where Fred Penner led the audience in a rip-roaring rendition of Sandwiches.

Yes, the Dawson City Music Festival was an absolute blast, introduced me to some great music, reintroduced me to the legend that is Fred Penner and has fired me up to learn to play the ukulele, much to my pet dog’s dismay.

Been to a music festival? Check.

Duane Elgin, author of “Voluntary Simplicity”, talked about the “invisible wealth of experiential riches.” My “I’ve Never Club” is inspired by this idea and chronicles my reflections on the novel things I’ve done recently.

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Funny stories. Good advice. Josh Martin is the author of the book “Simple(ton) Living: Lessons in balance from life’s absurd moments.” Click here to learn more and to purchase a copy.

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