There is more than one Hay Riverite willing to lend Craig Cardiff a parka. That’s because the popular Canadian musician with indie folk-rock roots will be travelling to Hay River in February to shake residents out of their winter slumps with something they don’t always have the privilege to see: live music.
Thanks to two private citizens and music enthusiasts, Peter Magill and Keith Dohey, Cardiff will play at the Doghouse Sports Pub on Feb. 22.
“We were thinking of ways to promote and benefit the town,” said Magill. “The opportunities came up and we thought, ‘Why not?’ This is something different from what we normally see. Live music is severely lacking in town. We have this great talent here, and they often have nowhere to play.”
Cardiff, who grew up in Waterloo, Ont., and lives in the Ottawa Valley, has performed in Yellowknife several times. The folk singer was nominated for a Juno award for his latest release ‘Floods and Fires’ in the roots and traditional album of the year category.
The same album was also nominated for contemporary singer of the year at the Canadian Folk Music Awards in 2012. Cardiff was up against artists like Bruce Cockburn and Rose Cousins.
This will be his first visit to Hay River and he is looking forward to returning to the welcoming atmosphere of the North.
“I was the fellow from Ontario who showed up during a cold snap in Yellowknife with two (regular) winter jackets,” said Cardiff. “My friends showed up at the airport with a proper parka and were like, ‘What were you thinking?’”
During his tour, he is performing songs from his most recent album. Many new ones he’s fine tuning through live performances with the help of audience response with a focus on vocals and poetic lyrics. His compositions are a lot like stories.
“It’s fine to have a song that’s theoretical, but songs aren’t made in a vacuum,” he said. “It’s like a comedian recording a set without an audience. There’s no stronger endorsement than someone coming up to you and saying, ‘I want to hear that song again.’”
Cardiff will be playing on the same night as a Northern Arts and Cultural Centre presentation of The Gryphon Trio. Also on that evening, Nearly Neil, a Neil Diamond impersonator, will be the feature act at the annual gala of the Hay River Chamber of Commerce.
A different demographic will keep the performances from competing with each other, said Magill.
The culture of a grassroots music scene is growing in town, he noted, although mostly behind closed doors or through the avenue of music and open mic night.
Alternatively, the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre has begun to build a patron base, as has the Hay River Early Music Society, though those groups cater to a different demographic.
Magill said they are steps closer to making Hay River a performance destination.
“Open jam nights are great, don’t get me wrong, but I want to see a real artist and I don’t want to pay to go to Yellowknife or Edmonton,” he said. “There are the avenues here, but it’s just a matter of if the interest is here. We’ll start small now to see if this is a doable thing. We’re a long way off from the ideal, but wouldn’t it be awesome to fill up the entire arena for a show?”
Organizers are still planning for a Hay River performer to open the Cardiff show.
Donations of $5 to a local charity will be accepted in lieu of the price of admission.