Kluane Mountain Bluegrass Festival returns to the Junction

Bruce and Deb Bergman
Bruce and Deb Bergman at the 2010 Kluane Mountain Bluegrass festival. Photo Courtesy of Lenore Morris

The summer of 2015 will see the Kluane Mountain Bluegrass Festival, which went on temporary hiatus last year, returning to its old stomping grounds in Haines Junction.

“ We’re really excited to go back there, and the Junction is excited to have us back as well,” says Robbyn Chiles, president of the Yukon Bluegrass Music Society, and festival manager for this year’s event.

“ We… considered different communities to move the festival to for its forever-home, and Haines Junction came out as the clear winner. There was always quite a bit of magic that happened there.”

A yearly fixture in the Yukon since its inception in 2003, the intimate, traditional bluegrass festival ran into a spot of financial difficulty in 2013, after which the board decided to take a year-long break to re-evaluate and regroup.

“ We’ve rebuilt our society bigger and stronger, and we’ve completed our five-year business plan, so we have a really clear path for the future, which is great,” says Chiles.

This path begins with the announcement of a very exciting line up. A host of Yukon artists, as well as returning performers include Mark Ladoucer, Nadine Landry, and Sammy Lind. They will join this year’s special guests, who include Kentucky’s Mike Bentley and Cumberland Gap, Front Country from California, Flatt Lonesome of Florida, Jeff Scroggins, and Ontario’s The Abrams Brothers. The latter will be the first band ever to use a drum kit at the festival, prompting Chiles to name them as this year’s crossover band.

Drum kits aside, Chiles assures us that the festival will be staying true to its roots.

“ We really looked at whether we were going to change the whole feel and format of the festival, and we’ve decided as a board and as a society that no, we really want to stay close… to traditional bluegrass, to fill that niche,” she says. 
For Chiles, the adherence to traditional bluegrass is one of the two things in particular that makes the Kluane Mountain Bluegrass Festival special.

“ First of all is the music, I just really appreciate bluegrass music,” she explains. “It’s clean and honest and actually extremely skilful. There’s always the impression that it’s a bunch of old-timers up there, pickin’ and grinnin’, but it is actually extremely skill-demanding music with intricate harmonies, and I appreciate that because I’m a classical musician myself.

“ Second is the circle of friends that develops over the years — I can go anywhere in North America and meet up with friends that I’ve made through the Bluegrass Festival and feel right at home. There’s a real community there.”

This year, the tight-knit Bluegrass Festival community will be housed under the roof of the St. Elias Community Centre, a venue with less than 400 seating capacity and a perfect view of the Kluane Mountains.

The festival will take place from June 12 to 14, 2015. Tickets are available from Dean’s Strings and Music Supplies in Whitehorse, Kluane Machine in Haines Junction, or online at https://kmbf.eveyevents.com/

Applications from local artists will be accepted up until January 15— those interested may apply via the festival website. 

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