It may not be on the scale of the Atlin or Dawson music festivals, but the second annual Keno City Music Festival has a cachet all its own.
First, it’s casually organized. Second, there’s no charge.
“It’s a free festival for the community, by the community,” says Cud Eastbound, one of the organizers. “We’re just trying to have people come together and music is a nice way to bring people together.”
The event takes place Friday, Aug. 19 and Saturday, Aug. 20 in the tiny community, located about 111 km northeast of Stewart Crossing on the Silver Trail.
Eastbound, himself a musician, is one of a handful of organizers and is managing his end of things from Dawson City.
He sees this year’s event, expected to draw about 200 people, as part of a long-term vision for the music scene in Keno.
“Keno is a really good starting ground for a music fest,” he says. “It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. And It’s quirky… the people who live there are characters.”
There isn’t much for facilities and infrastructure in Keno City, which has a population of about 20 in the summer. So the festival is more of a do-it-yourself, improvised event, Eastbound says.
That means it’s not a money-maker for the 16 or so performing musicians, most from the Yukon.
“We will try to collect donations, but anyone who’s shown interest in performing, we stressed that there’s no monetary gain. No one’s charging a cover. It’s truly just open to the community,” says Eastbound, adding donations will support the performers’ food and gas.
Those performers include Dawson singer-songwriters Joey O’Neil, Bird Feet and Driftwood Holly; Whitehorse musicians Patrick Jacobson and Jude Waldman; Ontario’s Zakary Miller and Whitehorse bands The Lucky Ones and Soul Migration.
“We have a different mix of rock or folk, singer-songwriters,” Eastbound says. And he’s hoping for lots of dancing.
Musicians will play on a stage made from a flatbed truck, set up on the gravel lot next to the Sourdough Saloon in downtown Keno. Food and art vendors will set up nearby.
Festival-goers will be able to camp for free at a large baseball diamond on the edge of town. Keno also has a campground in town and a few hotels.
And while the music events are linked to the saloon and are for adults only, Eastbound says families are welcome. There will be face painting and the location itself offers hiking trails and historical attractions.
But he points out a free festival also means people can’t expect too many amenities.
“If you can come up and be self-sufficient, you’re golden,” he says.
Eastbound won’t be performing, as he’ll be too busy ensuring there are enough outhouses, volunteers and power sources for the stage.
“We’re just kind of hoping for the best. Since it’s a free music festival… as long as there’s a P.A. and a stage, then it’s a success.”
Eastbound cautions that the road to Keno City, is in rough, washboard shape – particularly the 60 km from Mayo, so travellers should drive slowly on that section.
You can see the full lineup for the festival at the Keno City Music Festival’s Facebook page.