From her cabin on her parents’ farm near Fort St. John, B.C., Jody Peck can see the broad, meandering Peace River, not far from where her family first settled in 1924.
On a recent Friday afternoon, Peck was about to start assembling the merchandise she and her band, Miss Quincy and the Showdown, hope to sell during a busy summer of concerts and festivals, including the 38th annual Dawson City Music Festival.
She was also gearing up for a flurry of activity on her “humungous passion project” to capture and tell the story of the Peace Region, in the shadow of BC Hydro’s divisive plan to flood a huge swath of the river downstream from her home town.
“It’s called My Peace River, and it’s a multimedia artistic collaboration between myself and (photographer) Jodie Ponto, who was also born and raised in the Peace Region,” Peck explains.
The project began last year with a small music festival on her parents’ farm, with a crew brought in to record two live music videos, a mini documentary and an EP of her songs.
“The Peace River is the most endangered river in Canada right now, because of the construction of the Site C dam,” she says. “Basically, we’re using art to build awareness. And even if there is a dam being built, it’s a living history, and we feel it’s important to tell the story of the Peace Region.”
The next day, she joined nearly 400 other people in the 11th annual Paddle for the Peace, organized by the West Moberly First Nations and the Peace Valley Environment Association.
Besides that day’s release of visual materials and the EP, with proceeds earmarked for the Treaty 8 First Nations’ legal battle against Site C, Miss Quincy and the Showdown performed at the After Paddle event.
Four days later, the blues/rock trio (which includes Jessie Robertson on bass and Jen Foster on drums) released a new single and video, “Remind Me of Myself,” a follow-up to its gritty 2014 album, Roadside Recovery.
Peck’s grandparents had a country band that played up and down the Alaska Highway “at rodeos and Legions and weddings,” which influenced her own style of writing and performing.
“It’s still kind of apparent in my music today, even though it’s thrashed out and I play more rock ‘n’ roll and it’s bluesy, it still has that bluesy, rootsy, country thing to it.”
She is also no stranger to the challenges of being a musician on the go.
“Basically, I hit the road about eight or nine years ago, and I haven’t really stopped since,” she says. “Through that time there’ve been many incarnations of the band. We toured so hard for so many years, we wore a few people out. But the girls that I play with now, it just works.”
Although she now lives in Vancouver, Peck’s heart is in Peace River country. She is also no stranger to the Yukon.
“I spent about seven years working in hunting camps up the Dempster Highway and in the Pelly Mountains. I’m a bush camp cook. My family has been doing it for generations.”
Peck values the chance to break the patterns of day-to-day life and get away from telephones and the internet.
“I use a completely different skill set working in the bush than I do when I’m on the road playing music. And I find it gives me perspective,” she says. “Sometimes you can be really trying to get something done, but it just doesn’t seem to be working. Then, when you spend some time away from it, you can clearly see why it wasn’t working.”
After years of playing “dirty” bars and various concert venues, Peck professes a particular fondness for music festivals.
“We love playing festivals, not just because you have this amazing performance opportunity, but because of all of the other musicians there,” she says. “It can be so inspiring; I find that the musicians perform at a higher level, because everybody is trying to impress each other.”
While this is the first time she has performed at the Dawson City Music Festival, she has attended it previously, and has several friends who are going this year.
“There’s a band that we’re good friends with called the Wet Secrets, out of Edmonton, so that’s going to be really fun.”
The Dawson City Music Fest (www.DCMF.com) runs from Friday, July 22 to Sunday, July 24. Miss Quincy and the Showdown are scheduled to close out the opening ceremonies on Friday, then give a late night performance on the main stage on Saturday.
“It’s a big summer for us, because we’re playing late night main stage sets all summer.”
To learn more about the My Peace River project and the Site C dam, go to www.MyPeaceRiver.ca.