At the Alsek Music Festival in Haines Junction, the Whiskey Dicks took to the stage, sharply dressed in suits, and proceeded to rock the crowd for an hour an a half.
It is a band that exudes more energy on — and off — stage than most.
Skilled musicians, The Whiskey Dicks play original tunes, crowd-pleasing covers and songs dedicated to Yukon beer.
Getting ready to launch its new CD, get’er done, the Whiskey Dicks are journeying back home to play at this year’s Sunstroke Festival this weekend.
The band’s lead singer and guitarist is Ryan Enns. Patrick Ernst plays the fiddle and Curtis Ernst plays cello.
All three hail from Whitehorse.
Joined by Prince Rupert native Mike Bell on drums, accordion and vox, all the current band members are full-time musicians and not only on stage: “We’re almost out of school now and ready to take over the world,” says Enns in a phone interview.
“We have nearly a dozen post-secondary music degrees and diplomas between us now so I think it’s time to stop being students.”
Enns has a master’s degree in guitar, with a focus on South American music. Patrick Ernst is nearly finished a degree in jazz studies at Capilano College. He plays nearly every night in a variety of groups ranging from flamenco troupes to mariachi bands and Celtic jazz-fusion ensembles.
Bell just finished his composition degree at UBC and fronts his own band called The Living.
And Curtis Ernst is currently studying music at Capilano College in North Vancouver.
“Curtis also loves heavy metal and shreds it on his cello,” says Enns. He, Patrick Ernst and Bell also teach music and have roughly 30 students each.
Living in the city full time and taking years and years of musical education has helped the group expand its musical horizons.
Taking its new CD, get ‘er done, into new directions, the members are inspired with everything from Yukon beer to Mary Poppins and from the Godfather to Johannes Brahms.
“We have branched out in a huge way and also cleaned up our sound a bit,” says Enns, a smile clearly in his voice. “I now sing more than I shout; shouting worked fine when we were only playing once a month but these days we sometimes play a dozen or more gigs in a month and shouting as I once did would turn my throat into an open wound after a weekend.”
The Whiskey Dicks are pushing through its Irish/Celtic band categorization and adding to it.
Whether it’s original tunes, the stories told, the 80s covers resurrected or playing the theme from old Super Mario, when heard live, the Dicks deliver a toe-stomping dance party.
“Our rule is that we only play covers that we like or, if a true fan really wants to hear something lame, we’ll play it our own way and make it interesting, says Enns.
“We play metal covers as bossa-novas and punk tunes like they were written by Garth Brooks. That way, our audience hears something familiar, but new, and we don’t feel like we’re compromising our credibility as a band.
“I don’t think any of us could imagine doing anything else, we love what we do and we don’t plan to stop. We stick together and we have similar tastes in music, but I think it’s our differences that keep our band dynamic fresh,” says Enns.
“We’re always looking for new ground to break and there’s a whole lot to be found. I think that’s what keeps us going.”
Zoe Robertson will be joining the Dicks onstage for its CD Release and the Sunstroke show. Robertson has recently returned from London, England, where she was studying violin at the London Conservatory.
Whiskey Dicks will perform at Sunstroke Friday, June 20, at 11 p.m. and then Saturday at Coasters Bar & Grill from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Ryan Enns will perform solo at Arts in the Park at Lepage Park on Monday, June 23, at noon.