Play Makers: Frostbite turns 35…

The Yukon music festival first funded by Mel Orecklin’s credit card in 1979 is set to celebrate its 35th annual event later this month and in true Frostbite Music Festival fashion the weekend promises to be as unique and eclectic as ever.

“This is unlike any festival I’ve ever been to,” explains first year producer Stacey MacLean. “There isn’t a theme to the weekend, be it blues or folk, which is so unusual and so fantastic.

“I don’t think there are too many places where you could pull that off, but Whitehorse is such an accepting community. Year after year Frostbite does (pull it off).”

Looking at the list of past Frostbite musicians is a sign of the kind of musical smorgasbord that can be expected, with the likes of Sarah McLachlan, Ani DiFranco and k.d. lang as noted alumni.

This year includes the likes of Ottawa-based First Nation electronic group A Tribe Called Red who fuse their traditional music with instrumental hip-hop, reggae and dub-step. They’ll be sharing the main stage with the popular Juno Award nominated indie rock band Hollerado, also from Ottawa.

“Hollerado should be super fun and I know Frostbite has been trying to get them for some time,” says MacLean. “Friends of mine have told me their live show is like no other so I’m very excited about them, but to be honest I’m really excited about the whole weekend.”

If its mid-February-in-the-Yukon vibe isn’t original enough, the venues for Frostbite include a college gymnasium, cafeteria and wood shop.

“The three venues are so different,” said MacLean. “With the daytime workshops and the music all night at three different spaces, the whole college is going to be a magnetic area.”

And as it has been since its inception – the festival’s lifeline is its local support in form of performers, board members and volunteers.

There’s even a committee that organizes home cooked meals for the artists.

MacLean says the community enthusiasm for Frostbite has made her transition to festival producer that much smoother.

“Everyday I get at least five volunteer emails from people wanting to help out,” said MacLean. “I can’t get over the amount of people wanting to assist, it’s been so incredible.”

As for big changes this year, not much is planned aside from the new line-up of artists — a testament to the work of longtime artistic director Eric Epstein and former producer Andrea Burgoyne who is now working with the popular Winnipeg Folk Festival.

“Andrea and Eric did such a good job building the festival, so why change it,” smiles MacLean. “If it works it works.”

The 35th annual Frostbite Music Festival runs February 15-17 at the Yukon College.

Tickets are available now at the Yukon Arts Centre and Arts Underground. The Frostbite Schedule is available online at

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