Down in Peterborough Chris Culgin (guitar, fiddle & vocals) of the band called the Avenues is wondering about the daylight situation when we connect on July 15.
At nearly a month past Solstice I can’t promise him the full Midnight Sun experience when he and the rest of the band get to Dawson on June 28. On the other hand, they’ll be playing at the Midnight Sun tavern for four nights, so maybe I can after all.
The Avenues will be playing at Tippler’s in Whitehorse on the 26 and 27 before coming to Dawson, and that will be after a two day drive from Calgary, so they may be too tired to notice the state of the midnight sky anyway.
The band takes its name from an area of Peterborough, a former suburb (circa 1895-1915), which is now seen as a heritage district.
“I guess we’ve all sort of lived there,” Culgin says.
Asking him my next question makes it obvious why they changed their name from the County Boys moniker that he and Benj Rowland (banjo, bass pedals and vocals) used when they were a duo and travelled around the country doing concerts and busking.
“Everybody kept calling us the Country Boys,” he said, making me realize that I had just done that.
“There’s still some repertoire from the County Boys, but we’re writing a bunch of new material as well.”
When they added Josh Fewings (drums) and become a trio, they changed their name. Since completing their recent self-titled CD, they have added Sean Conway (electric guitar and vocals), making their live sound similar to that on the album, where they had been joined by a sideman.
In its current format the band has been together for two years. Benj and Chris have played together longer than that, though – they started back in high school.
“We once went all the way out to Edmonton, just busking. A lot of our writing style comes from those days. You have to be pretty energetic and loud to catch peoples’ attention on the street.”
As for subject matter, the titles suggest a interesting set of experiences: “Car Crash”, “Road Kill”, “Never Learned to Read” and “Troubles”, to name a few, are intriguing.
“We write about what we know. We’re also influenced by traditional music. We take that and make our own arrangements. ‘Wild Bill Jones’ on the record is a traditional song we arranged. Our show is original and what we didn’t actually write we put our own spin on.”
When they leave Dawson it will be to return to Whitehorse and a one-night stand at the Rock Pub on August 2, before moving on to Prince Rupert.
That’s a lot of driving for four guys and their equipment in a van. They also plan to do a bit of camping along the away to save money, so they’ll be packing tents for everybody.
The complete tour began in Cambellford, Ontario, on July 15 and will take them to the Edge of the World Festival on Haida Gwaii before they begin the reverse circuit back to Toronto.
Culgin is very excited about the western leg of their tour.
“Dawson and the festival are my climax for sure on this tour. I’ve never been up to Dawson, so I’m super excited about that.”
After 32 years teaching in rural Yukon schools, Dan Davidson retired from that profession but continues writing about life in Dawson City.