You never quite know how the monthly coffee house/open mic sessions in the KIAC ballroom at the Odd Fellows Hall are going to go.
For several months recently the evenings have started out with Peter Menzies leading a group of young fiddlers in an increasingly complicated set of tunes. Sometimes this is followed by one of the rock groups that have been gestating in music classes at the Robert Service School.
Sometimes there are women ranging from their late teens to middle age providing a selection of tunes that range from current radio fare (Taylor Swift is popular) to ballads from the 40s through to the 90s.
But then there was the opening act on February 4, which was a fellow named Jimmy on an feedback electric guitar presenting a medley of his favorite riffs from Metallica. After that, everything else that night was a little louder than usual.
Even my set of acoustic tunes borrowed from Traffic, Dylan and Cat Stevens echoed back a bit more strongly than I am used to hearing.
Sometimes the hall is crowded and all the tables filled. Other times there aren’t that many folks because a lot of other things are going on. The February 4 event had to compete with a curling bonspiel and two nights of burlesque shows.
Regardless of what else may be happening in town, on the first Saturday of each month during the school year, these events are a regular occurrence.
In the summer, weather and schedules permitting, they move to the gazebo in the Waterfront Park off Front Street and carry on.
The River Bends foursome of Nijen Holland, Clive Betts, Jim Taggart and Ian Nyland is the anchor group for these gatherings, always doing a set of covers and originals, as well as providing a backing band for those who don’t play for themselves, and handling the sound system.
The majority of the performers are guitar playing singers – like me – though a number of them write their own catchy material.
We’ve also had piano recitals on Parks Canada’s Bechstein grand, as well as electronic music and drum performances.
Admission is by donation in the jar at the door, while other funds are raised by the sale of donated goodies at the concession window, staffed by volunteers.
Since I usually arrive just in time to sign up on the whiteboard for a spot in the lineup, I’m not entirely sure what goes into setting the place up, but I can testify that everyone left at the end of the evening pitches in to clean up and put the chairs and tables away.
Aside from having a lot of fun, we use these evenings to raise money for worthy causes. The last one pulled in $124 to help fund the Dawson City Music Festival’s Girls’ Rock Band. In December we took in $210 for the Women’s Shelter, while January’s raised $255 to help the Dawson Food Bank.
The next event is scheduled for March 4 at 7 p.m., and we’ll be raising cash to help with the expenses of running this wonderful venue.