“Ten years we’ve been doing this and we never quite know what’s going to happen each time.”
Nijen Holland (usually just known as Nijen) was quite right when he said this at the conclusion of the latest Coffee House/Open Mic Saturday night at the KIAC Ballroom (formerly known as the Odd Fellows Hall ballroom).
Lately we find out for sure what’s happening as the names go up on the white board next to the performance area at the east end of the ballroom. We do have to make sure the dry erase marker is placed on a speaker, well above the reach of small fingers, or the board can get a bit confused.
Nijen was one of the founders of these monthly events and, except for a few years while he was Victoria, has been a mainstay, along with his partners in the River Bends band, teacher Clive Betts, pastor Ian Nyland and consultant James Taggart.
They used to just play their own material or cover tunes (lots of Neil Young and Pete Townsend), but over the last year they can often be found providing backup for singers or support for young people who are just learning to perform.
Over the last year or so the early parts of the evenings have become a showcase for young people, especially the kids learning to play fiddles as part of the North Klondike Highway Music Society. Also featured have been Betty Davidson’s (yes, my wife) St. Paul’s Youth Choir and a quartet of girls from the Robert Service School.
Aside from that, there’s always a set by River Bends, almost always two or three cover tunes from me and a revolving set of musicians that can see us hosting up to 10 acts during the two- and sometimes three-hour evenings.
Everybody helps to set up the room and tear it down when we’re done for the night, and the goodies at the concession stand are donated by players and audience members. A donation jar sits by the door.
As much as it’s all for fun and to give lots of us an excuse to practice, we also use the evenings to raise money for worthy causes through donations and concession sales.
On April 2 we raised $320 for the Dawson City Food Bank. In March we raised $180 for the Dawson Women’s Shelter. Earlier in the year we raised money to buy some coffee house merch to have something else to sell for fundraising purposes.