One of the perks of finding success in the music business is having people to take care of you, said James Murdoch, whose band The Dungarees is playing the Kispiox Valley Music Festival this weekend.
“I don’t even know what our accommodations situation is, to be quite honest,” he said on Thursday, just two days before the band is set to take the stage at the 25th annual event.
“The best thing that’s happened for us lately is being able to show up for a show and worry about the music. I’m not really concerned about the other issues, they’re handled… I know that there’s no real hotels around so we’re probably camping.”
The good thing about camping, he added, is jamming around the campfire after the stage lights have been turned off for the night.
“I love that element, it’s certainly fun, so hopefully we get to take in a little bit of that,” he said.
He’s also looking forward the remote location.
“I know a lot of the guys in the band kind of love being out in the wilderness, so, I don’t know if we’ll have a whole lot of time, but if we get out for a little hike or a swim or something like that, that is a nice added bonus for us.”
For Murdoch, who plays bass and sings, it is a homecoming of sorts.
“I grew up in Whitehorse and when I was 16, my first band, we played at Kispiox, 20-something years ago,” he recalled. “It’s pretty crazy to be back, so I’m actually really excited to be back.”
The Dungarees, who bill themselves as a “true-grit country band” are fresh off an appearance at the Calgary Stampede where they played to 17,000 people, but Murdoch said Kispiox is definitely not a letdown after that.
“It absolutely does not matter the size of the show or where it is or anything like that,” he said.
“We have just as much fun anywhere we go and each show is important to us. People are people anywhere, and if they like music that’s all that matters.”
He said the thrill of a big show like that is fleeting, once the first chord is struck they just fall into the groove.
“It’s the four or five steps up to the stage when you can hear the crowd and then they see you walk up on the stage and it just goes deafening because people are screaming, that is a rush that you can’t really replace, it’s pretty unique and amazing,” he said. “Aside from that, every show is a show… it doesn’t really matter if there’s four people in the crowd or… 17,000 people in the crowd. Playing to one of those big crowds it’s mostly the initial reaction of walking out on that big stage that’s pretty overwhelming and awesome.”
The band is definitely on the rise, however. With multiple Canadian and Alberta Country Music Awards nominations under their belt, Murdoch, Robb Angus (guitar/vocals), Kiron Jhass (guitar/vocals), Darrek Anderson (steel guitar) and Ben Shillabeer (drums), have been invited to some of the biggest festivals in the country music world and to open for country music royalty such as Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, Reba McEntire, Dwight Yoakam and Alabama.
Murdoch said they were surprised by the treatment they got from those big stars.
“The thing about all of those artists is that they’re so genuine and kind and gracious with their time,” he said. “They’re friendly, and none of the artists that we’ve ever worked with are snobby, divas or anything like that, everyone is really welcoming and wants to say ‘hi,’ or pay a compliment to the band or wish us luck as we’re going up on the stage.
“It’s been an eye-opener because before we got the opportunity to do that I think we were a little worried that maybe we weren’t going to be quite as welcomed as we [were], but it was the total opposite of that.”
The Dungarees play Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. on the River Stage. Murdoch said the audience should have their dancing boots at the ready.
The thing about the band is we like to think of ourselves as a fun band,” he said. “There’s a lot of high energy. We don’t really play a lot of down-tempo stuff, so up-tempo, sort of danceability, and it’s kind of got a throwback retro country vibe to it. So, if people like old-school country and rock and roll roots, that kind of thing, that’s where we fit in.”
They will also be fitting themselves into the audience, he said, noting Five Alarm Funk as one of the acts they are looking forward to.
“Those guys are fun, for sure,” he said. “I’m pretty excited to see all of it, I love music and Kiron, the guitar player in the band is crazy about festivals and taking in multiple genres of music, so I’m sure we’re both going to have a good time.
The festival starts tonight (July 26) at 7 p.m. with Don Alder opening on the main stage and runs until Sunday at 7 p.m. Inuit/First Nations/folk-rock duo Twin Flames is scheduled to close out the weekend.