We awoke at Twin Lakes eager to get to Dawson, and by eating lunch on the road (actually in the bus, because it was raining a bit) we were rolling into town at 4pm, right on schedule. The road from Whitehorse to Dawson is only about 450 km, but my parents allow seven hours to travel it; there is always construction, and it's not all exactly what you'd call paved. The scenery wasn't quite as stunning as previous days, because there are often just trees on both sides of the road. That's only where there hasn't been a forest fire in the last 30 years, though, and there are helpful signs telling you when the last fire was in various parts, so you can see just how little has a chance to regrow in five years in this climate.
The music festival was set to begin at the gazebo on the waterfront at 4pm, but as we drove into town there was no sign of life there. We went to our campground and checked in, walked over to exchange our tickets for wristbands, and found that due to the rain, all gazebo events were moved to the Oddfellows Hall. So, off we trooped back there, to find a lineup out the door. We had missed the first group, and stood on the stairs to listen to Julie Doiron, who didn't strike us particularly either way on first listening. We managed to get into the hall and stand at the back for Justin Rutledge, who we've heard before, since he's from Toronto. Apparently NOW Magazine declared him "Toronto's best songwriter" recently, and that may be true, but he's no Jonathan Byrd or John K. Samson. The final half-hour segment was Basia Bulat (pronounced BASH-a Boo-LAT), from London, Ontario. I got the feeling she was going to be the festival darling just from the three songs she played. I guess the DCMF-goers like their music a bit "out there", based on the way they loved Owen Pallett two years ago, and she bears it out too - although I saw her playing piano and guitar, her main instrument is the autoharp, and along with drums, the two other bandmates play viola and an eight-stringed ukelele. A strange mix, but her songs were infectious toe-tappers, and she's just so young and full of excitement on stage that it's hard not to smile along with her.
Back at the bus we set up and had some supper, and then it was off to the tent and the main stage for the evening. Evening main stage tends to be a bit loud at the beginning and a lot loud at the end, with the more rock-oriented bands on stage and more dancing in front. The starting act was the Tr'ondek Hwech'in Singers, from the local First Nations, who were involved in the festival for the first time. They sang a few traditional welcoming and celebratory songs, knowing enough to leave the crowd wanting more. Next up were "Plaid", a Whitehorse band of young guys in plaid shirts. They were must have been there to get the crowd warmed up, and there's always a good smattering of Whitehorse bands at the festival; it gets the Whitehorse community up to the festival, I guess. These guys have been trying to channel the old 70's rock bands (they started with Cream's "I'm so Glad", but they need to practice a bit more. And maybe learn to sing. Julie Doiron was next, and one woman with a guitar doesn't really follow a rock band well, even if she does have a drummer accompanying her. She's supposed to be an amazing songwriter, but I couldn't make out any lyrics, and remained unimpressed.
Lest it seem I don't like any of the festival music, from all my negative comments, let me reassure you that I loved the next act; Belle Orchestre. I don't have any idea how to describe them. Instrumental only, from Montreal; it's what I always imagined when someone mentions a 'soundscape'. The crowd loved it too, and blissfully danced away in their own little trances (by then it was 10pm and the beer garden had been open for a while). The last act we saw that night were called Immaculate Machine, and have been compared to the New Pornographers; I didn't think they were nearly as good, and I was tired of hearing people who couldn't play their instruments very well and couldn't sing very well either, so we went back to the bus to sleep.
It drizzled rain off and on all day, and the unpaved streets of Dawson were wet and very muddy. Everyone had light-coloured mud spattered on the back of their pants after a few minutes of walking, and we saw lots of people wearing rubber boots. I was reminded how much I like the town every few minutes when I saw familiar buildings and views from the last trip. Our campground is on Fifth St, which is the same street the main location of the festival. We just have to walk about ten minutes from our bus to be in the main tent, which is pretty convenient; we plan to leave the bus parked and set up for the whole weekend.
Total so far: 6663km, and no driving for the next two days!