A special international jam session is hitting a patio and water surface near you this weekend to honour the memory of a beloved area musician.
Todd Summer of International Falls was a well-known fixture in the Fort Frances-International Falls music scene, a talented multi-instrumentalist who played with a number of area bands over the years, including as a keyboard player for local favourites The Poor Boys. Following his passing in March of this year, two of his friends and fellow musicians began thinking up ways to celebrate his legacy.
Dave Ashworth and Cliff Pidlubny dreamed up what they’re calling the Can-Am International Lake Jam to honour Summer. The event is a cross-border initiative that will bring live music back in a big way by setting up two complementary stages across from each other on Rainy Lake and letting the music flow out over the water to be enjoyed by diners, boaters and anyone else who wants to listen in.
“Most of us haven’t played in over a year and a half, so we’re calling it a jam,” Pidlubny said.
“The main idea of it was kind of like what we did in Nestor Falls for Wake the Bay. People out on the boats listening and watching. Pull up to the docks to get some food.”
Ashworth said the plan has had to change a little bit since its initial inception, when they thought they might be able to set up on either side of the river near the Sorting Gap Marina. A lack of electrical access on the American side of the border forced them to look elsewhere, and they eventually settled on La Place Rendez-Vous for the Canadian side of things, and Looney’s Brew in Ranier, Minn. Regardless of where it was being held, the origins of the plan always came back to Summer.
“Todd passed away March 8 of this year,” Ashworth said.
“Cliff and I ended up talking to each other about a day or two later on the phone in total shock and disbelief. I think I said that in different times we’d have a big jam with all the Canadian and American musicians, but we can’t because it’s during a pandemic.”
Pidlubny said one other initial thought was to hook bands and performers up on two barges to have the music on the water on either side of the international border, but that proved to be too difficult to implement. Still, Ashworth said Summer would have gotten a kick out of that plan.
“He built his own pontoon boat and wired it for a PA system,” Ashworth said.
“He was a genius type guy. ‘Inspector Gadget’ we called him, because he built everything.”
The plan now is for music to start on the Canadian side, with performers taking to the stage on Saturday from 2:00 p.m. until 4:30 p.m., before the live music shifts to Looney’s from 4:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. and then back to the Rendez-Vous from 5:30 p.m. until about 9:00 p.m. This back and forth will give the jam an international bent, something that is as close as possible to both sides of the border playing together, considering continuing border restrictions make an in-person jam session impossible at this time. Still, it will allow for listeners to take a seat at either of the local restaurants to enjoy the music. However, more adventurous music-lovers can also enjoy both concerts by taking to the waters and hanging out on the lake between the two venues.
It’s something of a return to form for musicians who have been mostly unable to play in public over the past year and a half. While fishing tournaments and other public events usually feature musicians, or a band or two, the COVID-19 restrictions have made such events impossible to put on. This event will bring together musicians and bands like Paul LeMesurier, the Nite Hawk Band, Thinking of Pinky, Kings of None, and a Poor Boys tribute featuring previous members of the Poor Boys and other guest musicians.
“There’s a couple of other guys I won’t mention,” Ashworth said.
“Everybody’s doing a little bit of homework.”
As much as the event is a good opportunity for musicians to get back to doing their thing, Ashworth and Pidlubny stressed that it is first and foremost a tribute to Summer, an event inspired by him and his legacy.
“He was a real humble guy and he probably wouldn’t want ‘The Todd Summer First Memorial Jam,'” Ashworth said.
“That’s why we thought of the Can-Am Jam,” Pidlubny continued.
“We’re hoping next year we can actually do it together.”
Ontario will have only just recently moved to Step 2 of the reopening plan by July 3, which will allow for a maximum of six people seated at a table in outdoor dining areas, so Ashworth and Pidlubny are encouraging people to go early to La Place Rendez-Vous and Looney’s in order to get themselves a seat. Taking to the lake, though, will be a more flexible option, so no matter how you do it, get ready for an afternoon full of live music at the Can-Am International Lake Jam.
For more information on the event, as well as a more detailed breakdown of the afternoon’s planned setlist, visit the Can-Am International Lake Jam page on Facebook.