The organizers of the first Can-Am International Lake Jam couldn’t have asked for a better Saturday for a tribute concert, even as the temperature soared.
The event, held in honour of International Falls musician Todd Summer, is being heralded as a success as dozens of musicians crossed the stage set up at La Place Rendez-Vous and filled the air with live music for the first time in more than a year.
Dave Ashworth, one of the events organizers, said the whole day wound up being perfect for their needs.
“It just ended up being a perfect day,” Ashworth said.
“The place was busy all day. The weather obviously cooperated, and there was a lot of boat traffic out front in the bay. The Rendez-Vous were hard-working as ever. Between the Rendez-Vous, staff, musicians and everybody who showed up, it was just a perfect day.”
The jam was dreamed up by Ashworth and Cliff Pidlubny following Summer’s passing in March, with the original hope to be able to host musicians on both sides of the border in person, but the continuing COVID restrictions made that impossible. Eventually it was decided the jam would be split between the Rendez-Vous in Fort Frances and Looney’s Brew in Ranier, allowing for musicians on both sides of the border to take part in a distanced fashion. After all was said and done, Ashworth estimates between 15 and 20 people took part in the jam, which lasted from 2:00 p.m. until just around 9:00 p.m. that night.
“Aside from wanting to get out and play live again due to the pandemic, there was a real respect and love for our friend Todd,” Ashworth said.
In addition to the musicians themselves, Ashworth said he saw a good mix of older and younger faces in the crowd, something he chalked up to those who were familiar with the musicians and bands that took part in the tribute jam, and those who were just looking to get out and have a good afternoon of live music and food at the Vous. He noted there were also several boats that spent time on the water just out from the restaurant, with many of them stopping off at the dock for a bite to eat or something to drink as the afternoon progressed.
“The audience was appreciative and the staff at the Rendez-Vous were amazing,” he said.
“They were hustling all day and they were great too. Everybody was happy and it was just a really nice event to have.”
Even with scorching summer temperatures kicking off the month, the worst that Ashworth had to say about Saturday’s forecast was that it left some participants a little more red than they had been that morning, but the location again worked out in everyone’s favour.
“The nice thing about the Rendez-Vous deck where we played is that by suppertime the shade starts to come,” Ashworth said.
“It’s a little bit of built-in shade later in the night, so it was a good combination. Very hot in the afternoon. It was a long day for the musicians, we were there bright and early in the morning setting up under the sun, but it was nothing a cold drink and a little bit of food can’t cure.”
In a previous conversation, Ashworth and Pidlubny had explained that Summer, a talented multi-instrumentalist who played with several bands in the area, was also a private and humble person who might have balked at the entire event being named in his honour. However, Ashworth said the current plan is to continue to host the international jam in his honour in years to come to recognize the impact he had on the scene, and bring like-minded musicians together to play and have a good time.
“As far as a jam in honour of Todd, I think that will be a yearly thing,” he said.
“We’re not sure where or how we’re going to do it, but it will be done either on this side or that side [of the border] or a combination of both.”
However, while the next Can-Am International Lake Jam might be a full calendar year away, the proverbial cat is now out of the bag when it comes to the return of live music in the area. Ashworth hinted he’s begun conversations with interested parties to hold a few more events before the summer is out.
“There should be some things happening this summer,” he said. “There’s more to come, so stay tuned.”
There were certainly risks involved in putting this event together. Any number of things could have gone sideways; the weather, the attendees, a sudden re-strengthening of COVID regulations. However, everything came together the way they were supposed to for showtime. Moreover, even early on in proceedings, it was clear the jam was a necessary thing, both for an audience desperate for a return to normalcy with friends and family in a safe social space, as well as for area musicians who have gone too long without being able to play together, and have found themselves a valued member short. Ashworth said it was well worth the effort, and extended his thanks to all of the musicians, volunteers, friends, attendees and Rendez-Vous staff who helped make the event the success that it was.
“Overall it was great, and it turned out as good, if not better than I had expected,” he said.