As its 30th season approaches, Tour De Fort unveiled its lineup set to begin next fall at the second to last concert of the 2022-2023 season.
Tour De Fort President Charles Fisher says the fact that the annual concert series has reached 30 years is a testament to the community members who attend the concerts and those who continue to sponsor events.
“Tour de Fort had humble beginnings and after 30 years has shown that it can stand the test of time. As it has grown and expanded, it has become a real fixture in the community, and that is something that all of the many volunteers over the years can be really proud of,” Fisher said. “There have been some lean times for us as an organization. Going through COVID was very tough, and a lot of organizations like ours, and a lot of performance venues across Canada unfortunately didn’t make it through. We’re really fortunate to have been able to make it through all of the lockdowns and be able to continue bringing live entertainment to Fort Frances and the Rainy River District. We couldn’t have survived without the support of our sponsors, and especially all of the great people who have continued to buy passports and tickets and support the performing arts in our community.”
Ahead of the show featuring the Derina Harvey Band, Fisher introduced a video of some past Tour De Fort performers congratulating the concert series on the milestone. The video included greetings from members of My Son The Hurricane, Chantal Kreviazuk and John-Angus MacDonald from the Trews among others.
Following the well wishes another video announced the lineup for the 2023-2024 season.
The season will kick off on Sep. 20 with a show by The Rowdymen, a group consisting of Newfoundlanders Gerry Finn and Greg Hawco and renowned singer George Maswhold. Hawco and Maswhold met when they were both part of the Canadian cast of ‘Come From Away’ in Toronto. Finn is well known around Canada as won a Juno and toured and recorded with Killer Dwarfs, Iron Maiden, and Bruce Cockburn. According to their bio “THE ROWDYMEN have curated a rich blend of traditional, contemporary, and original Newfoundland music that evokes the unique custom and spirit of the land and her people.”
The second show is Sultans of String, they will be bringing with them a multimedia presentation like nothing seen before called “Walking Through Fire.” From Métis fiddling to an East Coast Kitchen Party, Rumba to Rock, to the drumming of the Pacific Northwest, experience the beauty and diversity of music from Turtle Island/Canada with Alyssa Delbaere-Sawchuk (Métis Fiddler Quartet, Amanda Rheaume), Ojibwe/Finnish Singer-songwriter Marc Meriläinen (Nadjiwan), and Coast Tsm’syen Elder and singer-songwriter Shannon Thunderbird, along with virtual guests on the big screen including Elder of the Global Village Dr. Duke Redbird, 9 time Grammy nominees Northern Cree, and more.”
The headliner for the series next year, playing on Nov. 7 is former Barenaked Ladies frontman Steven Page with his Steven Page Trio. “Along with pals Craig Northey of The Odds on guitar and Kevin Fox on cello, the Steven Page Trio performs music from Page’s time with the Barenaked Ladies, as well as from his solo career.”
January 19 brings Belle Plaine to the Townshend Theatre stage. Plaine is a singer-songwriter who grew up in a small Saskatchewan town with a population of 45. Her style doesn’t fit within a single genre of music, but is a combination of vintage blues and swing out of the 1940s while also incorporating classic country styles popular in the glory days of the Grand Ole Opry.
April 8 features a double bill of The Johnny Max Band and the Weber Brothers. Johnny Max Band has been around for over 25 years. They have seven albums, two Juno nominations and have won multiple Maple Blues Awards. The Weber Brothers came up under Rockabilly legend Ronnie Hawkins, by the ages of 18 and 21 they had already performed with other legends like Kris Kristofferson, Jeff Healey and The Tragically Hip. In addition to their own solo work they have performed as studio musicians for hundreds of others including Gordon Lightfoot and Willie Nelson.
The season wraps up on April 30 with Angelique Francis. Hailing from Ottawa Francis made her US national TV debut on the Oprah Winfrey Network’s Gayle King Show for which she wrote and performed the theme song. “Her 2022 release Long River established her as a bona fide star on the Canadian Blues, Soul, Jazz, and Folk scene, catapulting her to a slew of award nominations in 2022 and 2023 including a Folk Music Ontario award, a Canadian Folk Music award, four Maple Blues Awards – of which she took home Best New Artist and Bassist of the Year – and capped off with her first JUNO Award win for Blues Album of the Year.”
Before the new season begins, Tour De Fort has one remaining show in the ‘22-’23 series featuring Bywater Call. Look for an article about the upcoming show in a future edition of the Fort Frances Times.
Fisher says the way Tour De Fort has grown over its 30 year lifespan has enabled the committee to bring in larger acts.
“We’re incredibly excited to be bringing these artists to Townshend Theatre for our 30th anniversary concert series,” Fisher said. “As we have grown over the years we have been able to attract bigger names to town, and it’s going to be a real treat to have someone like Steven Page headlining this year’s series. The entire lineup is made up of great performers and entertainers, and we’re really lucky to be able to have these award winning artists visit our community.”
In addition to growing the series, Tour De Fort has been able to expand beyond its regular season. This year the committee has sponsored several concerts outside the initial six shows announced this year. In a first for Tour De Fort they are taking over the Big Tent at the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship this summer.
On Thursday, Jul 20, Skye Wallace and Goodnight Sunrise will take to the stage for a rock ‘n’ roll dance party. Wallace and her band were in town for a well-recieved show at La Place Rendez-Vous last fall. Goodnight Sunrise is an alternative rock band from Toronto.
Tickets for the upcoming Tour De Fort shows including Bywater Call, Skye Wallace and Goodnight Sunrise under the tent and passports for the ‘23-’24 season are available on Eventbrite at https://fftimes.com/tourdefort.