‘Tour de Fort’ reveals lineup for new season

Duane Hicks

“Tour de Fort” wrapped up its 2017-18 entertainment series in style last Wednesday night with “Dirty Dishes,” at which time the exciting lineup for its new season starting this October was unveiled.
And passport sales already are off to a brisk start.
The 2018-19 series will include Irish Mythen (Oct. 16), 54-40 (Nov. 11), Boreal (Dec. 7), The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer (Jan. 17), Don Ross and Calum Graham (Feb. 7), and Ryan McNally (March 22).
Passports went on sale last Wednesday evening, and currently are available online at www.tourdefort.com/tickets.php or at From the Grind Up on Scott Street.
Passports cost $110 for all six shows (less than $20 per show) until Sept. 1, at which time they go up to $135 (if there are any left by then).
Last year, they sold out before the end of the early-bird period.
“Our initial passport blitz was very successful,” said John Payne, “Tour de Fort” programming and hospitality director, who shares in the programming duties with his wife and “Tour de Fort” secretary, Sheri.
“I don’t have a final number of what we sold so far but we are estimating that we sold around 100 passports already,” he noted.
“With that much support already, all signs are pointing to another sell-out this season.”
The Paynes have had the chance to see all the acts booked for the 2018-19 season and are very excited about the upcoming lineup, which is very diverse and covers several genres.
Payne offered a few comments about each one, starting with Irish-born Canadian contemporary folk singer-songwriter Irish Mythen (Oct. 16).
“Sheri and I saw Irish Mythen showcase at Ontario Contact in Petrolia, Ont. this past fall, and were instantly drawn in by her incredibly powerful voice and fantastic story-telling ability,” he recalled.
“Her command of the audience is unmatched.”
Next up is “An Evening with 54-40 Unplugged: Songs & Stories” (Nov. 11).
“We are very excited to have 54-40 in our lineup this season,” enthused Payne.
“They are Canadian music icons and have been nominated for multiple Junos, won a MuchMusic Video Award for best video, and were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame,” he noted.
“With instantly-recognizable hits like ‘Ocean Pearl,’ ‘I Go Blind,’ ‘One Gun,’ ‘She-La,’ and more re-arranged in an acoustic setting, this will be a very memorable show,” Payne promised.
Boreal (Dec. 7) is a trio of women with powerful voices who will perform winter-themed original songs and holiday classics.
“Even though we have hosted Boreal two years ago, this show was one of our most talked about and most loved,” said Payne.
“The kindness of the three women, Jude Vadala, Katherine Wheatley, and Tannis Slimmon, comes across in their show,” he noted.
“This, combined with their lush vocals and incredible harmonies, sets the mood for Christmas and the winter season.”
The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer (Jan. 17) is a blues show that “Tour de Fort” really advocated for in its block meetings with the other communities in Northwestern Ontario.
“We saw the band showcase two years ago and could not get them in to our lineup for this past season, but are thankful that everything worked out this year,” said Payne, adding their latest album, “Apocalipstick,” is “fantastic.”
Don Ross and Calum Graham (Feb. 7), meanwhile, are two of the most talented finger-style guitarists in the world today.
“Watching them play the guitar is mesmerizing and having the opportunity to have them both on our stage at the same time is beyond exciting,” Payne enthused.
The season will close out with jazz/blue artist Ryan McNally (March 22).
“I was lucky enough to attend Folk Music Ontario in the fall as a delegate and that is where I was met Ryan McNally,” Payne recalled.
“I was instantly drawn to him from the beginning of his showcase, and was fortunate to meet with him to discuss bringing him and his band to our series.
“His ability to present original material in a classic New Orleans hillbilly blues and jug band jazz style is incredible,” he added.
“His album, ‘Steppin’ Down South,’ has quickly become one of my favourites, and I am very happy that we will be able to share this artist with our ‘Tour de Fort’ audience.”
As for the 2017-18 season, Payne said it was noteworthy for several reasons.
“This past season was a great experience for us,” he remarked. “It was the first time in a long time that the series sold out, and that opened a lot of other opportunities for us.
“We were able to partner with ‘Kids and Company’ and the Rainy River District School Board to host [the] ‘Prisoner of Tehran’ show for the high school students, a demographic that is generally missed since they fall between the children’s series and ‘Tour de Fort,'” Payne noted.
“We hosted an additional show with the Cape Breton Island band, ‘Pretty Archie,’ at the Copper River Inn in March,” he added.
“This opened up our series to a group that included many people that are not currently passport-holders.
“We also worked with the school board to present the ‘Dirty Dishes’ to classes ranging from Early Learning to Grade 3 [on Thursday morning],” he added.
Payne stressed how impressive the response was to this past season.
“We have an incredible committee that makes all of the work that goes into presenting these shows worthwhile,” he lauded.
“This really is a team effort and the response from this community is overwhelming,” Payne added.
“The support that we receive from or ever-growing list of sponsors and our audiences is unbelievable.
“We could not present this series without everyone’s support, and hope to keep this series going for years to come,” he concluded.