Dream Café back on track

Award-winning Canadian vocalist Shakura S
Award-winning Canadian vocalist Shakura S'Aida returns to the Dream Music Festival now heading into its third year starting May 12.
— image credit: Submitted photo

After a heartfelt response from the community, the world-famous Dream Café in Penticton is back on track and moving forward.

For the third year in a row the Dream Music Festival is bringing top-tier talent to Penticton with Russel deCarle, Big Dave McLean, Steve Dawson, the return of Shakura S’Aida and more.

As always, the legendary bluesman, Jim Byrnes is set to host.

“He would like to be the host for as long as he physically can,” said Pierre Couture, who owned the café with his partnerDebra Rice prior to turning it over to a co-op in 2015.

The two are still very much involved in the Dream, and Couture said he’s had more time to enjoy the music since stepping back to deal with some health issues.

Couture said Big Dave McLean is one of his favourite blues guys in the country and this year’s festival has more focus on blues than in years past.

“It’s mostly blues this time, which is a bit different from the other ones,” Couture said. “Shakura, I think people will remember her from last year. We got lucky to have her again a second time.”

Sticking with the stage band format, the festival features an interchanging band with a few familiar characters includingJerry Cook, Chris Nordquist and the addition of bass player Bernie Addington originally out of the U.K. but now making his home in Kelowna.

One of Canada’s prized producers and performers with 18 Juno nominations and seven wins, Steve Dawson, is taking on the role of stage manager for the festival as well as performing. Dawson, originally a Vancouver native, now works as a producer and solo artist in Nashville running The Henhouse studio.

“He does amazing work with so many people so being a stage manager he’s really good at,” Rice said. “He’s magic, he also plays slide guitar, guitar any kind of instrument. Very, very talented.”

While the Dream Café has gone through some changes, one thing will never change for Couture.

“I’m always excited about good music,” Couture said. “I’ll always be excited about the festival, always. Gives me a little more time now because I’m spending less time at the restaurant.”

Dream back on track

The Penticton arts and music community clearly communicated they did not want the Dream Café to go away.

After operations were suspended on Oct. 1, 2015 due to some cash-flow problems, the venue is now officially re-opening in February for show nights only.

Rice said over $10,000 was donated to the Dream from the much-loved Leonard Cohen tribute show put on by 10 local musicians at the Cleland Theatre in December. The show sold out two nights organized by Penticton poet Shane Koyczan. Music lovers also made their way out to multiple fundraising shows held at the Dream Café.

“So we had enough to keep paying rent and our staff donated all their time. People worked for free for our fundraisers, so we kept going and kept going,” Rice said. “We needed a wake-up call because we were out of control and nobody was really at the head of our finances. We just hit some bumps.”

Rice said many co-op members came out to two general meetings, the most recent held on Jan. 29.

“We got swamped with way more people than normal at meetings because they all really cared, they all really wanted it to be open,” Rice said “There’s a want there. I believe the arts community is still behind us and even though we’ve stumbled and fumbled.”

The efforts, donated time and community support were enough to keep the music coming to the Dream into another year,leaving the possibility for a full re-opening in the future.

“We’re going to carry on and hopefully open for some meals in the spring/summer months of tourism, but we haven’t decided yet what that’s going to be,” Rice said.

While the re-opening begins today (Feb. 1), the support is still much needed, Rice said, mostly by doing what the DreamCafé does best, hosting high-level talent in Penticton .

“We need people to come and get their bums in the seats and help us keep going,” Rice said.

It was a tough year to try and take on a festival facing financial issues, but thanks to a longtime co-op member, the DreamMusic Festival is moving ahead and bringing some funds to the co-op as well.

“Because we went to that insolvent point, it scared everybody. A lot of the board members were not excited about doing the festival. Nobody really wanted to gamble money on doing a big thing,” Rice said.

Co-op member Brian Chadwick is financing a majority of festival with a percentage of the money made going to the co-op.

The Dream Café officially re-opens today (Feb. 1) with four nights of pianist Ben Waters from Feb. 1 to 4. Tickets are $55 for premium seating and $40 for side seating. The Dream Music Festival brings the café’s famed atmosphere to thePenticton Trade and Convention Centre on May 12 and 13. For more information visit www.thedreammusicfestival.ca orwww.thedreamcafe.ca.


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