Dream Festival kicks off

The Penticton Western News talks to Dream Music Festival host Jim Byrnes prior to the festival May 13 and 14.

The Dream Music Festival kicks off today with 18 musicians set to take the stage to perform, collaborate, see old friends and meet new ones, all with a legendary bluesman at the helm as host.

Actor, musician and all-around artist Jim Byrnes echoed what almost every musician who has performed at the Dream Café has said about the venue, it’s all about the music.

That dedication is a direct reflection of owners Pierre Couture and Debra Rice, who cultivate an atmosphere rarely found outside of the Front Street venue.

Byrnes has played at least once or twice yearly at the Dream Café for the past decade. He recalls that dedication to the performer when he first played there.

“What really stood out was Pierre’s insistence that people were there to hear the music,” Byrnes said. “So many places that you play music is sort of incremental. They’re like social clubs or something. But people have come to the Dream to hear the music.”

He recalls one time when he was performing a man was belligerently yelling out the songs he wanted to hear.

“Pierre just went over, gave him his money and said come back another time, when you’re here to listen and not just spout off. That really impressed me that he was willing to defend us in that way,” Byrnes said. “That’s one of the great things when you go to play at the Dream you know people are there to listen to you. They haven’t come to drink or meet potential dates. They’re there for the music.”

It has become a rarity in this day and age, the experienced performer said, with more venues closing down and opening up at a quicker rate, the music is getting lost in the shuffle.

“It seems like (venues) are more there to sell drinks or sell food than the music. The way the focus is on the music at the Dream is unique. There are other places in the world where you get the same focus, but they are very rare,” Byrnes said.

That intimate, music-loving Dream Café atmosphere is expanding to the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre for two days, coming off of last year’s first-ever Dream festival, which Byrnes hosted as well.

“It came together in such a great way. The sense of community, not only among the musicians, but with all the music lovers in the South Okanagan, I thought it was just spectacular and I look forward to doing it again,” Byrnes said.

The festival not only provides a plethora of great artists for the audience, but Byrnes said the festival has fellow musicians turning into audience members themselves.

“What’s great is that we as working musicians, we often don’t get to hear other people that we love, some we’ve known for years,” Byrnes said. “Often we’ll see that someone is in town, but we’re working that night too,”

He compared the gathering to going home for Thanksgiving, seeing old acquaintances like Tom Wilson, Michael Kaeshammer and Shakura S’Aida. As well, Byrnes said he’s looking forward to meeting Grammy-winner Mike Farris.

The mom and dad at the Thanksgiving-style gathering are Couture and Rice, bringing the musical family together.

“Pierre and Debra have become such great friends (of mine). They treat everyone with such great respect. The place lives up to its name, you can ask any one of the musicians who will be there this weekend, and they will tell you it is in fact a dream,” Byrnes said.

Byrnes said in between narration work, he is putting together some material for a new album.

“I could go into the studio tomorrow and we could make 12 songs, and they would sound good they would sound fine, but I want it to be more than great. I want it to be something special,” Byrnes said.

He has been mulling some overarching themes on what he wants to be a concept album, taking on the ever-present march of time.

“As you get older, you have less time to waste,” Byrnes said. “Things that were in the back of your mind suddenly come to the fore.”

The Dream Music Festival is sold out for Saturday night, and as of press time Thursday there are still tickets available for Friday’s performance. Mike Farris is also sticking around for a special performance at the Dream Café after the festival on May 15. For more information visit www.dreammusicfestival.com or www.dreamcafe.ca.