Usually, it’s all about the music.
But on May 1 and 2, it’s going to be all about the club: The Dream Café.
“The name says it, it’s a dream. It’s an oasis,” said Jim Byrnes, three-time Juno award winner for Blues album of the year.
Byrnes is hosting The Dream Music Festival, a gathering of musicians who have played the fabled venue over the years, coming together to help preserve its future.
“What a special place, what a special space it is,” said Byrnes. “That first time you are there, the last thing you say is ‘when can I come back?’ It’s one of the great gigs in this world.”
The festival is a benefit for Pierre Couture and his wife Debra, who have owned and operated the Dream Café for nearly 15 years. Couture has decided to step back from the day-to-day running of the venue because of health issues.
There is something very special about Pierre and Debra and the way they treat both musicians and customers, according to Byrnes.
“The atmosphere, it’s without compare,” said Byrnes. “This last fall we did a tour and we played some real nice little spot, but nothing compared. It really is a unique environment and we don’t want to see it go, that’s why we are putting on this big show.”
An event during one of the first times he played at the Dream Cafe showed Byrnes what kind of a place this little club is. When a customer, perhaps a little too far gone in his cups, became too noisy, Pierre immediately took action.
“Pierre went over and gave him his money back and said ‘if you don’t want to listen, you can leave,” said Byrnes. “It shows how much he cares.
“He didn’t just kick him out. He gave him his money back and said come back another day.”
Byrnes said playing a gig at the Dream Café is like playing at home, sitting in your living room with friends over and everyone is paying rapt attention.
“There is something unique and special about going to a club like that,” he said. “Everybody who comes through the door is there to listen. They are there to enjoy the music.”
Byrnes said he can’t stress enough how much he loves coming up to Penticton to play at the Dream Café.
“I get to come up a couple of times a year and it is always a real highlight for me,” said Byrnes, adding that he often extends his stay to visit friends in the area and spend some time on the beach.
“There is nothing like it,” he said.
The line up includes Vancouver pianist Michael Kaeshammer; multiple Juno winner Bill Bourne; Ben Waters, who has worked with the Rolling Stones; Chris Nordquist; Jerry Cook; Rick Fines; Brandon Isaac; Gary Comeau; Paul Pigat; Keith Picot; and Juno Award winner Rita Chiarelli.
Byrnes said tickets are still available, but people shouldn’t be complacent.
“May 1 seems a long way off, but it will sneak up on you,” said Byrnes. “I just want to make sure people aren’t blindsided getting there and finding it is sold out.”
Tickets are available at the SOEC box office, the Penticton and Wine Country Visitor Centre or online through thedreammusicfestival.ca, where you can also view a video created by Byrnes inviting everyone to the festival.
This article is the first in a series profiling some of the artists coming to support the Dream Café on May 1 and 2.