First Nations band Midnight Shine talks about braving the elements to tour

TORONTO — Playing gigs across Canada's great landscape can be a challenge for any band, but Midnight Shine will tell you it's even tougher in the North.

The First Nations foursome, hailing from the James Bay and Attawapiskat area, has braved their share of environmental hurdles over the past five years.

"Just the remoteness and vastness of the North is unbelievable," says lead singer Adrian Sutherland.

But getting the band members from one spot to another isn't even the hardest part — it's carrying all of that gear.

"We're loading it into canoes and lugging the stuff into planes," Sutherland says. "It's a pain in the butt."

It's all part of the territory when you're playing shows in remote communities.

Midnight Shine highlighted a few of their most challenging Canadian gigs and what it took to get to them:


Where: Victor Diamond Mine, west of Attawapiskat

The gig: After a few weather delays, Midnight Shine arrived at Canada's first diamond mine to entertain two rotations of miners eager for an evening of entertainment.

The story: "People bought a lot of CDs," Sutherland remembers. "They had this big guy — at least six-foot-seven — standing by the door and he wouldn't let anybody out until they bought a CD. What did they call him? High Tower?"


What: Old Post cultural gathering, near Fort Albany, Ont.

The gig: Midnight Shine played an outdoor concert as part of a cultural event in the local community, but to get there, the band had to drive three kilometres from the nearest community and hop on a boat to the show.

The story: Camped in a tent and given a wood stove to keep warm, the band relied on two small generators to power their rock show. The highlight of the night was when fireworks began to unexpectedly crackle behind them as they played the set. "It was really cool, like electric Kumbaya," guitarist Zach Tomatuk remembers.


What: Canadian Music Week 2016, Toronto

The gig: Midnight Shine had shows scheduled for Thursday and Saturday night in downtown Toronto, but getting into the big city from James Bay wasn't so easy.

The story: Bassist Stan Louttit says the spring thaw forced him to charter a helicopter off his island home in the Moose Factory First Nations community to reach the airport. But even travelling by helicopter wasn't a guarantee. "It almost didn't go too, because it started snowing," Louttit says.


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