Keeping live music alive in Yellowknife is no easy task, but Nathan Knox is among those in the city nurturing the local scene.

Knox has only been in the city for a little more than two years after following his wife Lee Woods up here from his former residence in the Okanagan region of B.C.

He played a two-hour set last Saturday night with this band The Yard Dogs at the Yellowknife Elks Lodge that included sets of 20 years of his own songwriting material.

“Honestly, my songs are about 50/50 straight up rock and roll grunge and some storytelling songs which are driven more by vocals than music,” he said.  “Those (the storytelling songs) are the ones you would sit and listen and not jump around.

“I write a lot about things that are real in my life. Not about moments per say but more about how they make me feel.”

Knox has already made a mark on the music scene, most recently entering a song called Running on Empty in the CBC Music Searchlight competition. 

The Snowking’s Winter Festival marks its 25th season this year and Knox will be performing with his band for the first time at that venue on March 22.

“That is a pretty awesome,” he said of being able to help mark the Snowking’s silver jubilee. “I also applied for Folk on the Rocks which is turning 40 so that is pretty exciting stuff. It is great to be involved in these kinds of milestones.”

Knox was a lead performer in the sold out musical Mamma Mia last year which he said really gave him great initial exposure to the North – reaching 2,400 people over 10 days.

He has also hosted numerous jams and open-mic nights since he has lived here, including at the former Hot Shots Pub and Javaroma and has performed at community events like Hay Days, NWT Pride and the Yellowknife Farmer’s Market last summer.

He has also helped with other efforts, such as Patrick Jacobson’s Yk Rocks music promotion startup.

In 2019 he served as president of Music NWT where he saw some of the hands-on struggles – what he calls “the heavy lifting” – of getting live music going in Yellowknife.

He would like to see better support for local musicians in Yellowknife in general.

“It has been a serious struggle,” he said of building support for local music. “Since I moved here a few years ago, I started up four mic nights that have all gone the way of the warrior.

“We don’t even ask people to pay. We pay our artists, which is mandatory in my mind. Our audience is free to explore but they are not really coming out to see the new bands. It is a bit of a heartbreak.”

Still, he is optimistic that the live music scene will pick up.

Nathan Knox & The Yard Dogs played the Elks Hall on Saturday night.
Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo

While places like Hot Shots and Twist and Shout have closed their doors, others have sought to host bands.

“I know that things are getting better,” he said. “After Eight has Priscilla’s Revenge next weekend and After Eight has been wanting to be having bands. It is a venue of Music NWT and that is starting to kick off and provide more opportunities.”

“Bands could have 100 shows a year here in Yellowknife, but not they’re not searching out those venues.”

Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin College and the University of Ottawa. Simon can be reached at...

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