Chester Fest organizers forced to make last-minute change after Northern Pikes cancellation

The Northern Pikes. Photo courtesy Lauren O'Brien/Universal Music Canada.

COVID-19 has forced Chester Fest organizers to make a last-minute lineup change after headliners The Northern Pikes were forced to cancel.

The band made the decision after a few members of The Northern Pikes camp came down with the virus. Instead, organizers have turned to Saskatchewan artist Megan Nash to fill the headliner slot.

Chester Fest co-organizer Joel Rohs said they were grateful Nash agreed to play on short notice.

“I mean, there is not a whole lot you can do,” Rohs said. “We just roll with the punches, figure it out, keep moving, and have a great weekend. That’s all you can do.” he said.

Rohs said the organizers didn’t learn The Northern Pikes were dropping out until Monday. The band had already postponed shows scheduled for June 30 in London, Ont., and July 1-2 in Toronto.

“While those affected with COVID are resting and doing well, we’ve had to cancel our performance at Chester Fest on July 9,” reads a statement posted on the band’s official Twitter account. “We want to ensure everyone is back to 100 per cent without putting anyone else at risk. We appreciate the outpouring of well wishes, and hope to play it another year.”

This year will mark the second-time Megan Nash has performed at Chester Fest. The Saskatchewan singer has won and been nominated for numerous awards, including a 2019 JUNO Award nomination for Contemporary Roots Album of the Year for Seeker, 2021 Saskatchewan Music Award for Alternative Artist of the Year, and 2021 Best of Moose Jaw Award for Best Musical Artist.

The recognition back home is in no small part due to her long and winding history of hitting the road, where she’s done international showcases in the United States, the UK, Germany, and Estonia on top of countless performances in Canada’s small towns and sprawling metropolises.

“We are really glad that Megan came on board,” Rohs said. “We are really excited to see that. She was at our festival last year, but she was available this week on short notice and we are glad to have her back.”

Nash will fill most of the headliner time slot, but organizers have also turned to the Bush Pies (the Chester Fest honourary house bad) to play a 20-minute set. The Bush Pies have graciously donated their time to help fill the slot.

Edmonton-based trio Scenic Route to Alaska will also hit the main stage on July 9, along with Velours, Nico Tobias Band, The North Sound, and the Last Birds.

A large number of Saskatchewan bands round out the schedule, including Harris’ Seven Mile Sun, Saskatoon’s League of Wolves, Regina’s Marissa Burwell, and Prince Albert acts Flashback, and Patrick Moon Bird, among others.

The Chester Fest Couch and Music Festival is at the Prince Albert Exhibition Grounds this year on July 8 and 9. The goal of Chester Fest is to bring high quality international touring acts to Prince Albert.

Rohs said everything else looks good heading into the festival.

“We have got lots of good things, lots of great bands on the bill, (and) all sorts of stuff for everybody,” he said. “(There are) lots of activities, games for kids, (and) a corn hole tournament in the Beer Garden. All of the good stuff is still happening.”

Rohs explained that it is just what happens sometimes with festivals.

“There is not a whole lot of sugar coating. It is just the way it,” he said.