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'It's just about the music and the hang'

Reunited Duhks taking it 'gig to gig,' set for West End Cultural Centre performance

SUPPLIED</p><p>The reunited Duhks are having the same fun they had when they were in their Grammy-nominated heyday.</p>


The reunited Duhks are having the same fun they had when they were in their Grammy-nominated heyday.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/4/2019 (530 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

In May 2016, Leonard Podolak of the Grammy Award-nominated local folk group the Duhks made a quiet post on Facebook to let fans know the band wouldn’t be touring anymore.

"We have decided as a group that it’s time for us all to pursue other projects, so we will no longer be touring as the Duhks," he wrote.

"We will keep this page up as to not disappear completely from the memory of folk music history, also to keep you up with our individual projects."

Since that time, the members of the band have continued on in the music industry in a variety of ways: Podolak is the executive producer of Home Routes; singer Jessee Havey started a duo, Nation of Two, and works as the community outreach co-ordinator at the West End Cultural Centre (WECC); guitarist Jordan McConnell started a luthier business; and other members became touring musicians with other bands.

And while all those projects are still very much on the go, the Duhks have reunited, making their triumphant return in February at Festival du Voyageur, partly to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the festival and partly because they just missed playing with each other.

"The rehearsal for that show was hilarious. We ran through everything once and it was kind of like riding a bike, it was kind of spooky," Podolak says.

"It was like a spiritual experience, that first rehearsal we had. It was almost scary how well everyone played together and after the first song, I can’t remember who said, ‘Should we just not practise? Because this is kind of perfect,’" Havey adds.

"It was magical."

Then, the Duhks found out Off the Wagon was looking for someone to do an opening set at a Throwback Thursday show at the WECC, which felt like too good an opportunity to pass up, so they will be taking the stage once again next week for their second show as a reunited band.

"The Duhks is sort of the band that never really dies. It always exists and we come together if the reason presents itself and feels right. This show especially. Off the Wagon was before my time, but the fact there was a band that consisted of Jaxon Haldane, Romi Mayes and Joanne Rodriguez, like when I found that out I got so sad that I missed that, so they signed on to do the show and then Jaxon threw out the Duhks as openers," Havey says.

"At first, I was like, ‘I’m never going to do a Throwback Thursday! We’re not some sort of throwback!’ But give it a year and I’m like, ‘Yeah sure, I’ll do it,’" Podolak says, laughing.

During the last few years before their hiatus, the Duhks went through a few lineup changes, but Thursday’s show features many original members, including Havey on vocals, Podolak on banjo, McConnell on guitar and Scott Senior on percussion. Jeremy Penner will take on the fiddle duties. Havey says the setlist will largely be made up of tracks from the band’s first three records.

Both Havey and Podolak note things feel different now than they did when the Duhks decided to stop touring in 2016. Instead of the work burnout and industry-related blues, the vibe is more like it was at the beginning; fun and full of energy and love. And while there aren’t any cemented future plans, they have been discussing the possibility of taking the Duhks back on the road next year.

"We’re not approaching it with a new plan to take over the world of folk music again, we’re approaching it with a plan to see each other every now and again and have fun. And I think folks will hear it in the music; we are enjoying each other’s company and we do miss doing what we have been doing for so long," Podolak says.

"It’s so nice to do this, because there’s just no pressure and no expectations. We’re just doing it for the fans and for us to be able to see each other and be together and honour that entity that was so much bigger than any of us, whoever it was that was in the band at the time," Havey says.

"There’s no real sense of urgency, it’s just about the music and the hang, which is actually how the best music gets made… we’re really bringing it back to what got us in the room together in the first place, which is just the music and the hang and the company," Podolak adds.

"We’re taking it gig to gig and seeing how it goes, but it’s wonderful to know that it’s happening." Twitter: @NireRabel

Erin Lebar

Erin Lebar
Multimedia producer

Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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Updated on Saturday, April 13, 2019 at 9:26 PM CDT: corrects festival anniversary info

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