Dean Feser, drummer for Pemberton’s own Dakota Pearl, had a lot to think about as the band prepped to play for its biggest audience yet, the nearly 8,000 in attendance at Rogers Arena late last month for the Vancouver Warriors National Lacrosse League match-up against the San Diego Seals.
But even with the swirl of activity around him—a rowdy crowd sidling up to the bar, TV producers chiming in their ear—there was one thing Feser had to keep reminding himself of as he wailed on his kit: Don’t look at the jumbotron.
“You can get lost in that thing,” he says with a laugh.
Dakota Pearl was on the big stage March 25 for the Warriors’ annual Country Night, warming up the pre-game crowd before playing the team onto the field with their distinct brand of high-energy country rock, and then providing the soundtrack as attendees came onto the field for a post-game party.
For the band that’s been voted Pemberton’s favourite six years running, playing to the Warriors faithful was an undeniable high point—but considering Dakota Pearl’s career trajectory, it seems the natural evolution for a band that has worked hard to make in-roads into B.C.’s country music scene. Even still, the guys had to fight a few pre-show jitters.
“To be perfectly honest, we were more nervous during sound checks,” recalls Feser. “We’re in the room and everyone else there has got a record label. We were playing along with some real heavy hitters as far as country music goes in B.C. and on the West Coast.”
In fact, it was through recording country star Karen Lee Batten, a regular performer at Vancouver Canucks games, that the band landed the gig.
“They were looking for someone kickass to round out the lineup,” Feser says. “The pandemic hasn’t been kind to country music and people have been doing other things. We were up and running still, so she gave us a call and away we went.”
This was partly by design for the band made of lead vocalist and guitarist Adam Leggett, Dave Trimble on lead guitar, Gavin McDermott on bass, Rosalin Steel on keys and backing vocals, Bruce MacDiarmid on pedal steel and guitar, and Feser. As the pandemic set in and gigs started drying up, the band was keen to keep the momentum up, ensuring they would be ready to go once things started to inch back towards normalcy.
“You just keep believing,” Feser says. “We were conscious of needing to stay on top of things, because when it happens, we wanted to be able to act quickly. And it has happened that way. Because we stayed active we’re ready to gig right out of the gate—and busting out to do it.”
Along with playing whatever gigs they could, Leggett kept busy with songwriting, before recording and sending off his portions to the rest of the group. It was this piecemeal approach that kept the band going through the pandemic, an entirely different way of working for them. The resulting output, about half a dozen tracks making up The Dakota Demos, is expected for release this summer.
“They’ve all been recorded outside the traditional studio means so the process has been kind of interesting. Adam has got his own studio that he works out of in his home and then the rest of us have various degrees of computer stuff we do,” Feser explains. “He comes up with the idea, passes it off to us, we flesh out our parts and send it back to him and he’ll assemble that and mix it down. We all get to contribute.”
As for what fans can expect from the EP, Feser was clear: these aren’t songs about pickup trucks and Daisy Dukes.
“It’s a little deeper than that. These songs are about us, sometimes. A lot of them are love songs for Pemberton … about life and love and the hard-working people of the beautiful Pemberton Valley. That’s who we’re writing our music for,” he says.
Dakota Pearl looks to stay busy heading into the spring and summer. On April 16, they perform their first hometown show in months, a sold-out gig at Sunstone Golf Club. On April 22, they’re playing the Howe Sound Women’s Centre fundraiser, Denim & Diamonds, at the Longhorn. In July, they hit the festival circuit for the Gone Country festival in Surrey, with hopes of landing the Williams Lake Stampede this summer as well.
Learn more at dakotapearl.com.