Dinner and a show: Blue Jay Sessions a tasty pairing of Dan Clapson’s love of food and country music

A little bit country. A little bit culinary. And one helluva good time.

The Blue Jay Sessions are back Feb. 12-15 for another songwriters circle and supper special at the Oak Tree Tavern.

The event is the brainchild of area food writer Dan Clapson, who also runs the Eat North website, and it’s meant as something of a tribute to two of his passions. 

“I’m just trying to merge my love of country music with my love of interesting food and drink, and I think we’ve done that,” says Clapson, who, with Eat North, puts on a variety of unique often site-specific or themed eating events.

This is the third Blue Jay pop-up (originally named the Blue Jay Cafe)— the inaugural one was done at the Oak Tree Tavern as an unofficial event surrounding the Canadian Country Music Association’s when they were held in the city last year; with the second a holiday-themed fundraiser in December which raised $3,000 for the Community Kitchen Program of Calgary.

Again, the idea is a relatively simple but incredibly effective one: collect together roots artists from the region and give them and the audience an intimate evening, the songwriters playing and telling stories, those in the crowd dining from a themed menu.

This time, fittingly, Clapson has curated a lineup of artists and dishes with Valentine’s Day in mind, the two sessions and seatings each night falling under the themes of “finding love (session one)” and “heartbreak and singledom (session two).”

That means you can expect songs with the heart in mind, and dishes such as beer cheese fondue for two, chocolate fondue and Lady and the Tramp spaghetti and meatballs (which can, for the lonely hearts, be had as a half-order), along with special love-themed whiskey cocktails.

As for the collection of 32 musicians who are participating over the four nights, it’s an incredible who’s who from the community at large, including such names as Emily Triggs, Blake Reid, Mariya Stokes, Amy Nelson, Drew Gregory, Maddison Krebs and Amy Hef.

“As much as this is a fun event, it’s also meant to showcase the artists,” Clapson says of the all-pro lineup assembled, which features some returning performers among the fold. “And we want to showcase artists that are trying to pursue an active career in music.”

And he’s finding that as much as audiences are, er, eating it up, so, too are the artists, the word-out-mouth the Blue Jay Sessions have created meaning more and more are submitting their work to participate in what is a mutually engaging and satisfying experience.

“I’ve never had an event series before that’s had so much genuine interaction from all of the creative people taking part and also the attendees,” he says.

“It’s such a good energy when the Blue Jay Sessions are happening. I’ve never seen an audience or diner even at a dinner care that much as these people care at these sessions. Some times you can hear a pin drop it’s so quite. I think it’s really unique because of that.”

Perhaps why he continues to return to the idea, although with the knowledge that it is special because it’s not meant to be too regular of a thing.

The next one will actually be in Saskatoon next month for this year’s Junos, where they’ll take over a local pub and attempt to recreate the look and the magic of what goes on at the Oak Tree.

For his part, Clapson marvels at the success it’s already had and the momentum it’s building.

“It’s taken on a life of its own, which is great,” he says, noting that he had to create new social accounts specifically for Blue Jay Sessions, with their Instagram profile already having over 1,000 followers.

“It feels good and I like supporting creative people.”

(Photo of Mariya Stokes courtesy Colby Johannson.)

Blue Jay Sessions run Feb. 12 to 15 at the Oak Tree Tavern. (Please note: There are only 52 seats available for each session and once purchased, seating will be on a first-come, first-serve basis.) For tickets please click here. Below is the full lineup.

Feb. 12

1st session (doors at 5:30PM, music at 6:30PM)

Ben Chase

Mariya Stokes

Blake Reid

Maddison Krebs

2nd session (doors at 8PM, music at 9PM)

Julianna Laine

Ryan Lindsay

Kaleigh Jo Kirk


Feb. 13

1st session (doors at 5:30PM, music at 6:30PM)

Tanya Ryan

Alex Hughes

Amy Nelson

James Murdoch and Kiron Jhass of The Dungarees

2nd session (doors at 8PM, music at 9PM)

Drew Gregory

Michela Sheedy

Markus Sommer

Brettyn Rose

Feb. 14

1st session (doors at 5:30PM, music at 6:30PM)

Annika Cheyne

Aaron Pollock


Justine Vandergrift

2nd session (doors at 8PM, music at 9PM)

Devin Cooper

Amy Hef

Krissy Feniak

As High As We Go

Feb. 15

1st session (doors at 5:30PM, music at 6:30PM)

Emily Triggs

Alex Runions

Erin Hill

Jay Bowcott

2nd session (doors at 8PM, music at 9PM)

Lyndsay Butler

Robert Adam

FOXX Worthee

Ty Baynton