Popular country music and southern food series Blue Jay Sessions returns with new home at Mikey’s on 12th

Everyone’s favourite country music and southern food popup is popping back up in a new home.

The Blue Jay Sessions are set to return to the city’s live music and culinary scene Sept 2 to 4 with in-person performances in their new digs at Mikey’s on 12th.

Taking the club’s stage — complete with Plexiglas barrier — for the Blue Jay Sessions: Anniversary Edition will be 18 Canadian artists featured in six sessions spread out over the three nights including Justine Vandergrift, Aaron Pollock, Brandi Sidoryk (from Nice Horse), Matt Blais, Devin Cooper, Brettyn Rose, Ryan Langlois and Mariya Stokes.

The tunes will be paired with “southern-inspired fare, including an Empire Provisions fried bologna sandwich and brisket tacos, a lineup of cool Forty Creek Whisky cocktails, and Russell Brewing craft beer.”

Dan Clapson, noted national food writer and one of the folks behind Blue Jay, says that when they lost their original haunt Oak Tree Tavern just as COVID kicked in, there were several other venues — some musical, some non — who approached them, but none of them were the proper fit.

When the former bartender of Oak Tree landed a job at Mikey’s, they took that as a sign.

“It was like, OK, ‘This is a sign, this is a sign that we should talk with Mikey’s,’ ” says Clapson of the Beltline mainly blues club. “We think this will be a great new home for us. And obviously they do so much for live music. 

He continues. “I felt we needed to go somewhere that maybe wasn’t super predictable for country music, but also a place that understood and would support a musical project. There were a lot that might want a thing like the Blue Jay Sessions, but they might not actually fully care.

“So that’s why I think Mikey’s is a good fit, because they actually care about music.”

And, while food is of course one of Clapson’s biggest passions, he also cares a great deal about music and the musicians he’s been able to work with and showcase with the Sessions.

It’s one of the reasons that, during the pandemic shutdown, he kept things going with online virtual sessions, and even organized a benefit single — a gorgeous cover of Joni Mitchell’s song Both Sides Now featuring many of the folks who have sung during the sessions.

Clapson chose the song because he’s a fan of the timeless and iconic tune and wanted something that was maybe a little less predictable for a cadre of country music performers.

Those participating in the collaborative ensemble piece — which was recorded separately by each artist using their home recording equipment and assembled by Clapson and up-and-coming Calgary producer Ethan Burke — include many of those who will participate in the return sessions, including Stokes, Blais, Sidoryk, Pollock, as well as others such as The Dungarees, Nice Horse’s Katie Rox and Gord Bamford guitar player Ryan Davidson.

“We started this project because we wanted to give a lot of our alumni performers something to do and something to look forward to — just come together to work on as a group even though people were separate,” he says.

Proceeds from downloads and streams of the single will go to Community Food Centres of Canada, a charity that, because of Clapson’s background, which includes the Eat North website, is near and dear to him.

And while the song brought them all virtually together, Clapson is hoping that September’s Blue Jay Sessions at Mikey’s will be the first of many actual get-togethers where he and his country club can hoist a few — especially if those few are the Blue Jay Sessions own brew.

Originally brewed to celebrate Blue Jay’s planned takeover of Saskatoon for this year’s Junos — which were of course cancelled — the session ale from Surrey, B.C.’s Russell Brewing has been repackaged with Alberta flag colours and is widely available in liquor stores across the province. 

As a bonus, $1 from each pack goes to the Unison Benevolent Fund, “a non-profit, registered charity that provides counselling and emergency relief services to the Canadian music community” — an incredibly important charity during this time to ensure that artists can have their careers survive COVID-19.

The Blue Jay Sessions: Anniversary Edition take place Sept. 2 to 4 at Mikey’s on 12th. For more information and to book tickets please click here.