Saskatoon

'Our dark night is turning to day': country stars put on uplifting Broncos' tribute concert in Saskatoon

They came with a hope to lift people's spirits, just for one night, and under a Broncos' green stage, country musicians put on an electrifying, upbeat show on Friday night that came in stark contrast to the sadness of the weeks before.

Chad Brownlee, Brett Kissel among musicians leaping aboard to help families impacted by crash

Dallas Smith performs during the Country Thunder Humboldt Broncos tribute concert in Saskatoon on Friday. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Richards)

They came with a hope to lift people's spirits, just for one night, and under a Broncos' green stage, country musicians put on an electrifying, upbeat show on Friday night that came in stark contrast to the sadness of the weeks before.   

Survivors of the Humboldt Broncos' bus crash, and families of those impacted by the April 6 tragedy, had front row seats at a Saskatoon concert that featured star-studded talent, including Dallas Smith, Chad Brownlee, Brett Kissel and Jess Moskaluke.

Those family members exchanged smiles and hugs, while some got on their feet and danced through the performances.

'Tonight, it's OK for us to smile,' says premier

As he thanked first responders and medical staff for their response in the wake of the tragedy that claimed the lives of 16 people, Premier Scott Moe said the province has been through a dark time but that there was light on the horizon.

"Tonight, it's OK for us to smile. Tonight, let's all enjoy ourselves just a bit," he said, to cheers and clapping from the audience. "Because tonight, slowly but surely, our dark night is turning to day."

Jess Moskaluke performs during the Country Thunder Humboldt Broncos tribute concert in Saskatoon on Friday. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Richards)

Early on, it was apparent this would not be a regular concert, with Saskatchewan band The Hunter Brothers, beginning the night with the national anthem, because "because a hockey game doesn't start without the national anthem," said Country Music Thunder Festivals CEO Troy Vollhoffer.

A tribute video featured the Humboldt Broncos team, including photos of all the players, and ended with a video message of support from survivor Brayden Camrud, and a message to those who did not survive the crash — "rest in peace."

Musicians eager to join in

When Country Thunder Music Festivals put out the call for musicians to play a Humboldt Broncos tribute concert, the response came flooding in, with a resounding 'yes' from the musicians.

The artists spoke at a press conference in advance of the concert, with each saying they had been eager to get on board with the concert, that would directly benefit the 29 families impacted by the crash. 

J.J. Hunter, who spoke on behalf of The Hunter Brothers, said two members of the band had played in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League and travelled the same road as the Broncos had, en route to Nipawin. 

"It hit very close to home, living in small town Saskatchewan," he said, sporting a ribbon in the Broncos' team colours, green and gold. "The effects of something of this magnitude, we've seen it. It rings through the town first, through the province, through the nation and sent ripples through the world."

The brothers, who hail from Shaunavon, Sask., considered it an honour to play tonight's concert, he said.

Any time you guys [players] are together, it's very, very solid. I can't imagine the feeling of that fabric being torn.- Chad Brownlee , musician

Earlier this week, Brownlee said he too had ridden buses across Canada and the U.S., in his previous life as a hockey player.

"There is a brotherhood that is built on the bus, in the dressing room," he recalled of being part of a hockey team. "Any time you guys are together, it's very, very solid. I can't imagine the feeling of that fabric being torn."

He said the tragic news hit him to the core.

However, he hoped the tragedy would wake people up to remembering what's important in their lives.

"I always try to find the silver lining. It's sometimes hard in tragedy, but if we don't use it to help propel us into something positive, then I feel the lives were lost in vain."

Kissel says the world is in Broncos families' corner

Fellow act Brett Kissel described his disbelief when he heard the news of the crash.

"We think to ourselves: all these miles that we've put on the road and yet it happened to these other kids and these other families," he said. "It certainly hits home for us, and I think every travelling musician that lives and sleeps and spends all their time on buses."

'It will be a night to celebrate the lives that were cut too short,' says Brett Kissel.

Kissel said he wanted those who are still struggling in the aftermath of the crash to know he's in their corner, much like everyone else in Canada and, in fact, the world.

"It will be a night to celebrate the lives that were cut too short but to celebrate all the good that these kids brought into the world and the good that they did for their families."

With files from Olivia Stefanovich and CBC News Network

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