What started as a playful tweet by Canadian rock band the Arkells turned into a trip that left Canada’s Olympians rocking out to their music for most of the final week of the 2018 Winter Olympics.
According to the Arkells, however, the whole trip first started when they enlisted ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir to help announce their summer tour in Hamilton.
“So that happened the day the Olympics kicked off and then we got a tweet from somebody at Canada House here in Korea saying, ‘We’ve been listening to Arkells 24/7,’ so we tweeted back, ‘We should probably just come to Korea to play for you,’ and then it happened,” said the Hamilton-based group’s frontman, Max Kerman.
On Feb. 16, Air Canada responded to the band’s tweet offering to play in Korea, saying they could “make that happen.” From there, the airline picked up the tab to bring the group to Pyeongchang, South Korea, spurring excitement from several Canadian Olympians.
Kerman told Global News that when he sent out the initial tweet about going to Korea, he had no expectation of that happening but was secretly optimistic.
“When we sent the tweet, it was pretty innocuous and we heard rumblings that … Air Canada wanted to fly us over here, but nothing was for sure until they tweeted at us. We were like, ‘Sweet, we’re going to Korea, fellas!'” he recalled with a laugh.
The group flew out this past Wednesday, arriving Thursday local time during the women’s gold medal hockey game. Since then, they attended one of the final hockey games of the Games and sampled Korean barbecue — despite not even really knowing what they were ordering.
WATCH: Up close and personal with Arkells
Dika said though the band has travelled widely on tour, this trip to Asia has been different.
“Asia’s definitely new for us — we’ve been through North America and Europe a bunch, but this is our first time here and it’s really cool,” he said.
Aside from the food and the hockey, the band also naturally put on a few performances while in Pyeonchang.
During a campfire set on Saturday morning at the venue for Canadian athletes and their families, about 100 people crowded on the patio as the group played some of their songs, including “And Then Some” and “A Little Rain (A Song for Pete).”
And it wasn’t their only performance for Canada House either, as the group took to the stage inside the building for an impromptu 90-minute set in front of hundreds, mixed in with a bit of karaoke with Olympic medallists. The women’s hockey team even took the stage to perform “Summer of ’69” by Bryan Adams.
Earlier in the day, the Arkells told Global News that bringing athletes on stage was the plan all along.
“Usually when we do these kinds of shows, lots of times we’ll have different musicians come up and join us, but it’s going to be cool to see if we can get different athletes to come up and join us,” Dika said.
Though the band didn’t arrive until this past week, the Arkells’ song “Knocking at the Door” was played more than a few times at the Olympics, akin to its appearance at the Super Bowl earlier this month.
Kerman said they were notified over Twitter that the song, which has been nominated for Single of the Year at this year’s Juno Awards, was being used daily to honour the athletes.
Asked what they thought of the Olympic experience, the band said they were impressed by the athletes they met during their trip.
“It’s like there’s this sort of spirit they all share, the power of the collective — everyone seems to be really rooting each other on,” Kerman said.
“I know they seem like all very glamorous, famous people because the whole country’s watching them, but when you meet them you realize these are just hard-working young people who’ve worked to perfect what they do, and it’s really inspiring.”
— With files from Jeff Semple, Global News