Wide Cut Weekend 2016: The first cut isn’t always the deepest

Monday 10th, October 2016 / 11:43
By Liam Prost
Alberta’s own roots artists, including Justine Vandergrift, are put on display during autumn multi-venue fest. Photo: Peter Seale

Alberta’s own roots artists, including Justine Vandergrift, are put on display during autumn multi-venue fest.
Photo: Peter Seale

CALGARY — Last year was the year of the winter festival in Calgary. Not only did we have a beautifully mild season, but we had several new winter music festivals come onto the scene. As the last leaves fall off the trees, it’s time to bust out some layers, put some thick tires on your bikes, and prepare for round two of the winter festival circuit.

Wide Cut Weekend is back again after a wildly successful first fest last fall. The multi-venue roots outing features largely the same format as before, albeit with a few new venues, a few new faces, and a drive to smooth out a few of the rough edges.

“We really hit a nerve,” artistic director and host of CKUA’s Wide Cut Country tells BeatRoute, “there is a huge community that wants this kind of music.”

“From the launch party” of the festival, Brock and the other Wide Cut organizers knew they wanted to do it annually, but with an undertaking this large, “you hope but you don’t know.”

Wide Cut Weekend operates as a non-profit society, and thus relies on sponsorships, donations, and grants to keep the doors open and the tunes rolling. Given the increased availability for grants after a full year of operation as a society, Brock and her crew had their work cut out for them raking in enough support to become sustainable.

Having a year under their belt also allowed them to overhaul their volunteer program. “We knew we had to take a more methodic approach,” Brock attests, in order to get more “support” for the organizers. As of writing time for this article, Wide Cut Weekend is no longer accepting applications for volunteers, so we anticipate that this year there be plenty more friendly faces to usher and support your journey from venue to venue.

The Wide Cut roster is severely stacked with southern-souled song writing savants, but the key trend between them is their place of origin. Most of the strummers and singers lay their heads here in cow country, and there is both a practical and artistic reason for it. The initial vision for the festival involved more touring artists, but when the organizers (almost all of whom had never run a festival before) began crunching the numbers associated with out-of-town acts, they decided to look a little closer to home. All involved are happy with the decision, and Wide Cut is now proudly an Albertan artist-driven festival, with a few exceptions for its second year.

Alberta doesn’t just mean Calgary, however. “We have bands from all across the province and we have audience members from all across the province,” Brock tells us, “there is such a great crossover from people from Calgary who had never seen that band from Edmonton or Medicine Hat or whatever, and vice versa.”

Even as the festival grows and money for hotel rooms becomes more available, Brock adamantly proclaims, “I will always want to keep the heart of the festival being Albertan.”

And grow the festival has, expanding to the new (mostly) renovated King Eddy in the East Village, both floors of the #1 Legion, the Oak Tree in Kensington, The Blues Can in addition to Mikey’s Juke Joint, and the Ironwood Stage and Grill. Don’t fret the travel time between the Blues Can and Oak Tree though, Wide Cut has crafted a beautiful union with local party aficionados BassBus to get patrons from venue to venue on their titular music-mobile.

Wide Cut Weekend carries its namesake from Allison Brock’s CKUA radio program Wide Cut Country, but we’d advise you to scrub any negative associations you might have with the twangy C-word. Wide Cut Weekend prefers the term ‘roots,’ and has booked acts that encompass the entire range of that wonderfully vague qualifier.

“The name of the show was more geographical than genre,” Brock argues, “the show launched in 2000” when the term “alt-country” was common vernacular whereas now the term roots is a the more-often quoted catch-all term for Americana, folk, bluegrass, etc. Take a look around this section of BeatRoute, for example.

“What commercial country does is very different from what my show has done and what the festival has done,” Brock attests. “The audiences are different.” The acts are certainly different too, with artists ranging from folk crooners to blues rockers.

Highlights include traditional-banjo songstress Amy Nelson, whose turn-of-the-century (the 20th for clarity) styling is second to none. Braden Gates will be bringing some pretty finger picking to strike your folk fancy. Del Barber will be fresh off a tour with the hockey-song troubadours the No Regretzkys (check out our full story on him later in the section). Up on Cripple Creek will be waltzing like it’s their last time to the songs from Big Pink and beyond, an act that Allison Brock tells us will “rock your socks off.” Lucas Chaisson will be bringing his rocking new tunes (and rugged new beard). ‘90s Alberta super group Beautiful Joe will be reuniting for the weekend featuring Jane Hawley, Tim Leacock, Danny Patton, Steve Pineo (who will also be performing under his own name at the festival), and Ross Watson. Dave McGann will be rustling up his heartfelt roots rock tunes. Kimberly MacGregor will be singing her sweet and sultry songs. And who can get enough of Justine Vandergrift’s clear and relatable Americana?

Wide Cut Weekend runs October 13th-15th at several venues across Calgary with transportation between venues provided by BassBus. Day and weekend passes are currently available.

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