By Julijana Capone
CALGARY — Big Fun Festival has been lighting up Winnipeg’s god-forsaken January deep freeze for six years running; shaking up the winter blahs, and stoking the city’s musically inclined with piles of live shows in an otherwise dead month for festivals.
The five-day independent music festival is back from January 25-29, 2017, and organizers have, yet again, pulled together a lineup of over 40 acts from all corners of Canada, including some of the best from the Heart of the Continent.
Among this year’s roster are Julie Doiron & the Wrong Guys (Doiron’s band with Eamon McGrath and members of Cancer Bats), Albertans Marlaena Moore and Wares, and ever-evolving Saskatoon indie-rock-cum-shoegaze unit Slow Down Molasses, along with Winnipeg fixtures and up-and-comers Figure Walking (the renamed duo of Greg MacPherson and Rob Gardiner), Mahogany Frog, Mise en Scene, Tunic, and much, much more.
Since its inception, Big Fun has played an important role in supporting and nurturing the local Winnipeg music community and its emerging artists by booking bands early in their careers and continuing to showcase them. “There’s been a few bands that we’ve seen kind of grow up with Big Fun over the years—Micah Visser being one, Yes We Mystic being another,” says Big Fun organizer Lauren Swan. “It’s really exciting to see where these bands can go.”
In addition to the performances, Big Fun, in partnership with Manitoba Music, will host a Safer Spaces Panel with members of the Manitoba music community.
As Swan mentions, the festival has ramped up its Safer Spaces planning this year by offering additional training for staff and volunteers, and having designated Safer Spaces personnel at each venue, along with a detailed zero tolerance policy that can be read in full on their website. “It’s really important to all of us at the festival that everyone feels welcome and safe,” she says.
With the event’s sixth edition on the horizon, we asked Swan to help select some of the shows to see in 2017.
Wednesday, January 25 at The Ballroom
“We kick off the festival every year in this beautiful ballroom in a mansion,” says Swan. And one could not choose a more perfect setting for inimitable sonic weaver Hannah Epperson. The silken voiced violinist and loop pedal experimenter will play alongside the similarly enchanting Tansy (formerly known as astre).
Thursday, January 26 at the Good Will Social Club
As exemplified on 2016 two-track 7-inch Missed the Point b/w Beach Date, folk punk Cassia J. Hardy (the brainchild behind Wares) can shout over a shotgun blast of noisy rock or softly coo atop a sparsely arranged ballad with effortless ease. All raw emotion and unapologetic self-expression, Wares is another act on Swan’s personal list of must-sees.
Pip Skid with 3PEAT and The O.B.
Friday, January 27 at the Sherbrook Inn
On the heels of his latest release, Poppy Cock, with Rob Crooks, gravel-voiced Winnipeg rapper Pip Skid makes his highly anticipated return to the festival since 2013. Known for his unhinged live shows, prepare for a visceral night of getting loose.
Also performing are 3PEAT and The O.B. (a.k.a. Osani Balkaran), an emerging 17-year-old rapper. “He came up through Studio 393,” says Swan. “It’s this program connected to the Graffiti Gallery where kids can go and get mentors. They learn to rap or create beats or breakdance…The O.B. is super talented. I‘m excited for that one, because he’s going to be performing with his mentor Pip Skid.”
Disco Needs a Squeeze Showcase with Triage, Genex, WHIP and Craterface
Friday, January 27 at The Handsome Daughter
Big Fun will also partner with the newly launched Winnipeg hardcore festival, Disco Needs a Squeeze, for a showcase of prairie punk alongside lone Torontonians, Triage. “I think it’s really important to help support not only local bands but also new festivals,” says Swan.
Tunic with Animal Lover, Viva Non and Permanent Mistake
Saturday, January 28 at The Handsome Daughter
A lineup of escalating loudness—and a momentary comedown courtesy of romantic synth-pop project Viva Non—that will build towards an exultant release of screaming and feedback from Winnipeg’s Tunic and Minneapolis’ Animal Lover. It’s a rollercoaster of a bill that’s worth checking out.
Saturday, January 28 at RAW: Almond
Saskatoon doom-wop sister combo The Garrys (so named after their dad Garry, BTW) make their Big Fun debut at the warming-hut-turned-pop-up-music venue Raw: Almond. And their hazy, surf-y little ditties soaked in reverb should hit the right notes on the river trail. “I’ve been really into them,” says Swan. “That’s gonna be an awesome show.”
Big Fun Festival runs January 25-29, 2017 in Winnipeg. For a full list of performers, schedule times and ticket info, visit bigfunfestival.com3PEAT, Big Fun, Big Fun Festival, Big Fun Festival 2017, Hannah Epperson, Julie Doiron, Manitoba, MB, The Garrys, Triage, Tunic, Wares