By Christine Leonard
CALGARY – Proof that pipe dreams can come true, Calgary’s inaugural 420 Music & Arts Festival is more than a celebration of Mother Nature’s bounty, it’s a gathering of some of the finest stoner rock bands in the land. Branching off of a history of hosting their own internet show and presenting live bands under the auspices of the Metalheads United Network, Festival coordinators CC Getty and Celestia Scarlett, along with co-organizer Patrick Saulnier, had some inkling of what they were getting into when they set about orchestrating what has grown into a four-evening event.
“It was really hard to do,” admits Getty. “We started organizing and reaching out to bands to see if they were interested. This music doesn’t get a lot of played a lot a Distortion, so we’re kind of breaking the mould there. But, we ran through a bunch of names of bands we love like Wo Fat and reached out to them, thinking that they’d never message us back. Within minutes we had a reply from Wo Fat. They were in!”
Once the RSVPs from bands started flowing it quickly became apparent that there were bigger obstacles to be overcome in establishing a groundbreaking tradition from the grassroots level.
“We were working with Distortion’s booker when we started getting push-back on the name of the Festival,” he recalls. “There are many stereotypes associated with stoner rock and stoner metal, but just because you listen to it doesn’t mean you’re into marijuana. We really wanted to take away the stereotypes.”
Incorporating an “expo” of artistic and educational displays for attendees to explore, the Festival aims to compliment the fun elements common to 420 celebrations held across the planet with timely socio-political considerations.
“We’ve found about 30 or 40 vendors, so far,” confirms Scarlett.
“It’s great because Calgary has a tonne of talented craftspersons and designers. We wanted to create a showcase for people and put that together with some of your medical marijuana activists and other interesting vendors from Calgary.”
Medicine for the soul will be in abundance throughout the event as Getty and company have harvested an epic line-up of bands that will have audiences returning to Distortion’s doorstep night after night. Thank the Goddess for onsite food trucks!
“Within the stoner rock canon there are so many different styles that we wanted to represent,” Scarlett explains.
“We started looking around at bands in Western Canada that were in the genre and there were so many possibilities for line-ups. Enough to keep us going well into the future, in fact. So, we tried to pick a lot of bands that don’t usually play here and layered them in with Calgary’s favourite bands. It’s an interesting and diverse mix that offers a unique experience every night for people who are doing three shows back to back.”
Call it stoner, desert, sludge, doom or swamp rock, those rolling organic grooves with a hardcore concrete center are a custom fit for the city’s heavy hitters.
“One of the bands we have playing, Hypnopilot, are probably Calgary’s original stoner rock band. They played the Distortion anniversary party and were so fired up for this festival they switched up their set list,” Getty reports.
“We have over 20 bands playing the festival, but we’re actually putting together more to play a free show on the 19th. We’re inviting people to come down and pick up their wristbands and tickets a day early and to get first shot at some of the merchandise. We figured we might as well have some bands play while we get everything set up!”
The 420 Music & Arts Festival features live music, art, food trucks, vendors, beard contests and more. Head to the festival website or Facebook for more information.420 Music & Arts Festival