Young fan before Ghostkeeper set in 2018. Photo: Ron Sparrow
An invitation to defrost your extremities and shake off that lingering cabin fever, Calgary’s Block Heater, celebrating its fifth year, brings concerts, collaborative sessions and the warmth of a few dozen local and international artists to the heart of the city when it’s most needed. By the estimates of Calgary Folk Music Festival Artistic Director, Kerry Clarke, the 2020 installment will be an extravaganza of entertainment and a celebration of newly forged partnerships and traditions.
“This year is bigger with more venues, capacity and programming. We’ll have three stages on Thursday and five stages on Friday and Saturday nights and Saturday afternoon,” Clarke reports. “Our programming has been expanded to include more artists, 38 this year verses about 20 in the first year. Also, new venues and a cool Black Future Month program that includes the film, We Are the Roots: Black Settlers and their Experiences of Discrimination on the Canadian Prairies, which will be followed by a panel discussion.”
Best described as a phenomenon that transforms the entire neighbourhoods of East Village and Inglewood into a giant house party, Block Heater is a happening where the kitchen is always humming and the parents won’t be home until Sunday.
“It’s an inspiring, multi-genre auditory reprieve from winter at the halfway mark between summer festivals that brings community together to revel in artistic excellence from the homegrown to the far-flung,” acknowledges Clarke.
An engaging, yet fleeting, opportunity to immerse yourself in the songs and stories of up-and-coming and established artists, Block Heater promises to become the cornerstone of the city’s winter festival calendar. With a future that includes further expansion into the emerging East Village, it’s a safe bet that this unique musi-centric event will be sticking around like a tongue on a frost-coated pole.
“It’s like the summer festival, but with walls,” says Clarke. “Prepare to dance your butt off, especially in Canada Music Square!”
Block Heater’s fifth year is as ambitious as ever, with a sprawling artistic lineup, including the new Black Future Month programming. To make sense of it all, we’ve selected our top shows around which you can base your own schedule.
Block Heater takes place from February 20 to 22 at various venues in the East Village and Inglewood. For full lineup and schedule information, visit calgaryfolkfest.com.
PICKS OF THE FESTIVAL
AfrotroniX Friday, Feb. 21 at ATB Canada Music Square @ Studio Bell, 8:30 pm
Hailing from Montréal via N’Djamena, Chad, guitarist/songwriter/producer, Caleb Rimtobaye, is the innovative Afrofuturist behind the dancefloor-melting sounds of AfrotoniX. Original DJing, mixing, live drumming and urban choreography are a few of the many tools he utilizes to create an irresistible amalgam of pop, hip hop, Saharan Touareg blues and Sierra Leone mandingo music.
Amelie Patterson Friday, Feb. 21 at the ITeam Stage @ King Eddy, 4:10 pm
Calgary resident and Banff’s inaugural poet-laureate, indie-folk artist Amelie Patterson paints watercolour landscapes in wood and wire. Moody yet brightly backlit, her skyline harmonies and wandering sense of wonder weave together emotion and portent with a master’s ease. An organizer, mentor and golden-throated daughter of the Foothills, she thrusts the Bow Valley into the sunshine and elevates the trials of life to the status of high mountain trails.
Carsie Blanton Thursday, Feb. 20 at nvrlnd. Hall @ Festival Hall, 9:15 pm
Winter rhythms that’ll leave you anything but blue are the touchstone and trademark of singer and guitarist Carsie Blanton. At home in the city of New Orleans, the talented songwriter and entertainer is celebrated for her mischievous explorations of funk, swing dance, jazz, folk, rock and pop. With a smouldering take on gender norms, her new album, Buck Up, encapsulates her unconventional outlook within velvety tones and meticulous melodies.
DJ Shub Saturday, Feb. 22 at ATB Canada Music Square @ Studio Bell, 10:05 pm
Straight outta Fort Erie, Ontario, Mohawk Dan “DJ Shub” General is often recognized for his work with award-winners A Tribe Called Red and is regarded as the Godfather of PowWowStep. Continuing his superhero-esque mission to spread joy and social justice, the influential DJ-producer has generated a new wave of electronic music that interprets his love of hip hop through the lense of Indigenous culture.
Villages Thursday, Feb. 20 at Ironwood, 10:15 pm
Constructing a cultural bridge between mainland Canada and the musical traditions Cape Breton Island, the pop-rock modern sensibilities of these rank-and-file artists are a Maritime treasure to behold. Singalong-worthy tunes with deep indie-rock roots are in order as these shaggy shantymen lean into the heave-ho momentum of memory, melody and Irish-influenced Celt-synth breakdowns.