By Kaeleigh Ayre
Winnipeg music fans will be able to shake, rock and roll off the snow this January with the inaugural Big Fun Music Festival.
What started as conversation over a breakfast at the Nook, a Wolseley area diner, has snowballed into a full-fledged music festival to be held throughout the Exchange District during the longest and coldest days of our Prairie winter.
“We were sitting out on the patio, having breakfast, throwing out ideas, and I said, ‘You realise we could do this,’” Lauren Swan, the festival’s business manager, says over a late lunch at Cousin’s Diner.
The group of five young Winnipeggers behind the effort is comprised mostly of musicians involved in multiple bands around the city, so the idea was not that big of a stretch for them. “Being in a band, putting on shows, you kind of know what to look for, who to talk to,” Stefan Braun says. Braun, 23, is another member of the elite squad that assembled to make the rock festival happen. Braun says he has been contemplating getting together his friends’ bands for a festival of sorts for some time.
The festival is being held Thursday, January 26 to Sunday, January 29 with different events being held over the four days at different locations in the Exchange. “We’ve got a few little secret tidbits hidden that we’re still working on,” Braun says.
Since Winnipeg is famous for its frigid winter temperatures, location is key for getting around to each venue without succumbing to the elements. “They’re all in a really tight radius,” Swan, 25, says. “This is what we wanted because there is going to be a festival pass, which will get you access to all of the shows. We wanted to make sure the venues were within walking distance, so that people are actually willing to hop between shows.”
The locations are also unique to the festival, and in some cases, as rock show venues. “All of the venues are re-purposed warehouses and art galleries and lofts. We really wanted to stay away from the ‘usual’ bar venues for something different,” Swan says.
Social media and “guerrilla-style” advertising are playing a big part in the success of the festival. “People are really excited. There are a lot of people who are really supportive,” Swan says. “There’s a buzz already, and we only just announced it. We’ve got our teaser poster up, and our website, and our social media component, which all went up on the same day.”
The excitement over a mid-winter ice breaker is not only being felt on the organizer/music lover front. Several local artists and bands that have been confirmed for the line up have expressed great anticipation via email for the January festival.
“As a band we’ve been really excited about the potential of Big Fun to fill this void in the dead of winter, giving everyone who’s into music something to look forward to,” Stefan Kroeker of The Mystics says. “It seems like something that could easily grow into an annual event, and we feel privileged to be a part of the first run.” The Mystics are slated to play the Friday evening festival show, according to the Big Fun Twitter feed.
“It’s going to be great to have something rad to go out and do at the end of January,” Tim Hoover, a.k.a. DJ Co-op, says. “Rather than staying home and being sad and lonely. And cold.” Hoover commends the level of organization behind the festival.
“Cold weather, shmold meather,” Levi Kwade of Narwhal Strike says. “I think Big Fun is going to be a really positive force in the Winnipeg music scene. There’s really awesome talent here, but sometimes I feel like not enough Winnipeggers are aware of that.”
Kwade’s bandmates agree that our city is always in need of quality events. “Maybe less people will move away now that there’s something to do during the depths of the winter besides sit in your room and cry,” Narwhal Strike guitarist Hudson Fedun jokes.
“I usually spend January studying for exams,” Dom Markiw, drummer for Narwhal Strike, says.
“For me personally I have a lot of new songs that Winnipeg hasn’t heard yet,” Curtis Walker of Blunderspublik says. “This will be a great opportunity to play them out and see what people think.”
Festival pass and ticket prices, as well as the line up and specific times and locations, are yet to be confirmed, so keep an eye on their websites for more information leading up to the festival: