Seventh annual Big Fun festival

Winter festival brings artists from across the country to Winnipeg

Selci performing at The Good Will Social Club

The seventh annual Big Fun Festival ran from Jan. 24 to 28. The winter music festival showcased local and national talent from multiple genres and put on a total of 14 concerts at multiple venues over the course of five days.

“We always want to have as many genres as possible and kind of showcase the different angles and elements and genres of the Winnipeg music community,” executive director of the festival Lauren Swan said.

“We’ve got a lot of indie and heavier stuff, and there’s always some folk. I try to have a bit of [a] hip-hop element. We try and get as much as we can,” she said.

Local performers included p o u t, Super Duty Tough Work, and Animal Teeth. Out-of-town acts included Wares, Braids, and BIG|BRAVE among others.

Artistic director and curator Stefan Braun said organizers received around 300 artist applications for this year’s festival. Braun is responsible for listening to every artist submission and co-selecting the bands to perform along with artistic director David Schellenberg, who books the bigger headlining bands.

“This year was really enjoyable because, for the first time in a long time, I didn’t know many of the bands who applied this year. So everything was pretty fresh, which was pretty exciting, because one of the reasons we do this is to find new music in the city,” Braun said.

Braun booked the Saturday afternoon experimental show, which this year was held at Forth. He said that there is support for experimental and abstract music in Winnipeg, which is due in part to festivals like send + receive, though that type of music sometimes gets overlooked when there is not a large-scale event that is specifically focused on that style of music.

Red Moon Road performing at Forth by Jen Doerksen

“I enjoy weird things, so I ended up just fighting for my experimental strange Saturday afternoon, and that will always be what that is, and how it works,” Braun said. “And it’s great, and it’s free, and it’s fun.”

The festival kicked off Jan. 24 with local musician Matt Foster accompanied by Quintin Bart opening for Calgary native FOONYAP, who prefers gender-neutral pronouns, at The Ballroom.

FOONYAP said they applied to play the festival after meeting the Big Fun team at the Sled Island festival in Calgary. They performed in Winnipeg last fall alongside À La Mode and JohNNy SiZZle.

“It was wonderful,” they said. “It was at the Crescent Fort Rouge United Church. It was a very appreciative crowd.”

For FOONYAP, creating a live experience is a special part of their performance.

“I create a space to focus our attention inward and to explore these deeply personal emotions from which these songs arose,” they said. “I create an atmosphere that is vulnerable and sometimes heavy.”

FOONYAP performs a mix of classical violin and electronic soundscapes, creating music they call “introspective, moody, and dark.”

For Swan, the festival is something to look forward to in the middle of Winnipeg’s winter.

“We like it because it’s just something to look forward to, and it kind of breaks up the monotony of January and the post-holiday blues,” she said. “We used to be really nervous about weather restrictions, because that’s a factor you can’t really plan for. Like if it’s -40 degrees out, we worry people won’t come, but they’ve proven us wrong time and time again.”  

This will be the festival’s first year using the Times Change(d) High and Lonesome Club, and Forth as venues.

“I’ve obviously seen shows at the Times Change(d), but [hearing] what a show will sound like in the Forth café space is really cool,” Swan said. “It’s nice to be a part of that history and legend that is the Times Change(d). That’s a big honour for us.”