A brand-new festival is coming to Winnipeg, and what it lacks in history, it’s making up for in style.
Interstellar Rodeo roars out of the gate with iconic headliners to compete with any Winnipeg festival, bringing storied Irish singer-songwriter Sinead O’Connor, country music pioneer Dwight Yoakam, and Canada’s own Blue Rodeo to the stage at The Forks. But even below the big names, the festival promises some real treats. For organizer Sara Stasiuk, one of those is Hawksley Workman.
“I had a sneak preview of Hawksley Workman,” Stasiuk says. “It was so good. I’ve been a big fan of Hawksley for years and years.”
Workman is touring with his brand-new album Old Cheetah His last Winnipeg visit was three years ago, and he says he’s looking forward to returning to the city.
“It actually shocks me that it’s been three years. I look to Winnipeg as this wonderful music city,” Workman says. “The first sold-out show I ever played was at the West End Cultural Centre … I always found that it was a natural, welcoming, clever music-listening audience in Winnipeg, so it’ll be nice to return to that.”
Old Cheetah is Workman’s first proper album in five years, and he is coming off of a stretch of performances for his rock cabaret musical, The God That Comes - an experience he says has changed his performances.
“As a performer, I feel sharper now in some ways than I ever have,” he says. “It’s like my very DNA has been slowly rearranged to accommodate this level of extra wildness in performance.”
Hawksley Workman opens the festival Friday evening, followed by Tanya Tagaq and headliner Sinead O’Connor rounding out a short opening day. The rest of the weekend will feature a trove of talent on a single stage, including soul star Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Americana legend Steve Earle and Australian folk sensation Vance Joy, who will be between touring dates with Taylor Swift.
But even beyond the music, Stasiuk says the festival is about giving people what they want.
“We all want comfortable experiences … We designed this for us. What do we want in a festival? We want to have our favourite music playing, we want to drink delicious wine.”
In that spirit, the festival is working with independent wine stores and wine critic Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson to curate a wine list and pairings for the music all weekend.
“It’s so nerdy. It’s such a nerdy festival,” Stasiuk says. “We’re gonna have a house red, a house white and a house rosé available throughout the weekend, and then each band will have its own specially-selected wine that matches their vibe and their time slot.”
The festival will also host a range of local food vendors, something Stasiuk says was part of the overall focus on “excellent experiences.”
“You can be drinking excellent wine, you can be eating food that’s not just your hot dogs and hamburgers … That’s a little more thoughtfully curated as well.”
Stasiuk notes even the location, stage and set times were chosen to make as comfortable an experience as possible.
“Doing an event that’s a little bit smaller, that’s in the centre of the city, makes it easier to get to, comfortable to get to, you can ride your bike, you can drive, you can be home by 11,” she says.
“We have one stage, so the idea is that everyone is watching the same thing. You’re having the same experience as everyone you come with.”
Interstellar Rodeo is put on by Six Shooter Records, and is expanding to Winnipeg after holding successful events in Edmonton. The festival runs Aug. 14-16 at The Forks.