Brandon Folk Festival

Cold Specks


North-East corner of the Keystone Centre Grounds at 1175–18th Street in Brandon // July 25-27

Big Names // Cold Specks, Martin Sexton, Wax Mannequin, isKwe

Local talent // Matt Epp, Mariachi Ghost, Chez Willi

Cost // $40 (Friday), $45 (Sat/Sunday), $80 (weekend pass) + $15 camping pass

Parking // n/a


Do you love good music and music festivals but not the crowds? Then hit the Trans-Canada and catch the Brandon Folk, Music, and Art Festival July 25-27.

"It's a really nice little folk fest and a great little venue," says Rafael Reyes, Mariachi Ghost guitarist. "It is everything that the Winnipeg Folk Festival is, without the hordes of people."

Reyes is a big fan of the Winnipeg Folk Festival, but loves the smaller community feel of Brandon.  His band Mariachi Ghost is one of this year's big names, which includes international heavy hitters Cold Specks, rising Trip Hop/EDM star isKwe and perennial Manitoba favourite, Martin Sexton from Syracuse, NY.

While still a little festival compared to "mega-festivals" like the Winnipeg or Edmonton that draw tens of thousands,  now in it's 30th year, the Brandon Folk, Music & Arts Festival attracts over 3,000 people annually.

"We've grown considerably in the last five years," says Artistic Director Shandra MacNeill.  "Our audience has grown and along with it so have the names we attract, like last year when we had Hawksley Workman and Martha Wainwright.

"We still have room to grow, but we kept to our roots with local and emerging artists on the same stage as big names."

Such as Matt Epp, who is really starting to make a name for himself outside of Manitoba.  His duet with Serena Ryder, “When You Know”, hit #2 on the CBC Music Chart and the response across Canada, and especially in Europe, has kept on the road for the better part of the past year.

Others include festival veterans, ex-pat Ben Sures, multi-lingual Western Canadian Music Award nominees Chez Willi, and Brandon's own Son Latino Band who turned Old Market Square into a rip roarin' Latin dance party at this year's TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival.

"Chez Willi is a very special act," notes MacNeill. "For anyone who has had a romantic notion about 1930s Paris cafe culture, it's the perfect band!"

Other Canadian acts on the bill include Wax Mannequin and The DoneFors from Ontario, Ben Caplan & the Casual Smokers from Nova Scotia and BC's shayne avec i grec.  

MacNeill explains that being a smaller festival is great, but it also works to serve a wider audience (“The festival had to be a little broader in its mandate,” she notes.) And that includes the art part; every year visual artists create site specific installations, some of them interactive.  Last year the artists were paired with technical experts who built robotic versions of the original sculptures.  This year's main project will be the stage.

"[The artists] are creating a really wild stage for us," she says. "It will be a kind of psychedelic garden with flowers that look like they are eating the artists."

Part of the series: 2014 Summer Festival Guide

Published in Volume 68, Number 28 of The Uniter (July 2, 2014)

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