More than just a party

Local electronic music festival expands for its second year

Thomas Fehlmann from Berlin will headline local electronic music festival MEME. Nathan Zahn

“I hate electronic music” is a sentence commonly heard by Nathan Zahn. For the DJ and promoter, this negative perception of his genre fueled him to create the Manitoba Electronic Music Exhibition (MEME).

Showcasing electronic music for the masses, MEME is the first festival of its kind in the prairies.

Now in its second year of operation, MEME has the local electronic scene buzzing with anticipation for its June 23-26 events. Headliners include Thomas Fehlmann (Berlin) and Dandy Jack (Geneva) alongside local acts like Theo and Venetian Snares.

“Last year’s show at the Cube [in Old Market Square] was very successful, but the club shows were OK, not packed,” says Zahn, who has worked in the scene since the 1990s.

This time around, MEME will be using the Cube three out of the four nights of the festival.

“Because [Old Market Square] is free and a very much professional production, we don’t see why there can’t be a couple thousand people there,” he says. “We hope to see the same kind of crowd Jazz Fest has on Sunday night … especially with the new beer tent.”

Zahn started MEME with a collection of local music and digital arts groups like Balance Records, who wanted to take DJing beyond the nightclub scene.

Drawing on festivals like Mutek in Montreal, Zahn wants to make MEME a household name in the Canadian electronic music world.

It’s a high art – super intellectual, serious business that has gone on for years. It’s] not just a bunch of young people out for a party. It’s a robust artistic kind of event.

Nathan Zahn, organizer, MEME

“MEME is filling a void (in Winnipeg), there’s a need for this,” Zahn says. “But we need to make sure we carefully grow and don’t over extend ourselves.”

Addressing the lack of quality electronic music in Winnipeg, MEME strives to grow awareness of the genre. This year’s festival features DJs and VJs (video jockeys) from all over the world, as well as a few local heroes.

“Like any scene it has problems. Everything has politics, but for my perspective on it, I’ve had nothing but interest and support from people since I started doing this here,” says Skot Deeming a.k.a mrghosty, a prominent local VJ. “And some of the local talent here are some the best I’ve heard.”

Mrghosty is in charge of coordinating the visuals for all eight events, an important component to any good electronic show.

“VJing is much like free form video jazz, we’re collaborating in real time with the DJ and you’re contributing to the environment of the space that normally wouldn’t be there,” Deeming says.

Zahn and the other coordinators hope to dispel the myth that electronic music is only for drugged-up teenagers at raves.

“We’d love to grow the scene in Winnipeg,” he says. “We have so many bars playing the same music … we just feel if more people heard this type of [electronic] music they would change their minds about techno music.”

In addition to helping out the local scene, MEME is trying to expose electronic music as an intelligent and varied genre.

“It’s a high art – super intellectual, serious business that has gone on for years,” Zahn says. “[It’s] not just a bunch of young people out for a party. It’s a robust artistic kind of event.”

MEME starts Thursday, June 23 and ends Sunday, June 26.  Visit

Published in Volume 65, Number 26 of The Uniter (June 2, 2011)

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