Eagle Lake Owls one of the bands on the bill this weekend. (Eagle Lake Owls)
The West End Cultural Centre's 25th anniversary season rolls on this weekend
with Pickin' on the Prairies, a two-day celebration of back-porch bluegrass,
folk and old-tyme music.
"Folk and bluegrass have been a part of the WECC since the very beginning and continue to be exciting genres of music," says Jason Hooper, artistic director of the WECC. "Folk and bluegrass is a core part of our programming, always has been always will be."
Another core mandate of the WECC's programming is supporting local musicians, which is why both nights boast all-Manitoba talent.
"I like to think that the WECC is the first home for Manitoba musicians and that we are a place for music lovers to come and experience the culture of music that exists in their own backyard."
For Hooper, a big part of being a music lover is the thrill of discovery. It's no accident Pickin' on the Prairies' lineup is largely made of emerging acts, including Ashes, an exciting new project involving ex-members of D. Rangers, up-and-coming indie-folk outfit Yes We Mystic, buzzed-about acoustic act Eagle Lake Owls (recently named a band to watch in 2013 by The Uniter) as well as songwriter/guitarist Emma Cloney and violinist Patti Lamoureux. As Hooper points out, putting new faces onstage is one of the most important ways the WECC can support local musicians.
"We hope that we help them to build a local audience and fan base from the very beginning of their career, and not just show up after the hard work of getting started is finished."
Hooper says he heard about these performers in a variety of ways, including the Manitoba Folkways Collection (a series of field recordings inspired by the famed American folklorist and ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax), the Manitoba Music artist directory and streaming radio. "A lot of times it's just going out and listening to what people are doing," he adds. "I first heard Yes We Mystic at last year's Carol Shields Festival of New Works, a local theatre festival.
"That moment of discovery? A lot of that has to do with something 'ringing true,'" he continues. "When it does you kind of know it and start paying attention to what the artist or band is doing -- and there they are, on your radar."
Discover your new favourite band at Pickin' on the Prairies, Friday, Feb. 22 and Saturday, Feb. 23 at the WECC.