The Manitoba Electronic Music Exhibition kicked off in Winnipeg Thursday amid scrutiny of music festivals across Canada after five deaths this summer.
The fest brings four days of electronic music to a host of venues across the city, including free shows at The Cube in the Exchange District.
“We always bring artists from around the world. Most of the artists are from Winnipeg and Canada and about 20 are from the U.S. and Europe,” said director Nathan Zahn.
The festival is now in its fifth year, and offers free shows and workshops.
But some are questioning the event’s safety after a series of deaths at music festivals in Canada.
Missi Wooldridge with Dance Safe, an organization that promotes health and safety in the electronic music community, worries the right questions aren’t being asked ahead of the fest.
“We’re not talking about risk. We’re not talking about your dosages. We’re not talking about mixing substances. We’re not setting up spaces for people to cool down and take a break,” said Woolridge.
This summer alone, two people have died at festivals in Toronto and another three have died at festivals across Canada; all were suspected of taking drugs.
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Local DJ Andre Bisseck has been a part of MEME since the start and said there’s no denying drugs have a presence in the electronic music scene.
“It’s there, certainly – as it is with other cultures, but I don’t think that the people that are truly in it for the music participate or are really all that interested in that,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’re interested in music culture.”
Winnipeg police said they are aware of the weekend’s show, and they’re working to make sure people who attend are safe.
“Situations with respect to individuals consuming illegal drugs, anything – alcohol, over-consumption – that’s always something we’re going to work with our various partners [on],” said Det. Sgt. Natalie Aitken.
And Zahn said safety comes before anything at the fest.
“We’ve had a great track record. It’s much more for us an artistic event. It’s a mature event,” said Zahn. “So perhaps we’re a bit more of a different scene than the bigger scale electronic music festivals.”