Manitoba

Keep warm this weekend in Big Fun’s tiny venues

Stefan Braun calls his Big Fun festival a “little fledgling”– and you might be convinced after watching him help load chairs out of a venue and into a mini-van on a bone-chilling Thursday morning.

Winnipeg’s Big Fun Festival goes head to head with New Music Festival, RAW: Almond

Big Fun opened Wednesday night to a sold out crowd at the Ballroom at 218 Roslyn. (Joseph Visser)

Stefan Braun calls his Big Fun festival a “little fledgling”– and you might be convinced after watching him help load chairs out of a venue and into a mini-van on a bone-chilling Thursday morning.

But with thousands of people packing 10 venues over five days, and a first night sold out with lineups out the door – you wouldn’t know Big Fun is just a few years old.

“It’s basically -- we have rock and roll, we have folk music, we have electronic music, we have just general weirdness,” said Braun, the festival’s artistic director. “We’ve added I think 12 bands this year from last year. [We] started a bunch of new partnerships like with the West End.”

Last year, the fest brought in about 2,000 people, and all but one show sold out.
Big Fun runs until Sunday morning. The final party is a hungover breakfast show at The Good Will. (Joseph Visser)

The lineup is mainly local with a few big standouts like Operators and KENmode, but what makes this fest a little different is where it’s happening.

The venues range from a private ballroom at 218 Roslyn Rd., to Thom Bargen in West Broadway to the Sherbrook Hotel.

 “We [had a show there] last year, which was the first time there has been a show there in I think 10 years or something like that,” he said. “It used to be called the Exchange Event Hall or Exchange Club and that was the alternative music venue back in the mid-‘80s.”

And packing all of those venues this year will be difficult – the fest is going up against a ton of events in the city, including the Winnipeg New Music Festival that’s been running for nearly 25 years, the RAW: Almond pop-up eatery on the Red River and the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s annual mega-party Art and Soul.

But Braun said he’s not worried about it affecting attendance numbers.

He originally chose the end-of-January date for the fest because it didn’t conflict with too much else going on. There was a void in January – the dead of a brutal winter – and Braun had a plan to fix it.

Now, though, things have changed.

“I think Winnipeg is finally getting to a point where we’re embracing it as a winter city, which is nice to be a part of that community,” he said. “I don’t think they’re going to leave us just because there’s a lot of other things going on.”

Braun was hard pressed to pick a favourite from this year’s fest, but said the multi-venue event at Natural Cycle and the Rudolph Rocker is a can’t miss.

“We’ve always promoted the idea of venue hopping, and this year we finally found two venues in the same building so you can venue hop without having to go outside,” he said.

That’ll be a big plus on a weekend when the temperatures are expected to dip below -20 C.

The fest runs until Sunday afternoon, and a full schedule is available at www.bigfunfestival.com.

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