The Roots, Walk off the Earth to headline 2019 SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival in Saskatoon

Hip hop band The Roots and indie pop band Walk off the Earth have top billing at this year's jazz festival in Saskatoon.

Lyle Lovett, Jann Arden to also perform

The Roots will return to the SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival in 2019. (CBC Music)

Hip hop band The Roots and indie-pop band Walk off the Earth have top billing at this year's jazz festival in Saskatoon.

The SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival, which runs from June 21 to 30, also features Lyle Lovett And His Large Band, Jann Arden and Johnny Reid.

There will be some big changes to the festival's makeup this year. While traditionally the festival operated two stages, this year free music from local and touring musicians will move to the main stage in Bessborough Gardens.

The festival will now include five days of free programming and five days of ticketed shows at the Bessborough, along with shows at other venues including the Broadway Theatre, the Bassment and Amigos.

The jazz festival will also now offer the LB Gardens Pass, giving guaranteed admission to all ticketed performances at the mainstage for $260.

A presale for single tickets and the LB Gardens pass will start on Tuesday. Sales to the general public will start on Friday.

Artistic director encourages attendees to 'dive deeper'

The Roots and Walk off the Earth headline this year's SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival (Supplied by SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival)

The Roots and Walk off the Earth are both returning headliners. Artistic director Kevin Tobin says that's because they were so popular with fans in prior years.

Walk off the Earth's 2017 show sold out about a month before the performance.

Other acts may not attract as many people, but they'll be worth it, according to Tobin.

"There's so many hidden gems within the program that we're really hoping people dive a little deeper."

The festival has had struggles trying to book international artists in the past. The low Canadian dollar adds to the difficulty and frustration.

Tobin said the festival's strategy is to try to extend artist tours while they're in Western Canada and to work with other festivals to bring them in. The Saskatoon festival collaborates with other jazz festivals, like Montreal and Milwaukee.

"We're competing on an international level for the artists that we're bringing into the festival. We're already working on 2020 and we've got a list of artists that we work on for years and years and years to bring into the festival," said Tobin.

Keeping it sustainable

Kevin Tobin is the artistic director of the SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival in Saskatoon. (Don Somers/CBC News)

One of the roles of the festival's board of directors is ensuring the event is sustainable and will continue for years.

"I am always concerned as a board member, but we work very closely with our management team and and work to ensure our sponsors — we're very indebted to our sponsors — so everyone pulls together to make sure that we continue to operate a great festival," said Mitch Riabko, the chair of the board of directors.

Riabko says the closure of the free stage is positive, as concert-goers will have a chance to watch free performances at the Bessborough Gardens.

"We're going to be able to give an opportunity to our local artists, Saskatchewan artists, some scattered Saskatoon artists that have never played a large stage like that, to be able to perform in front of an audience." said Riabko.

Organizers say they hope the experience will nudge fans of the free shows into buying tickets next year.

The festival will also be visiting various Saskatoon neighbourhoods to spread the music to those who can't make it down to the riverbank.

with files from Bridget Yard


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