Siren songs for a frozen city

Big Fun offers 36 musical reasons to leave your pillow fort

Burning Kettles, photo provided by Big Fun

It’s long been inferred that the rich musical and cultural scenes in Winnipeg are a direct result of our cold, dark winters – as if we become a city of homebound hermits curling up around our guitars, or other vice of choice, and stewing in malaise for six long months.

But what of the creative minds that are scheming up plans to draw the rest of us out of hibernation? They call themselves Big Fun, and have scheduled a festival weekend full of shows showcasing local and regional talent, all nefariously designed to draw music lovers outside and into, well, fun.

“[We] try to promote a show-hopping vibe, which we can encourage by finding spaces within reasonable walking distance, which is why the festival is typically divided each day by neighbourhoods,” says Stefan Braun, artistic director.

Between Jan. 22 and 26, a grand total of 36 bands from multiple genres will be playing throughout Winnipeg. Big Fun spans 11 venues, including Union Sound Hall, the Windsor Hotel, A.N.A.F. Unite “Club 60,” Into the Music, and aceartinc.

The recent losses of many favourite local venues have proved a challenge for Big Fun.

“It keeps us on our toes and always has us trying to find new spots open to the ideas of the festival,” says Braun. “This has led to new opportunities as it seems there are always spots willing to open themselves up to concerts.”

You can take the festival show-by-show, or grab a full festival pass for $60 – a steal of a deal considering the treats carefully curated for you by Braun and company. A sampling of show headliners includes METZ, Venetian Snares, B.A. Johnston, and Les Jupes, and they are all paired with equally delightful and complementary acts.

“I’m constantly amazed by the amount of talented bands submitting that I have never heard of,” says Braun, adding that his favourite part of the job is the task of “constantly discovering new and exciting bands.”

His picks this time around—not necessarily reflective of the “collective tastes of the festival”—are Surprise Party, SMRT TYPE, and Potatoes.

The full Big Fun ensemble consists of Braun, David Schellenberg, Lauren Swan, Aaron Johnston, and Eryn Maloney, who all identify as musicians, music lovers, or both. Together they have brought this festival into its third and biggest year yet.

While they draw some of their inspiration from larger cities’ famous festivals, like Pop Montreal and NXNE, the passion for the music scene is definitely Winnipeg-bred.

“I grew up going to all-ages punk shows all the time. I basically spent every weekend at the [West End Cultural Centre] or some community centre,” says Braun.

“Those were the places where I met musicians that helped shape my music taste and really showed me that Winnipeg had a music scene to believe in.”

By including all-ages shows in their lineup, Big Fun hopes to continue indoctrinating local youth with this love for the music scene. Each day of the festival includes at least one all-ages offering. Says Braun, “We hope to bring a lot more all-ages content in the future and really give the festival an all-inclusive feel.”


Find the full lineup, schedule, maps, and ticket information at