With Rogers Place opening its doors in September, it felt like Edmonton’s downtown revitalization had taken its first major step.
But the revitalization wouldn’t be where it is today if it weren’t for others laying groundwork, like executive director Jason Flammia at the UP+DT music festival.
For the past four years, UP+DT has used Thanksgiving weekend to bring a variety of local and touring bands to play in various venues across the city’s downtown. And this year, it’s already shaping up to be a bigger success than in previous years.
“The ticket sales are strong,” Flammia said. “(And) all the bands and artists are all really stoked about coming.”
More than 90 acts will play over the three-day period at a variety of venues, including the Starlite Room, Bohemia and the Needle — a new addition to the selection of venues. The festival’s headliners this year include Tokyo Police Club, Basia Bulat and White Lung, but will also feature some hometown favourites like Nature Of and Mitchmatic.
Bringing all these musicians together in one area of the city for three days is Flammia’s way of contributing to the increasingly vibrant community in downtown Edmonton.
“Part of the reason we started this festival four years ago was because we saw what was happening and we wanted to contribute to that vibrancy,” he said.
The Needle is one of the latest small venues to open up in the city — this after uncertainty about the city’s venues plagued the local music community. Fortunately for Flammia and the UP+DT festival, the amount of rooms that can fit small shows in downtown Edmonton were more than enough to sustain the festival.
“We were able to, for lack of better term, weather the storm in 2015,” Flammia said. Now, with more venues springing up in the downtown area, Flammia can look to expansion. “We’re always looking for ways to expand and continue to grow,” he said, “as long as there is demand for it.”
In addition to adding more performers to the bill than previous years, Flammia and the UP+DT crew also introduced a craft beer element. Each of the venues has one craft beer they will have on special, and most of them are from breweries in Alberta and British Columbia (with the exception of Steamwhistle and Mill Street at the Starlite Room and Brixx, respectively).
Flammia said though there were many hoops to jump through in terms of exclusive deals between venues and breweries, the result was worth it.
Couple that with the impressive lineup, which includes two Polaris Music Prize nominees, and Flammia said Edmontonians have much to look forward to. He noted that the UP+DT festival has been lucky in the past couple of years with booking nominees of the Polaris Prize — considering acts are booked well before the names are announced.
With Basia Bulat and White Lung on the bill, Flammia can rest easy, knowing he has helped bring talented Canadian artists to Edmonton’s downtown core. “I’m really excited about it,” he said.
You can purchase three-day weekend passes or tickets to individual shows here.