You don't need to alter your vision to enjoy this music fest
By Cory Schachtel | August 25, 2022
Ryan Rathjen spends a lot of time searching out and promoting new local music — most notably on his CJSR radio show, Phased Out — so it makes sense he’d gather some of them together in a festival named after one of the weirdest Edmonton traditions.
Purple City Music Festival — named after the act of staring into the Legislature lights until everything looks purple — began as up+dt (Up and Downtown) in 2013. “It was a multi-venue, multi-day festival, focused on just using venues downtown,” Rathjen explains. “We did a scaled-back event in 2019, and just a one-day COVID event in Hawrelak.”
But the goal was always to someday make it more citywide, which will finally happen this weekend. “A big part of it is trying to create many spaces that can be all-ages friendly, and to utilize more venues in the city, like Metro, and Grindstone, so it’s not only in downtown.”
In a city flush with festivals, in can be tough to stand out, especially closer to summer’s end. But with a wide range of artists playing on nine stages around town (including two at Hawrelak Park), Rathjen is confident that people will find something they love in a place nearby.
“If I was gonna give it a blanket term, I would say it’s indie, in general. That’s the vibe, but we do have electronic elements, hip-hop, a bit of old country, goth and post-punk, so it’s super diverse, and there is a lot of representation across the board. I love female-fronted bands, and I’m excited to see a bunch of women kick ass on stage.”
The other distinction that separates Purple City from most other festivals is that, along with international artists, almost all of the bands are from Edmonton, and they’re young, making it an extension of Rathjen’s radio show. “A big part of what we’re trying to do…is have younger bands pushing new sounds and a bit more underground music rather than more established artists. We’re just really trying to build something for the future in Edmonton for the younger demographic. We want them to come to the festival, get inspired by the music and, hopefully, play the festival themselves in the future.”
Like its namesake, the festival is as Edmonton as it gets. “When I moved here, I remember people telling me about ‘purple city.’ I’ve actually never done it, but I think it’s a hilarious, very Edmonton thing, you know? Like it seems it couldn’t happen in any other city.”