Eclectic festival packed full of music, comedy, wrestling and drag takes over Edmonton this weekend
By Cory Schachtel | January 25, 2023
After 25 years of organizing concerts and helping run local venues like Starlite Room (back when it was The Rev) and Sidetrack Café, Brent Oliver took a break from living the rock and roll (promoter) life. He had “a gaggle of children” and moved into government work until 2019, when Kirby Wirchenko asked if he’d like to help bring music, comedy and arts fest Winterruption to Edmonton. After “begging for forgiveness from [his] wife,” he helped put on the first event in January 2020. Six weeks later, the world changed. There was no festival the following year, and the 2021 version was pushed to a few weekends spread out over March and April.
This year, it’s back in its original January spot, and Oliver says it’s important for our “festival city” to earn its moniker, even in the middle of winter. “There aren’t really any festivals like this in Edmonton that happen between November and the end of January. There’s Deep Freeze, and Flying Canoe Volant, which have music elements, but that’s not really the center of their circles, where it really is for us.”
Winterruption’s circle spans 10 venues across the city, and they “really appreciate it because they do not get a lot of touring acts in January, so they really rely on Winterruption to bring some bigger acts and enjoy some profit. Because even though venues are in the for profit business, that doesn’t mean they’re making a ton of profit.”
Besides the time of year, Oliver says what makes this a unique show is the variety of acts. “My version of a great festival is jumping from venue to venue, when I get to see half an hour of one show and then run down the street to another show. And I like that kind of dynamic programming, where we’ve got everything from hip hop to hardcore to pop to electro, plus comedy, podcasts, wrestling and drag.
With charming band names like Holy Fuck, Joe & the Shitboys and Fartbarf, you’d be forgiven for thinking this fest was all about experimental acts doing outlandish, performance art on stage. But Oliver assures that having a silly band name was not a prerequisite to being invited, just a happy accident. And there are plenty of family friendly acts. “During the day on Saturday, we’ve got a free show by Jody Shenkarek. And then our outdoor show is also on Saturday afternoon, where we partnered with the Edmonton Oilers as a kind of pregame show in the Ice District, with Velocitractor, Brasstactics and Raygun Cowboys. And there’ll be free skating and beer gardens too. There’s kind of something that works for everybody.”