Notoriously BIG

Full-day festival packs multiple genres and mediums into three different venues

We all become professional Stampede whiners in July. Which in some respects is important — someone has to ensure that the Dress Western Day Nashville North and latest double-deep-fried food item is ridiculed on Twitter. But Adrian Urlacher and Paul Bazay both ad men by day came up with a slightly more poignant rebuttal to the intolerable celebrations: stop the redundant complaining about hay bales and barbaric rodeo watchers and just throw a better party.

“Everyone loves to hate Stampede” Urlacher notes. “The city obviously thrives during it but it also ticks all year round…. We thought it’d be great to give a voice to the local arts scene during Stampede because they don’t really have one then.”

So after two years of planning BIG emerged: an event that delivers on its name to the point where it will either be momentous or daft. Over 30 acts are booked for half-hour sets each including local reps from the music film dance art and theatre scenes. It’s planned to stretch for 17 hours kicking off at 10 a.m. on Friday at Commonwealth then moving to Broken City at 10 p.m. for the after-party and calling it a night (and calling cabs for the inebriated) at 3 a.m. Three venues are booked for the occasion — the whole of Commonwealth the neighbouring Rogue Clothier and Cycling Company and Broken City.

But if duelling opera or hip-hop karaoke or whatever other cool shit happening at a particular moment isn’t your thing there’s always the option of staggering around the block and visiting the Beakerhead Art Limo food trucks Bass Bus or the Village Brewery Radio Truck. BIG has scored the city’s approval to close off the whole block meaning that the roaming won’t only be confined to the next-door shenanigans at Rogue where even more bands and Village Brewery will be hanging. In short there’ll be no lack of things to see hear and consume.

“We want to have transitions happening upstairs downstairs and outside all day” Urlacher says. “So if Dragon Fli Empire finishes upstairs the Floor Wookies will be performing right after on the main floor. The whole idea is that there’s no breaking the action. You could buy a ticket to come see HighKicks but we hope you stay because you’ve never seen Cowtown Opera before.”

But buying a VIP ticket for both the party and the after-party (which at $45 is cheaper than the worst pre-ordered seat to watch horses get killed down at the Stampede grounds) doesn’t only guarantee a stupid number of hours of bands and beer. All extra money once the performers and venues have been paid is being donated to the Calgary Arts Development-organized Alberta Arts Flood Rebuild fund. The organizing team which includes 15 other people in addition to Urlacher and Bazay are volunteering their time to throw this hoedown. Some of the artists are even halving their cut in order to raise as much money as possible.

“It was a real easy decision for us” Urlacher says. “We called Calgary Arts Development and within a half-hour we had the partnership. We’ve been really fortunate: people have just offered up their lives to us to help out with BIG. We’re just hoping that we can give back that we can make enough money to make a dent.”