Justin Townes Earle, Iris DeMent, Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer to headline Calgary folk fest’s Block Heater

That summer feeling. It’s gonna haunt you.

Especially in this part of the world where it comes and goes in the blink of a frosty eyelash.

Thankfully, the Calgary Folk Music Festival has made it their mission for the past two years to remind us of that summer feeling, that Prince’s Island sensation, by bringing what they do in July to the wintery month of February with Block Heater.

Year No. 3 for the event is set for Feb. 15 to 17 at several locations on the city’s Music Mile, and features an impressive collection of festy folks such as headliners Justin Townes Earle, Iris DeMent, Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer, Delhi 2 Dublin, Dan Bern, Kalle Mattson and Leeroy Stagger.

“I think I want it to reflect the summer festival in the vibe that we try to create,” says artistic director Kerry Clarke sitting in her office in the folk fest’s Inglewood home. “And our philosophy is to be diverse, interesting, cutting edge and (feature) roots music, world, indie, some funk.

“It’s not quite a mini version of the festival, but it’s a bit like that — we want to try to reflect all of those things. And I think we achieved that.”

The rest of the musical excellence is filled out with the expected, eclectic array of North American, national and regional fair, such as Tennessee alt-country artist Amythyst Kiah, T.O. indie folkies The Wilderness of Manitoba, Edmonton Indigenous rock act nêhiyawak and local faves Raleigh, Astral Swans, Lab Coast, FOONYAP and Deicha & The VuDudes.

Those artist will play over the course of the three days at a trio of different venues — Festival Hall, Ironwood and, new this year, Studio Bell, which is a little further down the street than the more compact fest has been the past two years.

“The Festival is intended to be Inglewood and East Village focussed (now),” Clarke says, noting that the original goal was to “animate the area that we live in.”

“We decided to go a bit further down the Music Mile to (Studio Bell) this year just to change things up a little bit. One of the limitations of being in this neighbourhood is the size of the venues. The (Lantern Church) was the biggest venue and last year the headliners we had could have sold twice what the church held.”

She explains that the East Village musical hub may have smaller rooms but the overall capacity is far greater than anything else they could find within waking distance.

And here again, Block Heater is hoping to harness that summer vibe, with four stages in Studio Bell happening simultaneously from 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. on the Friday and Saturday night.

“So on one ticket you can go in and you can see the whole Justin Townes Earle concert,” she says, “or you can see part of it and wander down and dance to Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer or go upstairs and see Steve Poltz or go to the Eddy and see a session.”

Yes, broken record, but like it’s bigger, older summer brother, they’re hoping that collaborative musical vibe isn’t in hibernation, as there will be multi-artist workshops on the Saturday day at the Eddy and Festival Hall, and then one per night on Friday and Saturday at Studio Bell.

As an added bonus, this year at Block Heater there will also be “a special event within a special event” on the Thursday night, which is a a “Black future month” celebration at Festival Hall.

“The Black community, the African-Canadian community that I’m working with wants to look towards the future, they’re not focussed on slavery, not focussed on the past, they’re focussed on the future,” Clarke explains.

So on that night there will be a screening of Canadian sci-fi film Brown Girl Begins and a Q&A with director Sharon Lewis, as well as performances by Calgary vocalist Yolanda Sargeant, a poet and others.

And as a sort of unofficial kickoff to Block Heater, the Wednesday, Feb. 14 edition of live, local talk show Dave Kelly Live at Theatre Junction GRAND will be focussed on the event.

Don’t miss it. Don’t let it haunt you.

Calgary Folk Music Festival’s Block Heater runs Feb. 15 to 17 at Festival Hall, Ironwood and Studio Bell. For tickets and the full schedule please click here.

The full lineup for the event is below:

Amythyst Kian

Astral Swans


Brown Girl Begins

Dan Bern

Deicha & The VuDudes

Delhi 2 Dublin


Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer

Heavy Bell

Iris DeMent

Jessica Moss

Justin Townes Earle

Kalle Mattson

Kris Demeanor

Lab Coast

Leeroy Stagger


Mister & Mystic

Ndidi Onukwulu



Steve Polite

The Wilderness of Manitoba