SoundOff Summit shows off the sonics of our city to the global music industry

Next time someone in your orbit whines and whinges that there’s nothing to do in this city, slap them. Hard.

Give ’em an extra cuff and, perhaps, a wedgie should they say that in reference to music, just because Justin Timberlake or Taylor Swift or Drake aren’t playing this weekend at the Saddledome, which, to my understanding, has been condemned and is now home to a community of C.H.U.D.s.

Nothing to do?

Too much to do.

Not only does the Calgary folk fest’s Block Heater run Thursday to Saturday, bringing to town acts ranging from Basia Bulat to The Handsome Family, while also showcasing some of the city’s best, but also a little west of town The Gathering is taking over Banff with a number of shows, including small venue performances by Yukon Blonde, Holy Fuck and Dear Rouge.

And if that’s not enough, back here, there’s another annual local musical happening that helps the entertainment offerings’ coffers bulge: SoundOff Summit, which showcases the sonic talent in Calgary to the music industry at large. 

It’s going to be a GD ridiculous weekend.

“It’s going to be busy, it’s awesome. I wish every weekend was like this, wouldn’t it be great?” says Colleen Krueger, the managing director of Music Calgary, which is responsible for the summit.

“It’s sort of like New York — we can pretend we’re in New York for a day. Too much!”

This is the fifth year for SoundOff, which is run with several goals in mind, most importantly that it acts as Tinder for established local artists and industry professionals from around the globe — managers, bookers, label heads and reps, publicists, etc.

There are artist showcases from Thursday, Feb. 21 to Saturday, Feb. 23 at venues The Palomino, Broken City, Commonwealth and the King Eddy, and there’s also a conference aspect to it, with panels and discussions taking place from Wednesday on at the ATB Branch for Arts + Culture (102 8 Ave. S.W.). (Full disclosure: I will be on a panel about the Polaris Music Prize Friday from 11 a.m. to noon.)

“It’s just basically introducing people to what’s happening in Calgary,” Krueger says of the conference, which will include people from such organizations and companies as Sub Pop Records, the Feldman Agency, and MRG Concerts. “And for the artists (it’s) breaking down some barriers of thought for them so that they understand these people are approachable and this is how you talk to them, this is how this works.”

It’s also an opportunity to “show off Calgary” to the industry pros — the venues, the sights and more importantly, the incredible sounds that are being made here.

The lineup is a who’s who of who’s gracing local stages on any given night, including acts such as Samantha Savage Smith, The Torchettes, Bad Animal, Liz Stevens, Miesha and the Spanks, Mark Mills, Hello Moth, Lab Coast, All Hands on Jane and Melted Mirror.

There’s also a special urban music showcase on Saturday night, which is a co-presents with Calgary’s 10 at 10, and features artists such as Eddy Clips, Anthony Almighty and East Dior.

Krueger says the 40 acts were chosen through an application process while also noting of the more veteran crew, “we sort of know who the highlight artists of Calgary are, in a way, and we’re trying to build business opportunities for them.”

“But this year we’ve also extended it to do an all-ages showcase at Broken City,” she adds of the Saturday afternoon set. “That was a way to integrate some younger artists onstage and get them introduced to the business side of things and how to do that earlier on, rather than trying to teach people later on. So just to build it up and get some new opportunities.”

And hopefully get them in front of a large, local audience, despite of all of the other options there are this weekend.

Actually, there is some crossover between SoundOff and Block Heater, with Krueger explaining “a lot of the pieces are there and a lot of the logistics are easier to put together” when there’s two likeminded festivals running simultaneously — for the first time, it should be noted.

That includes a Friday King Eddy SO afternoon showcase that leads into a BH show featuring Kay Berkel and Carter Felker, and both Samantha Savage Smith and Cartel Madras are on the lineups for both events.

As to whether or not she’s worried that the two will split the live music audience in this city, Krueger isn’t too worried.

“I think Calgary has enough people to make it happen for both,” she says. “We’ll see.”

SoundOff runs Wednesday, Feb. 20 to Saturday, Feb. 23. For more information, please go to musiccalgary.ca.

Mike Bell has been covering the Calgary music scene for the past 25 years with publications such as VOX, Fast Forward, the Calgary Sun and, most recently, the Calgary Herald. He is currently the music writer and content editor for theYYSCENE.com. Follow him on Twitter/@mrbell_23 or email him at mike@theyyscene.com.