BIG Must-Sees: A sampler of some of the acts to catch at this year’s winter music and arts festival

After a series of pandemic-related false starts resulting in a cancelled 2021 festival, and a revised format, multi-weekend festival in April 2022, Calgary’s BIG Winter Classic is back in a big way for 2023, with a stacked roster and guaranteed stellar performances in the doldrum-defeating January music festival format we once knew and loved. 

This year’s lineup is nothing to sneeze at (and please, if you’re sneezing, stay home) so it’s difficult to narrow down this year’s must-sees. But here are theSCENE’s Top 10 for 2023:

Holy Fuck (Toronto, ON)

Highly anticipated in the wake of their cancelled 2020 Deleter tour, Toronto’s Holy Fuck is finally back in Calgary. The electropop foursome’s signature blend of swelling ambient soundwaves and glitchy noise rock are guaranteed to deliver one of BIG’s sweatiest dancefloors. 

Stripmall (Calgary, AB)

X meets Sleater-Kinney with Stripmall’s signature twangy prairie punk sound and sprawling grunge riffs. It’s been a minute since we’ve seen Calgary’s Stripmall hit a local stage, so make sure they make an appearance on your dance card.

Hair Control (Calgary, AB)

Purveyors of self-described “existential lo-fi workout jams” Ghostkeeper’s Ryan Bourne and The Research Council’s Rebecca Reid blend shoegaze synth-heavy, pop dreamscape soundtracks to bring you out of that deep midwinter mental abyss. 

A. Savage (New York City, NY)

Parquet Courts being a Top 5 dream show since BIG’s inception, landing the band’s frontman, A. Savage, is a real coup for the festival. Like a small town drifter returning to his Denton, Texas roots, A. Savage’s solo work drawls like a lazy tumbleweed ambling along a sandy beach sparsely populated by Hammond organ licks and rattlesnaking percussive interludes that drive on his crooning choruses. 

Dead Fibres (Edmonton, AB / Vancouver, BC)

Psych-punk Dead Fibres are no strangers to Calgary’s festival scene — their live shows are an infectious, kinetic racket with howling guitars, vibrating cyber fuzz, and not-so-subtle funk basslines. This is a band that will have you moving from the first chord.

Mauvey (Vancouver, BC)

Ghana-born, UK-raised, and currently residing in Vancouver, Mauvey defies genres. Aesthetically art rock, with a lyrically laid-bare persona, not since Prince has pop music ever sounded so all-encompassing. Addictive, upbeat melodies merge with a weaving and webbed storyteller’s ability to convey grief, heartbreak, and love at first sight. 

Joe & The Shitboys (Faroe Islands, Denmark)

Formed with the sole intention of calling out their conservative, small-town music scene, Joe & the Shitboys are everything your anti-woke uncle rails against at Christmas dinner. In regular rotation on Iggy Pop’s BBC radio show, the Shitboys have punk cred, are known for their scathing onstage antics and now they’ve got Calgary in their sights.

Home Front (Edmonton, AB)

Situated firmly in the liminal space between punk and first gen new wave, and inspired by the singularly identifiable Edmonton winter environs, Home Front embody the ‘victory begins at home’ mantra with infectious 808 loops, slow burn synths, and frenzied fire within crescendos crashing onto the dancefloor.

Jasmyn (Hamilton, ON)

Former Weaves frontwoman Jasmyn struck out on her own in 2020, with her debut solo album, In The Wild, released in 2022. Her signature full-bodied sound made even more expansive, Jasmyn blends zen-like pop simplicity with lotus-leaf layered drumline dance beats — not since Robyn’s Body Talk Pt. 1 has a pop record come so close to perfection. Weaves being a 2020 BIG crowd favourite, Jasmyn’s organic musical evolution is guaranteed to bring a blissful brightness to the dancefloor during this midwinter festival.

Sgt. Papers  (Hermosillo, Mexico)

After establishing themselves in the Mexico City music scene, and gaining traction in L.A. and the Pacific Northwest, the surf punk duo bring their grunge-laden, lo-fi, hi-res sound to Canada for the first time since their formation in 2017. Frenetic and heavy on the power-pop influences, Sgt. Papers are the hidden gem in this year’s BIG line-up.

BIG Winter Classic runs from January 25-29 at various Calgary venues. For more information or to purchase passes, visit: