East Town Get Down has become a can’t-miss food and music festival 

East Town Get Down, the independent music and food festival that celebrates the best of east Calgary, has made a name for itself as a must-see event over just a few short years.

On May 25, the festival will take over a six-block length of International Avenue (aka 17th Avenue S.E.) offering a “create your own adventure” community block party at various venues featuring $5 tasting plates and a range of musical acts.

Festival artistic director Colleen Krueger says the purpose of the Get Down is to bring attention to the often-underrated Avenue that garners less attention than its S.W. counterpart.

“It’s really about people engaging, and reminding people that there is a lot of food and culture to experience on the east side of Deerfoot Trail,” Krueger says. “We want to highlight that to the community and show the different spaces that exist there.”

The one-day festival highlights the delicious and diverse foods available on International Avenue, while also promoting culture and helping attendees discover new music to enjoy.

“It is a nice range of cultural tastings that we have to offer,” Krueger says. “The event itself is food and music and the combination of the two makes it even better.”

Festival passes allow entry to all 10 venues (nine restaurants and one outdoor stage at a park), and eight of the venues are all-ages allowing families and youth to attend.

You can add an “East Town Chow Down” ticket for just $5 and get an appetizer plate at any of the venues. With a wide variety of cuisines represented across the festival venues, you might want to get a few Chow Down tickets.

“Because we are taking over restaurants as our venues, it allows people to get a $5 food plate with a sampling of different dishes on the menu,” Krueger says, adding there will be both food and beer options at the venues.

Krueger paired four or five artists to each venue, with around 50 acts playing every genre from country and jazz to metal and post-punk, there’s something for everyone.

“It’s a big spectrum, so it allows anyone to discover or experience something new, but also see something they’re going to like,” Krueger says. Music wise, almost half the acts are local and the other half from across Canada and the US.  

“We have a lot of newer artists, and we merge those with artists that are more established,” she says. “Then we put them in an intimate venue and the setting just makes the whole
thing unique.”

It’s so intimate that Krueger says the Get Down feels like a series of house parties or a block party.

“We’re bringing in some great acts that are high-level production and bringing the two worlds together,” Krueger says. “Everyone’s having a great time wandering the streets from venue to venue because they are so close together.”

You could even say it’s a “choose your own adventure,” says Krueger.

Local Act

Jairus Sharif is a self-taught multi-instrumentalist and producer who enjoys using free improvisation, sound collage and live looping to create a liberation technology that deals with healing, self-understanding and freedom.

“I make experimental music, primarily using the alto saxophone and some electronics. Performances are improvised, are sometimes solo, or may involve many players,” he says. “I make sound towards liberation, healing and introspection.” 

Sharif was long-listed for the Polaris Music Prize in 2023 for his debut album, Water & Tools. Not only does the local musician love the International Avenue area where East Town Get Down takes place, he also lives in the neighbouring community of Forest Lawn. 

What he loves most about the area is the hard-working people around that make up the fabric of the community. 

“It’s the vibration and people of the area that I find beautiful,” he says. 

His favourite International Avenue spot is the open public space off 17th Ave. SE called Unity Park, which will feature the outdoor stage for East Town Get Down. 

“It’s a nice place to be when the weather permits. I like to bring something cold and hang by the fountain,” Sharif says. 

He hosts an ongoing event series there called “Free Music at Unity Park,” with public performances happening in late summer and early fall. “I believe public displays of creative expression are vital to the growth of a healthy community, and I’m happy to see more events happening in this part of town,” he says. And the food is pretty good, too. 

“Its range of great restaurants may get people in the doors of places they’ve never been and may really enjoy.” 

East Town Get Down takes place May 25 on International Avenue. Visit EastTownGetDown.ca for tickets and more information. Wristband and Chow Down ticket pick up starts May 25 starting at 4 p.m. at the Unity Park East Town Get Down event tent at 3111 17 Ave. S.E.