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Wake the Giant an 'absolute banger'

From William Prince and DJ Shub, to Third Eye Blind and Jessie Reyez, Thunder Bay's first post-pandemic music festival was an unqualified success.

THUNDER BAY – DJ Shub truly believes music is meant to help heal the nation.

“I believe that music is medicine and this is truly what people need. They need to come together and enjoy themselves again,” said Shub, a former member of A Tribe Called Red, who on Saturday afternoon found a way to jack up the tempo at the Wake the Giant Music Festival, setting the stage for a long overdue night of musical mayhem on the Thunder Bay waterfront.

More importantly, it once again showcased a culture of inclusivity slowly being fostered in the city, a welcoming event for dozens of students who have left their homes in remote, Northern communities to attend classes at Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School.

“There are not too many festivals out there that make space for Indigenous people and create that space. I think what they have here is something special, creating that comfortable space and Indigenizing spaces. That’s very important going forward, and in Canada especially,” said Shub, a 2018 Juno nominee for Indigenous album of the year.

Born out of the Wake the Giant Movement, the festival first took place two years ago, taking last year off because of restrictions put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lineup featured a mix of musical genres, from the country crooning of William Prince, to the electronic beats of Loud Luxury and the semi-charmed kind of Big Shiny Tunes rock that only Third Eye Blind could provide.

The lineup, which also featured Nick Sherman, Northern Cree and Iskwe and Tom Wilson, was topped by rising hip hop star Jessie Reyez, a regular collaborator with rapper Eminem and songwriter who has penned songs performed by Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa.

It’s a new way of doing things in Thunder Bay, said festival co-organizer Sean Spenrath, the lineup clearly aimed at a youthful crowd.  

“I was out there in the back of the festival grounds, setting up the glow-in-the-dark balloons and a guy approached me and said, ‘Sean, you’ve set the precedent for what music festivals should be in Thunder Bay,'” Spenrath said.

“I totally believe that. I think we’re throwing an absolute banger.”

Norma Kejick, executive director of the Northern Nishnawbe Education Council, said the music festival and the workshops surrounding it go a long way to showing her students they not only belong in the Thunder Bay, but they’re a part of the community.

“They’re leaving their families, their friends, their communities, for 10 months out of the year, sometimes to live with strangers, coming here to get an education. Sometimes they’re in a strange place they’ve never been to before,” Kejick told the crowd before introducing Reyez and reigniting the frenzy in the field.

“I really have to thank the staff at Dennis Franklin Cromarty. They go above and beyond for our students every day. These students here, they’re like family to us. And I just want to keep encouraging the city of Thunder Bay to keep welcoming our students, look after one another and look after our students.”

Organizers of the nearly sold-out show say they plan to bring the festival back for a third year in 2022.

Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith is Dougall Media's director of news, but still likes to tell your stories too. Wants his Expos back and to see Neil Young at least one more time. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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