THUNDER BAY – Metric, July Talk and Thunder Bay’s own Coleman Hell will headline the first of what organizers hope will be many Wake the Giant Music Festivals.
The one-day event, scheduled for Sept. 14 at Marina Park, was created as a way to help bridge cultural gaps in a city that has hit the national spotlight in a negative way, deemed one of the most racist communities in the country.
It developed out of the Wake the Giant movement, which encourages local businesses to showcase inclusiveness and show the city’s Indigenous population, especially students that they’re welcomed and wanted.
The lineup also includes Crown Lands, an up-and-coming Aboriginal band, Nick Ferrio, Wolf Saga, Ansley Simpson, Luke Warm and the Cold Ones and local favourites, the Battle Nation Drum Group.
The festival will also feature a two-day workshop for Grade 7 and 8 students from remote communities, a chance to work with the artists in an up-close-and-personal setting in the two days leading up to the event.
Organizer Sean Spenrath said it was a huge relief to finally be able to unveil the lineup, after putting hundreds of hours into the project.
“It’s been close to a year that we really started to organize this and to see it come full circle and finally be able to reveal today is exciting for us,” he said.
There’s plenty to be excited about, he added.
“You have bands on there like Coleman Hell, a local favourite. Everyone loves Coleman. He’s got some great music and he’s a huge source of pride for Thunder Bay. Then you pair him with a band like July Talk, who maybe not a whole ton of people have heard about, but when they do hear that music they’re going to know that they’re one of the biggest up-and-coming Toronto-based bands.”
Getting Metric, who formed in Toronto in 1998 and went on to win multiple Juno Awards, is a huge coup, Spenrath said.
“They’ve been on countless late-night TV shows, they have No. 1 hits and they’re just a fantastic band,” he said.
Having Indigenous content was also important.
“The great thing about that is they’re up-and-coming. What we get to provide for them is a stage they wouldn’t normally have,” Spenrath said. “By sandwiching them between these massive artists, we’re saying that we’re recognizing that maybe they don’t always get this opportunity, but we’re going to give you this opportunity.
“Thunder Bay is going to step up and provide this national exposure for this up-and-coming band. That’s just another way that we’re showing as a city that we’re trying to flip the switch on the chapter that’s been written about Thunder Bay over the last 10 years.”
Fellow festival organizer Greg Chomut said the whole of Canada is looking to Thunder Bay to see how it reacts to its racism issue, including the bands.
“These bands that we’ve had the chance to talk to, they were wanting to be a part of something, some kind of positive change in Thunder Bay, before we talked to them,” Chomut said. “That was what really helped get it going.”
Chomut said he believes the event and the Wake the Giant campaign is already having an impact, making young students feel welcome in Thunder Bay. About 150 Grade 7 and 8 students will be flown in ahead of the festival and given a chance to see just how welcoming Thunder Bay can be, a year or more before they come to the city to study at Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School.
Tickets go on sale on Saturday and are available at www.wakethegiant.ca.