When Prairie Music Week launched way back in 1999, it seemed like a bold and somewhat ambitious move on the part of the Prairie Music Alliance. But what began as an untested entry into the regional music industry apparatus has blossomed into one of the year‘s highlights: and the 2002 event, returning to its Winnipeg birthplace, promises to continue gathering momentum.
This year’s list of guest speakers alone confirms that reputation. On the conference side of the event, the keynote speaker will be the Barenaked Ladies’ frontman Steven Page, who will present a talk entitled “The Peaks and Pitfalls of Making a Living as a Canadian Musician.”
Steven Page is not the only big-name industry figure participating in the conference. Among the dozens of speakers, The Agency Group’s Ralph James will be talking about management, FACTOR director Heather Ostertag will be on a panel exploring the role of women in the industry, and veteran Canadian celtic icon... and former Winnipegger... Loreena McKennitt will be talking about career building. Peanuts & Corn Records’ Rod Bailey, an expatriate Winnipegger, will be hosting a hip-hop seminar, and Zomba’s Bonnie Fedrau will be dropping in to talk about A&R... and that’s just the beginning of the roster.
“People seemed to know what we were trying to accomplish,” says Le-Anne Peluk, this year’s Conference Coordinator. “Everyone we approached was ready and willing to help, and most people were extremely receptive.”
This year, the conference is taking on a more sweeping scope. Themed “No Smoke, No Mirrors,” the 2002 conference’s pledge is to present seminars and workshops that will help to remove the mystique and confusion of the industry. Under Peluk’s guidance, the conference is directing its energies towards making the workshops more artist friendly... as well as looking after the needs of the next generation.
“I hope that we’re bringing into it a fresh perspective,” says Peluk. “I hope that’s reflected in some of the things we have planned. I hope people come away with an information that isn’t tainted by the smoke and mirrors of the industry, with a more honest approach.”
Next door to the event’s Hotel Fort Garry headquarters, in the Grain Exchange Curling Club, will be a series of instrumental master classes and more music-oriented workshops. Admission is free to all those holding festival wristbands.
“It’s a very kitschy, 1950’s sort of place,” says Peluk of the Curling Club. “It’ll be a whole venue with workshops that are really practical and built to be geared directly towards artists.”
This year’s conference is also focusing on the up’n’comers of the industry, thanks to Sept. 27th’s Youth Career Day. In conjunction with area schools and the Winnipeg Folk Festival’s Young Performers program, the free event will feature an interactive session with former Crash Test Dummies drummer Mitch Dorge.
This year’s PMW also coincides with the second annual Folk Alliance Folk Meet, which was scheduled in tandem with PMW, and is also headquartered at the Hotel Fort Garry. Delegate passes, which allow access to the opening reception and all of the festival showcases and conference seminars, are valid for both events. “Having sessions that are really geared towards folk and roots artists helps make it a whole bigger thing,” says Peluk.
The FAC’s list of speakers includes a keynote address by Phyllis Barney, Executive Director of the North American Folk Music and Dance Society, and panels including Winnipeg Folk Festival Artistic Director Rick Fenton (who will also be part of an ingenious seminar exploring the history and future of the Winnipeg Folk Festival with all of the event‘s past artistic directors), Stony Plain Records’ Holger Peterson, and the Winnipeg Free Press’ Bartley Kives.
With the industry aspect of the conference well covered, that leaves the heart of what PMW is about... the music. There are 71 showcasing artists at PMW, and 15 at the FAC... and that amounts to a lot of good tunes descending on the city. Every genre of rock, folk, pop, hip-hop, and jazz is represented, from psychedelic pop outfit the Waking Eyes, to multicultural vocal quintet Madrigaïa, to francophone rockers Kraink. Packed into venues including the Pyramid Cabaret, the Times Change(d) High and Lonesome Club, the Empire, the Royal Albert, the West End Cultural Center, Le Canot, and the Windsor Hotel, the festival showcases offer a chance to whet your musical appetite before it’s onto the main show... the awards ceremony.
Held separately from the Industry Awards luncheon, which honors the administrative and technical achievers, the Prairie Music Awards ceremony will be dealing out awards in 18 categories, including Entertainer of the Year, Outstanding Roots Recording, and Outstanding Video. Hosted by Tom Jackson, the Burton Cummings Theatre event will include performances by artists including Christine Fellowes, Sweetsalt, the Wyrd Sisters, James Keelaghan, and War Party.
In the end, Peluk is only holding her breath for one thing... and, judging from the scope of the event, that thing seems pretty much assured. “I hope that people are able to see all that they want to see, and that they are able to meet all the people they want to meet while they’re here,” she says of her goals for PMW. “It’s such a great opportunity to network between musicians and members of the industry.”