The West End Cultural Centre's roots run deep.
From it's humble beginnings as a renovated church, the Winnipeg hall has become one of this country's most celebrated and award-winning music venues. The WECC has grown into a respected arts facility that not only draws internationally-acclaimed performers, but also fosters local artist development, and is a hub for community arts initiatives.
This month, the WECC is going back to those roots, presenting a two-day celebration honouring the local music community that is the core of its rich musical history.
Local punk group Propagandhi, who had formed just a year before WECC opened their doors in ‘87, will be kicking off the weekend on October 19 along with the haunting sounds of rock trio This Hisses and grindcore act Head Hits Concrete sharing the bill.
The celebration continues on October 20 with a special collaborative performance that brings together members of the renowned local folk and roots community. Over 20 acts will take the stage to perform songs by other Manitoba acts for a unique tribute to the music that has been shaped by, and has helped to shape, the WECC.
"We looked at our theme for the year, 25 years of great music, culture, and community and asked ourselves what does this mean? How do you demonstrate this in a practical way?" explains Jason Hooper, the WECC's artistic director. "Let’s celebrate our culture of songwriting and throw a party for the amazing community of musicians, performers and the incredible audience that exists here."
“It's a testament to the strength and vibrancy of the organization that it's been impacted by so many people and has had an impact on so many people over the years," says Meg McGimpsey, the WECC's general manager. "We're so grateful for everyone who has helped maek the West End Cultural Centre what it is today.”
The line-up is a veritable who's who of Manitoba's diverse roots scene. The night's pairings include: Cara Luft and JD Edwards; Scott Nolan and The Magnificent 7s; Chic Gamine's Andrina Turenne, Alexa Dirks, and Ariane Jean with Hugo Torries-Cereceda and Don Benedictson; Ismaila Alfa and Nathan Rogers; Keri Latimer and Red Moon Road; Lorenzo and Jessee Havey; Oh My Darling's Vanessa Kuzina and Heather Bishop; Lloyd Peterson, Sam Baardman, and Daniel ROA; and The Wailin' Jennys' Nicky Mehta with former Wyrd Sister, Nancy Reinhold, who's returning to Winnipeg for the event. Drummer Joanna Miller and bassist MJ Dandeneau will be supporting all the performers. Audiences will be treated to interpretations of songs by local mainstays including Greg MacPherson, Andrew Neville, Del Barber, The Weakerthans, JP Hoe, Propagandhi, and many more.
"It feels like being at a family event, sharing the evening with people who have seen us through our best and worst, and celebrating a part of our lives that has supported, inspired, terrified and moved us beyond our expectations," says Keri Latimer, who is also part of Juno-winning quartet, Nathan. "It's a place that facilitates connections, musically, spiritually, and personally, and I am so thrilled to be included in the party!"
With institutions like the WECC and the Winnipeg Folk Festival to nuture the scene, it's no surprise (and yet, no small feat) that Manitoba's roots scene has developed a strong reputation in Canada and beyond. Local roots acts have dominated the Juno Awards in recent years, landing 17 nominations and five nearly-consecutive wins in the roots and traditional category in the last decade alone. Manitoba artists have been performing for audiences across the world, garnering high critical praise, and hitting the radio and sales charts.
"To have this place in our backyard is incredible," says JD Edwards. "It has such a rich history and so many awesome stories. This is the place where we get together and cheer on our heroes, celebrate song and stories alike. A place where we celebrate one another and our city."