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Drummer Sean Hamilton performing with BETABOYS in 2023.

East Town Get Down Fires Up East Calgary With Great Music and Great Food 

Artistic director Colleen Krueger takes us through the vibes to expect when the discovery music festival takes over Calgary’s International Avenue.

by Ben Boddez

Photos by Sebastian Buzzalino

Celebrating its fifth birthday on Calgary’s International Avenue, East Down Get Down Festival is returning with a genre-spanning lineup, all packed into a six-block radius. Inspired by festivals like Sled Island and SXSW when it comes to the spirit of discovery, not only will there be some great music on display no matter what your tastes – some of the top-billed artists represent post-punk, electronica, country, jazz-rap, drill and metal – but the festival also literally wants to cater to your tastes as well.

Located in a famously multicultural area of town, the festival is also partnering with local restaurants to provide both venue space and event-exclusive food plates with cultural flair, served for a mere five dollars as part of what they’re calling East Town Chow Down. Actually, the entire festival is offered for an impressive price point as well – packing over 40 acts into a single night, it opens the proceedings up to venue-hopping delight. All for a $44 ticket, it allows attendees to accidentally stumble upon a brand-new sound.

We caught up with artistic director Colleen Krueger below to talk about booking the lineup, festival dos and don’ts and the magic of East Calgary.

How long have you been involved with the festival and what do you do there?
My title is the artistic director, and I booked all the artists for the lineup. I’ve been involved since 2019. I had one year where I was booking and then it got cancelled. So, this is my third lineup since COVID.

There are artists here from all over the musical spectrum, so what goes into picking out the lineups? What kinds of acts are you looking for?
As long as it’s quality music I’m game. I like to touch on a little bit of every genre so that the discovery side of it is there. There’s literally something for everybody to enjoy. I like the crossover of genres and the people that you see at shows that may not typically go see another genre, but then you see them at the show and you’re like ‘I never would have put you in this room, but it’s cool to see!’ Like metalheads at folk shows. It’s a really nice way to bridge between different communities and bring everyone out together.

What do you think is so special about International Avenue and the festival invigorating a different part of the city than the usual downtown core?
East Calgary has a reputation for being a little bit rough around the edges. I love it – I’m from Hamilton, so it speaks to my heart. It’s what I consider normal, but for a lot of people it’s a little touch and go. But because it’s a little rough around the edges, it’s got a quality of authenticity that most of Calgary has lost through gentrification or different elements of growth. It loses just that quality of what’s a little DIY, a little scrappy. We’re creating the spaces so that they’re really tight-knit, people can move between the venues really quickly, and showcase the side of town that people may think is rough, but show it in a light that’s a lot of fun. Maybe take some of that mystery and fear away.

What’s your favourite venue?
No. That’s like asking a parent what their favourite child is. The nice thing is that it’s all a 4-block stretch, so if you’re not vibing with something you can easily bounce to another venue 2 feet away. We’re actually creating all the venues – there’s not really any typical venues, we actually have 10 restaurants. So part of the festival is that we’re partnering with the restaurants, and they do food plates. There’s such good food on the east side of Calgary, and a lot of really great international food to be had because it is very multicultural in the neighbourhood. All the venues are different cultural foods, really authentic and really cheap – and that’s the fun part too. Nice food for a nice dollar. 

Do you have any sets that you’d recommend most on the lineup?
I would highlight any out-of-towners who are coming through, because they’re not in town very often. We have a guy coming from Missouri, his name is Riley Downing, really Missouri honky tonk country. More bluegrass-y. I love that kind of country. RAP Ferreira is coming up from North Carolina. Ora Cogan from Victoria. A new band called Cistern from Squamish. It’ll be one of their first shows out of town. 8 of the 10 venues are also family friendly. These are shows and places that are not always accessible to the all-ages audience…

I was always upset about that growing up.
Yeah, I was at some crazy shows at 14, and I was like ‘How did that even occur?’ But I was there, and it sort of sparked my interest in music and culture. Not that I knew that I was going to work in music at 14, but it was just the experience of being out with your friends, seeing music and connecting. That’s such a core experience. I love that we have that access, because the restaurants are family friendly, but we’re putting post-punk and rock in venues that normally don’t have that access.

What are some of your best tips for surviving and thriving at East Town Get Down? 
Well, it’s 6pm til midnight-ish, so pace yourself. There’s food the whole time, so stock up on food and drinks and just take it in slowly. And then ride your bike up there. That’s a nice way to get there because it’s very accessible via bike. And then you have a nice way to get home easily. Pace yourself, have some dinner, and then just enjoy what you’ve discovered.

For tickets & more info, check out easttowngetdown.ca