Block Heater 2020: Who, what, when, where and how to enjoy this year’s festival

Festival-goers seen dancing at a performance at Festival Hall during the 2019 Block Heater music festival. Calgary Folk Music Festival/Melanie Boisvert

It’s February. It’s the middle of winter. It’s cold.

What’s better than a lineup of music, spoken word and some toasty warm vibes to lift you out of the winter funk and put some groove back in your step?

Back to “heat up the block” another year, the 2020 Block Heater music festival is bringing all that and more back to Calgary.

A kid takes the stage at Studio Bell between performances at the 2019 Block Heater music festival. Calgary Folk Music Festival/Rob Sparrow

The three-day event is packed with more artists, venues and performances to get your arts fix, and Calgarians are being advised not to be “one of those FOMO people.”

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“It’s very much a festival in a box situation because you see people coming and going, you see your friends going up and down the stairs,” artistic director Kerry Clarke said.

“Very much, it’s a collective vibe and a community situation.”

‘Getting ready for the marathon’

So what’s the best way to get the most out of this year’s festival?

Clarke said festival-goers should head online ahead of time to check out the artists, venues and attractions they want to see and plan a schedule for their weekend.

“[It’s] sort of following your favourite artists and then sometimes letting the winds blow you to where you might be interested,” she said.
Festival-goers enjoy a performance at Studio Bell during the 2019 Block Heater music festival. Calgary Folk Music Festival/David Kenney

“It’s kind of going around and having a sense of adventure and also a sense of discovery and exploration because there’s certainly some better-known artists that are playing at the festival and then there’s also artists that are going to be new to people in a variety of different genres.

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“So, it’s kind of getting ready for the marathon – having lots of sleep in advance.”

Free events, new venues, new acts

This year’s festival, like the Calgary Folk Music Festival this past summer, will have free events this year at one of the weekend’s new venues — Gorilla Whale restaurant in Inglewood.

“We wanted another venue in Inglewood and for some more events on the Thursday night,” Clarke said.

In addition to the restaurant, acts will be back at the Ironwood — which has been part of the festival in the past — as well as the usual Festival Hall, Studio Bell, King Eddy and the Calgary Central Library.

People dance during a show at Studio Bell during the 2019 Block Heater music festival. Calgary Folk Music Festival/Ron Sparrow

Clarke also said that unlike the summer festival, the venues hosting the smaller-scale, indoor winter occasion have walls, which means there may be lines to see your favourite artists and you may not get in, “but that’s just an opportunity to go discover someone new.”

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Some of the acts on Clarke’s list of must-sees include Richard Iman, AfrotoniX, Boogát and Hannah Georgas.

This year’s festival is also boasting a new focus on Black Futures Month, as well as celebrating the diversity in the local, national and international music scene that Clarke said Block Heater and the Calgary Folk Music Festival audiences have come to expect.

The 2020 Block Heater music festival runs from Thursday, Feb. 20 to Saturday, Feb. 22. Tickets can be purchased online.

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