Edmonton intends to Bring The Heat during the 2018 Grey Cup Festival from Nov. 21-25.
The Festival will also bring a lot of music to the ears of Grey Cup fans, with at least 29 acts performing indoors and outdoors at free and ticketed events.
There’s plenty of variety for all kinds of musical tastes, according to Grey Cup Festival organizing committee executive director Duane Vienneau, who may be reliving his youth with three Canadian classic rock bands at the Coors Light Concert at the Shaw Conference Centre on Saturday, Nov. 24.
“I grew up with all of them,” Vienneau said. “Kim Mitchell was a little later, but Trooper and Loverboy were my impressionable years in junior high, high school and beyond.”
Vienneau didn’t realize the significance of having all three acts at the same event when they were booking the bands for the venue with a capacity of 4,000 people.
“A lot of the feedback we’ve got from fans is that Loverboy, Trooper and Kim Mitchell always seem to play at the Grey Cup, but very rarely are they all in the same concert,” he said. “The comment we got on social platforms is: ‘We’re getting three for one, basically.’ Normally, one of those (bands) would be the concert.
“We didn’t go in saying we wanted three,” he added. “We just went in saying, ‘Let’s put on one of the best classic rock concerts and that’s how it turned out.”
Loverboy has been together for 38 years – not counting a short hiatus in the late ‘80s-early ‘90s – since vocalist Mike Reno was introduced to guitarist Paul Dean at a Calgary nightclub in 1978. The band won a still-record six JUNO awards in 1982 and sold more than 10 million albums. Expect them to turn it loose when they’re out Working for the Weekend.
Trooper has been around for 43 years and is acknowledged by Universal Music as “one of Canada’s top-five selling bands of all time.” You can expect the band to Raise A Little Hell, and to have “a good time (not a long time).”
Kim Mitchell, a singer/songwriter and guitarist, started out in the late 1970s as the leader of the Max Webster band and toured regularly during a lengthy solo career, winning three JUNO Awards. Patio Lanterns is one of Mitchell’s best-known songs.
“The overall strategy on entertainment and artists was to not focus on one genre, not all be classic rock, not all be country,” Vienneau said. “We wanted to try to have something for everybody. But as important as that, we wanted to try and make sure that the free entertainment was every bit as good as the paid entertainment. We didn’t want all the good stuff to have to be paid for.”
Entertainment for the Tim Hortons Kick-off Party at the Nissan Titan Street Festival from 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 21, hasn’t been announced yet, but fans already know they have lots of choices for free entertainment at the Cooper Entertainment Stage, which will have performances from noon until 9:15 p.m. on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
“I think we’ve done a very good job this time around,” said Vienneau, who pointed out that Edmonton also had free entertainment at the street festival the last time the Grey Cup was here in 2010. “We’ve got a very good, high-quality free entertainment that’s going to be on that outdoor stage. It’s all over the map. There’s hip-hop, country, rock, you name it.”
Thursday’s acts include: The Rural Alberta Advantage (indie rock band from Toronto), The Watchmen (alternative rock band from Winnipeg), The Royal Foundry (an Edmonton couple that plays uptempo folk pop), Alee (country music singer from Edmonton) and Paul Woida (an Edmontonian who uses recorded loops to replicate the sound of an entire band similar to Ed Sheeran).
Friday’s lineup is: Toque (a Canadian cover band featuring A-list musicians now living in the U.S.), DJ Shub (a former DJ battle Canadian champion and godfather of PowWowStep, a mixture of First Nations pow wow and electronic music), The Strumbellas (a multiple-award winning Ontario band whose haunting and infectious music has been described as alternative country, indie rock and folk rock or pop or gothic folk), Notorious YEG (Edmonton’s most gangsta hip-hop group), Maestro Fresh Wes (an actor, motivational speaker, author and the godfather of Canadian hip hop who became the first Canadian rapper to have a Top 40 hit with Let Your Backbone Slide in 1989) and Jay Sparrow (country).
On Saturday, Tim Hicks (a country singer from Niagara Falls whose 2013 hit Stronger Beer will be a hit with a football-based Cup crowd that’s ready to party), Tebey (another country artist from Ontario who currently resides in Nashville), The Static Shift (Calgary-based rock band), Andrew Hyatt (former ironworker at a nickel mine in Sudbury, Ont., and now a up-and-coming country-rock artist), Kirby Sewell (Calgary blues band) and Whale & The Wolf (alternative/indie rock) are the performers.
Vienneau said there’s “a good representation of Alberta talent among the musical acts” and also pointed out that “we’ve got a few surprises left up our sleeve that we’ll announce later.”
Headlining the Grey Cup Gala Dinner at 6 p.m. on the Friday at the Shaw Conference Centre is Alan Doyle, formerly of Great Big Sea, who will play all of the band’s classic high-energy tunes.
“That’ll be just a great night,” Vienneau said. “That gala dinner is a high-end, four-course dinner capped off with the great concert by Alan Doyle.”
With a ticket price of $375 per person, Vienneau said: “It’s more of a table sale than an individual ticket sale.”
Warm-up acts are Martin Kerr, an Edmonton-based British native often compared to troubadours like James Taylor, John Denver and Jason Mraz (he sold out the 1,700-seat Winspear Centre and also performed at the Edmonton Folk Fest last year), Celeigh Cardinal (an Edmonton-based Métis singer/songwriter who blends roots, folk, rock and pop) and Woida.
Three tailgate concerts near Commonwealth Stadium will run from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 25, before the CFL’s championship game.
“There’s an outdoor tailgate, an indoor tailgate and we just added a new tailgate at Clarke Park,” said Vienneau, noting that there were only two Sunday tailgate concerts on Game Day at the 2010 Grey Cup.
The Boston Pizza Outdoor Tailgate Party presented by Global Edmonton has a rock theme, featuring The Trews and Toque, and can accommodate 4,000 people in the West Parking Lot.
The Clarke Park Tailgate Party offers Platinum Blonde and Guns 4 Roses, a cover band for Guns N’ Roses, plus a traditional tailgate meal for 2,000 fans.
A 106th Grey Cup game ticket is required to access the Indoor Tailgate Party presented by Coors Banquet (already sold out!) at the Commonwealth Community Recreation Centre Fieldhouse. Lindsay Ell, a Calgary native now living in Nashville who was the opening act for Keith Urban’s recent concert at Rogers Place, and Aaron Pritchett (Hold My Beer), who opened multiple shows for Garth Brooks in 2016, will provide the country music.
“It’s three different stages running at the same time,” Vienneau said. “That alone is going to be a bit of a spectacle. It’s very rare that you have three concerts going on at the same time within a very small radius of each other. They don’t do that at the Heritage Festival. The Folk Festival on the hill doesn’t have three stages running at the same time.”
Capping off the week of entertainment during the Freedom Mobile Grey Cup Halftime Show at The Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium is Brampton, Ont.’s Alessia Cara, who in January became the first Canadian to win the Grammy Awards’ Best New Artist. She’s also a multi-JUNO Award winner, including Pop Album of the Year in 2017 and Breakthough Artist of the Year in 2016.
“Performing at the Grey Cup as a Canadian is such an honour,” Cara said in a press release. “Excited to be part of the halftime show and freeze all my fingertips off with you guys.”
Cara, who started out singing YouTube covers in her closet, has had four No. 1 singles and followed up her ground-breaking run of six multi-platinum singles off her debut album with the release of Growing Pains, the first single from her forthcoming sophomore album, The Pains of Growing.
Cara has 1.29 million followers on Twitter, 2.3 million on Instagram, 2.7 million subscribers on YouTube and was the most-streamed new female artist in 2017.