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The Wilderness Of Manitoba and Jenny Berkel
with Astral Swans, Mister & Mystic, Dan Bern, Steve Poltz and Kris Demeanor
From the Promoter
THE WILDERNESS OF MANITOBA
Out of The Wilderness of Manitoba comes a decidedly urban sound. Based around the work of songwriter/producer Will Whitwham over 5 releases reveals similarities, even though the instrumentation and musicians have switched up over the years: guitar-based songs full of hook-filled choruses and lovingly crafted harmonies. The sound has evolved and matured since first coming together out of Toronto jam sessions Toronto. No wonder The Wilderness of Manitoba’s sound is reaching past Canadian borders (see television credits for This Is Us and No Tomorrow). At Block Heater 2018, Whitwham will be performing as a duo with vocalist/guitarist Jenny Berkel.
Canadian singer/songwriter. Sister of Kristen Berkel.
Likely one of Calgary’s quietest success stories, Astral Swans emerged from the bedroom to the national consciousness with barely a blink of an eye. A couple of years back, he signed to Dan Mangan and Art & Crafts’ new label without a local media storm. And it’s fitting, given the music he creates—songs that quietly get under your skin and into your head, subtly becoming those earworms that pop up out of nowhere. Having honed his craft as the popular Extra Happy Ghost!!! it’s no surprise that this incarnation has developed a cohesive, thoughtful and engaging musical and lyrical voice. It’s working man’s music for the thinking person.
MISTER & MYSTIC
Whilst touring and performing with their psychedelic rock band - The Heirlooms, Matthew Spreen and Kat Westerman needed an outlet for their delicate, helpless-love songs. Combining their obsession for lush harmonies and groovy ‘70s inspired rhythms, they penned the heart-struck songs that appear on their first self-titled offering.
Dan Bern was reared in Iowa as the cello-playing, baseball-loving progeny of two Old World Jewish artists in the American heartland. He built a strong underground following in the early 1990s neo-folk music scene of Los Angeles with his prodigious output of topical, sardonic, literary songs and comical cultural commentary. This consummate traveler’s tales alternate between joyously obscene and tender, even devout. Bern takes on personae that interrogate God, indulge in a little speculative time travel, explore a future dystopian America, or pay tribute to baseball. He once performed under the moniker International Jewish Banking Conspiracy, contributed 16 songs to the biopic parody film Walk Hard - the Dewey Cox Story and wrote the novel “Quitting Science” under the pen name Cunliffe Merriwether with the preface written under his own name.
Steve Poltz seems to have been destined for a charmed life. Not many people can say they were Bob Hope’s favourite altar boy, one of Liberace’s trick-or-treaters, or had one of Billboard’s longest-running Top 100 songs. The song, “You Were Meant For Me” was co-written with singer Jewel and stayed on the charts for 65 weeks (that’s right, over a year). Poltz has a keen sense of melody, structure and, like many people born in Halifax, humour. One of Neil Young’s favourite albums is Poltz’s Answering Machine that features a spate of 45-second songs recorded as outgoing voicemail messages. Poltz has collaborated with some of the best: Victoria Williams, Van Dyke Parks and David Lowery (Camper Van Beethoven). When Poltz sings “silver lining, where’d you go?” it’s hard not to think, “Oh Steve, just wait a second, it’ll come around again!”
Calgary’s first poet laureate, Kris Demeanor, emerged as a striking talent with his solo album in the late ‘90s. From the start, his gift for nailing down truths was obvious. So, too, was his penchant for singing the unspeakable: Gary Glitter’s girl, Saskatoon police “starlight tours” and the horror of designated bike lanes. Demeanor fearlessly experiments with sounds, genres, people and mediums. He’s co-written with Ian Tyson, played Cal Cavendish on stage, and was recently nominated for a Canadian Screen Award as Best Supporting Actor for The Valley Below. So you can understand why there is not enough barbed wire, concrete, and irony to fence this astounding songwriter in.