Connect Festival runs from August 1 – 4 at Besant Campground
Now that Ness Creek is past, it’s time to gear up for another of Saskatchewan’s grassroots festivals. Connect Festival is more than just a rave in the prairies, it’s one of the longest running electronic music festivals in Western Canada. For almost two decades, people from across the province and beyond have made the pilgrimage to the great plains to dance under the clearest skies.
Connect was founded in 1995 by a small group of friends from Regina who had made the trek down to a couple of events in the US including one of the early Burning Man festivals. After experiencing electronic music in the outdoors combined with art and an integral sense of community, they decided to try and recreate something similar back home.
Saskatchewan was just starting to develop an underground scene, with the PPM throwing the first major events in Saskatoon and the Galaxy Lounge in Regina handling much of the promotion down there. It was all uncharted territory for both the promoters and partygoers alike.
The risks were huge: besides the cost of organizing a festival with international headliners, the general Canadian public wasn’t really sure what to make of dance culture yet. Local and national media did very little to depict the upsides of any of these events and focused mainly on sensationalizing drug use and sexualized imagery.
But, against all odds, the Connect Tribe prevailed. They’ve had to relocate the festival twice over the years but have found a very happy home at Bessant Campground, just west of Moose Jaw. It boasts inexpensive hot showers and plenty of running water bathrooms scattered throughout the site. They also host a concession that runs through most of the festival, and many vendors setup shop to sell merchandise.
The festival has grown quite a bit since the early days. It started as a two day festival but has now extended to three full nights with a pre party on the Thursday night for eager partiers who arrive early to stake their claim to a good campsite. The stage design has grown from small sculptured stages to full multimedia visual displays backed by huge PK sound systems.
Perhaps one of the most surprising things about Connect is the musical talent. The promoters have had a unique knack for spotting up-and-coming talent, or nabbing artists you would never expect to be playing a humble festival such as this. Over the years the festival has seen the likes of Freq Nasty, Mark Farina, Nick Thayer, Mr. C, DJ Dan, Araabmuzik, Florian Meindl, Drumcell and many more bring an eclectic variety of stellar performances.
Even Deadmau5 graced the stage shortly before blowing up into one of the world’s top electronic artists.
This year features what could be the most well-rounded lineup to date, with just about every genre of dance music covered by very capable headliners.
Stacey Pullen is one of Detroit’s legendary techno innovators and will be complimented by Hobo who, among other things, is signed to Richie Hawtin’s M_nus label. House music will be represented by the seminal Doc Martin and Jimpster, with DJ Dan bringing the heavier party side. Breakbeat is well-covered by arguably the world’s favourite party breaks DJ, all the way from the UK, Krafty Kuts. DJ Czech is also making his annual appearance, with Germany’s Funkanomics and USA innovator Bobby C Sound TV (featuring his jaw dropping visual performance) will be covering the mid-tempo breaks. Marten Horger will be coming in from Germany to lay down some electro house and breaks, with Skiitour bringing the west coast sound to Connect. Toronto’s Rene LaVice will be rockin’ Drum ’n’ Bass for the massive while Stylust Beats and Saratonin crank up the low end with hip hop, trap and dubstep. Blue Lunar Monkey will be pulling double duties by playing a psy-trance set as well as a downtempo/ambient afternoon performance.
If that weren’t enough, Connect features performances from over 50 other acts from Saskatchewan and abroad (including yours truly!) to cater to just about every niche of dance music your heart desires.
However, a dedicated tribe of hardworking organizers and volunteers, incredible performing talent and a great location aren’t enough to keep a festival like this going. The long running success of this festival comes from its name.
The relatively small size of the festival could be a main reason that it maintains a sense of family that is hard to find at larger events. Connections are made and maintained over the years while newcomers are welcomed into the fold. We are brought together initially by the love of the music, but we stay bonded by the spirit of the community that the festival creates each year.
If you are getting your feet wet with modern EDM culture and would like to experience what’s beyond the surface of the mainstream, Connect might be a great place to start.