On the second weekend in August, hundreds of people will descend on Kindersley, Saskatchewan to listen to bands, guzzle beers, and gorge themselves on grilled cheese sandwiches.
It’s Grilledcheeseapalooza, and it’s a thing of beauty.
Billed as a way to “develop arts and culture in the community while supplying mass quantities of grilled cheese,” Grilledcheeseapalooza is one of Canada’s weirdest music festivals. It is also one of the most beloved, mostly because of the grilled cheese. “People at the festival slam grilled cheeses. They eat a ton and they love ‘em,” festival co-founder Justin Thompson said recently. “But, secretly, we have really dope bands also.”
Grilledcheeseapalooza was born in 2010 when the Kindersley-based metal band Quetzlcoatl booked a show in Saskatoon. Having never performed in front of an audience, the group sensibly decided to stage a warmup show. But because vocalist Kellan Thackeray was underage, finding a venue proved difficult. Eventually, his parents suggested the band play in their backyard. “We wanted to serve some food, and [grilled cheese sandwiches] seemed like the simplest, easiest option — just bread, butter, cheese,” Thackeray recalled. “My dad fired up the barbecue. It was very simple.”
Impressed by how many people enjoyed listening to metal and stuffing themselves full of Wonder Bread and Kraft Singles, Thackeray and Thompson decided to stage a similar event the following summer. And the next. And the next. According to the founders, Grilledcheeseapalooza has roughly doubled in size each year: What began with a single metal group grew into a two-day, family-friendly extravaganza featuring more than 20 bands and artists. As the festival grew, so did the fans’ appetite for grilled cheese sandwiches. Thackeray speculates that hungry music fans devoured some 2,000 sandwiches at last year’s event.
The 2015 festival, which will be held on August 7 and 8, promises to be the biggest Grilledcheeseapalooza yet. Headliners include the Saskatoon-based hard rock quartet One Bad Son and Highkicks, a power-punk duo started by Danny Vacon and Matt Doherty of the Dudes. But while the festival has grown dramatically over the last five years, Thackeray and Thompson remain committed to its founding principles: giving exposure to emerging artists and cultivating a strong music community in the Kindersley area.
This is reflected in the 2015 lineup. In addition to well-known bands like the rockabilly quartet the Classy Chassys and the dreamy pop duo We Were Lovers, the festival features more than a dozen young bands and artists, including Black Vienna, the Avulsions, Adelle Sawatzky, and To This Day. “The appeal is trying to create an arts community where there isn’t any,” Thackeray said. “Hopefully these opportunities that we’re able to give to some of these younger acts who have never played shows or anything will get them excited, get them writing, get them talking to their friends, and getting other people excited about music.”
And, of course, grilled cheese sandwiches.
According to Thompson, the decision to name the festival after the humble grilled cheese was “a joke, almost.” But it has worked out well for the two promoters. Five years after the first backyard metal-and-melted-cheese party, Grilledcheeseapalooza has become a cornerstone of the rural Saskatchewan music scene. It attracts major acts and large numbers of music fans. According to Thackeray, everyone remembers the menu. “Whenever someone eats a grilled cheese sandwich, it embeds in their heads,” he said. “It’s the thing that brought everybody together to begin with.”
Grilledcheeseapalooza runs August 7 and 8 at the slowpitch diamonds in Kindersley, Saskatchewan. Adult passes are $25 and available at gcpmusicfest.com