Story by Dan Pigat
CALGARY, ALBERTA — I like to compare the Calgary Stampede to the biggest and best-known parties in the world. It happens to be roped around a rodeo, but it’s so much more. Beyond the parade and pancakes, there are hundreds of shindigs, and what’s a party without music? Despite the cowboy theme, there’s a lot more going on than country and western. More than 100 hours of rockin’ performances take place during the 10-day extravaganza, whose 2015 edition runs from July 3-12.
Where to start? How about here — a day-by-day, choose-your-own-adventure guide to this year’s acts from all genres? While we can’t cover all of the places and spaces you’d find live music (starting when you land at the airport), here’s a look at the top acts and venues you’ll want to check out.
Over the span of 10 days, the Stampede usually stages four big 19,000-plus-seat shows at the Scotia Bank Saddledome. They range from the Stampede core of country and western, to hardcore rock ’n roll. Two years ago in the aftermath of the “Hell or High Water” Alberta Flood, this was the only venue whose schedule couldn’t be saved, losing four big concerts because of water that made its way up to the 10th row. This year, Stevie Wonder closes the Stampede on July 12 while Blake Shelton (July 10) and his wife, Miranda Lambert (July 9), also perform. Here are dates and details for the Stampede Concert Series.
Fort Calgary sets-up a huge outdoor stage for two festival-style events that draw more than 17,000 people each: the Stampede Roundup on July 8 and the Oxford Stomp on July 10. They tend to appeal to different generations, with a fun combination of three bands that were big two or three decades ago.
I’m always impressed at the names the Stampede organizers lasso for this rather small, crowded and free stage at the entrance to Stampede Park. Shows run all day on the Coca-Cola Stage, from kiddie-friendly ones in the morning to decent headliners in the evening. This year, Kiesza (July 3), Vance Joy (July 5) and the Arkells (July 11) are among the daily headliners.
Massive tents pop up around the city, including Wildhorse Saloon downtown, Cowboys, just outside the Stampede grounds, and Nashville North in the middle of Stampede Park. Among the well-known performers this year are Blue Rodeo (Cowboys, July 6) and The Sheepdogs (Cowboys, July 8).
Live music replaces jukeboxes throughout the city, with many bars expanding their premises with outdoor tents. A few go a bit further, like a bull-riding ring outside of Ranchman’s. Eight seconds is all you’re after, but it may feel like a lifetime.
|Thursday, July 2nd|
|Ridley Bent||6:30pm||Nashville North|
|Corb Lund||8pm||Nashville North|
|Elliott Brood||9pm||Wildhorse Saloon|
|Friday, July 3rd|
|Washboard Union||9pm||Nashville North|
|Boom Chucka Boys||10:30pm||Nashville North|
|Saturday, July 4th|
|Brett Kissel||9pm||Coca-Cola Stage|
|Lindsay Ell||9pm||Nashville North|
|Jess Moskaluke||10:30pm||Nashville North|
|Sunday, July 5th|
|Ludacris & Wiz Khalifa||6pm||Cowboys Tent|
|Steel Panther||9pm||Wildhorse Saloon|
|Vance Joy||9pm||Coca-Cola Stage|
|Chad Brownlee||10pm||Nashville North|
|Monday, July 6th|
|Blue Rodeo||7pm||Cowboys Tent|
|Dallas Smith||9pm||Wildhorse Saloon|
|Fankie Ballard||10pm||Nashville North|
|Tuesday, July 7th|
|B.J. Thomas||12:30pm, 3pm||Nashville North|
|Lil’ Jon||7pm||Cowboys Tent|
|Alan Jackson||7pm||Cowboys Stampede Venue|
|OK GO||9pm||Coca-Cola Stage|
|Clayton Bellamy||10pm||Nashville North|
|Wednesday, July 8th|
|Collective Soul||Doors at 3pm||Fort Calgary|
|Big Wreck||Doors at 3pm||Fort Calgary|
|Journey||Doors at 3pm||Fort Calgary|
|Sam Hunt||7pm||Cowboys Tent|
|The Sheepdogs||7pm||Cowboys Dance Hall|
|Scott Helman||8pm||Coca-Cola Stage|
|Francesco Yates||9:30pm||Coca-Cola Stage|
|Blackjack Billy||10pm||Nashville North|
|Thursday, July 9th|
|Miranda Lambert||7:30||Scotiabank Saddledome|
|John Michael Montgomery||10pm||Nashville North|
|Friday, July 10th|
|Sam Roberts Band||Doors at 3pm||Fort Calgary|
|George Thorogood & The Destroyers||Doors at 3pm||Fort Calgary|
|Sheryl Crow||Doors at 3pm||Fort Calgary|
|Blake Shelton||7:30||Scotiabank Saddledome|
|July Talk||9pm||Coca-Cola Stage|
|Bobby Wills||10pm||Nashville North|
|Saturday, July 11th|
|Jason Aldean||7:30pm||Scotiabank Saddledome|
|Jason Blaine||10pm||Nashville North|
|Sunday, July 12th|
|Stevie Wonder||7:30||Scotiabank Saddledome|
|Jason Greely (Nashville North All Star Band)||9pm, 10:30pm||Nashville North|
Where I’ll Be Rockin’
Top of my list is on the Coca-Cola Stage opening night: Kiesza. This Calgary native is much bigger in Europe than her home country. Sunday night I’ll hit Ludacris & Wiz Khalifa at the Cowboys tent, because what’s a rodeo without rap?
I usually get to both events at Fort Calgary, although some of those acts are even before my time (which is saying something). And throughout Stampede I’ll drop into one of my favourite venues, Nashville North, to get my annual country and western education. I brought a Texan there once, and he said he’d never seen so many drunk people in one place — and no fights.
Is the Calgary Stampede one of the world’s biggest parties? Google search seems to think so, and it is called “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.” But when this many artists descend on one city in the same week and it’s not even a music festival, something big is happening. So whether you’re more John Wayne or Wayne’s World, it’s time to “Party on …”