Calgary Stampede is sure to rock you


The Sheepdogs will rock out at the Calgary Stampede this year, playing at the Cowboys Tent. The 10-day festival is as much about partying and great music as it is rodeo and midway rides. (Julia Pelish/

Story by Dan Pigat Contributor

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.

The Saddledome

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.

The Fort

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.

Coca-Cola Stage

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.

The Tents

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).

The Bars

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.


Jim Cuddy and Blue Rodeo take to the stage at Cowboys during the 2015 Calgary Stampede. (Julia Pelish/

Thursday, July 2nd 
Ridley Bent 6:30pm Nashville North
Corb Lund 8pm Nashville North
Elliott Brood 9pm Wildhorse Saloon
Friday, July 3rd
Kiesza 9pm Coca-Cola Stage
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
Lights 9pm Coca-Cola Stage
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
Moist 9pm Coca-Cola Stage
Miranda Lambert 7:30 Scotiabank Saddledome
BC/DC 8pm Wildhorse Saloon
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
Arkells 9pm Coca-Cola Stage
Jason Blaine 10pm Nashville North
Sunday, July 12th
Stevie Wonder 7:30 Scotiabank Saddledome
Magic! 9pm Coca-Cola Stage
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 …”

Dan works in software by day, but gets away from the computer screen to experience life outdoors whenever possible. He can be found on most things that go down a mountain, whether a snowboard in the winter or mountain bike in the summer, as shares his experiences in both print and online, plus is a guest blogger at Travels with Baggage. At the end of the day, Dan gravitates to wherever there is good food, drinks and music.

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