Erin Lebar

Erin Lebar

Manager of audience engagement for news

A born and bred Winnipegger, Erin left her hometown to pursue her journalistic studies at New York University in New York City, where she completed her Master of Arts in magazine journalism.

While in New York, she had the opportunity to work with some of the best long-form journalists and editors in North America and spent time interning at Rolling Stone magazine and CMJ.

After working for a year in the Big Apple at an online parenting magazine, Erin was offered a job at the Free Press in December of 2013 as a web and copy editor. From there, Erin shifted into the arts and life department as a multimedia producer, where she remained for nearly five years, spending the majority of her time writing about the local music scene, as well as co-hosting a weekly arts and culture podcast, Bury the Lede, with columnist Jen Zoratti.

Erin moved into her role of audience engagement manager at the Free Press in March 2020, and spends her time thinking of, and implementing, ways to improve the interaction and connection between the newsroom and our readership.

Recent articles of Erin Lebar

In 2021, Free Press Book Club brought together readers and writers for all things literary

Ben Sigurdson and Erin Lebar 7 minute read Preview

In 2021, Free Press Book Club brought together readers and writers for all things literary

Ben Sigurdson and Erin Lebar 7 minute read Monday, Dec. 27, 2021

The Free Press Book Club was started in May 2020 as a way to keep folks connected during a time of intense isolation, and to support both a local business — our partners at McNally Robinson Booksellers — and local authors.

Since then, the club has read 17 books together — full-length novels, short stories, flash fiction, memoirs and essay collections — all written by Manitoba authors or by writers with ties to our province in some way.

One common thread that has run through each of the book club picks is the calibre of Manitoba’s local literary scene. Chris Hall, co-owner of McNally Robinson and regular book club co-host, says it best: “What I’ve been struck with is the overall quality of local writing. It’s easy to get swept away by the excitement that surrounds international book releases, but I’ve been very happy with the reading I’ve done for the book club. Local authors hold their own with those international stars.”

The book club is currently reading Waubgeshig Rice’s Moon of the Crusted Snow, a novel that combines the action and suspense of a great thriller with rich Indigenous storytelling traditions. Rice will take part in the book club’s next virtual meeting on Monday, Jan. 31.

Monday, Dec. 27, 2021

DREAMSTIME - TNS
There’s been no shortage of districts and school boards punting books across the U.S. And Canada can hardly claim superior good sense in what has become an escalating bonfire of books determined to be offensive, Rosie DiManno writes.

Meeting someone who shares your moniker is a strange kind of kinship

Erin Lebar 5 minute read Preview

Meeting someone who shares your moniker is a strange kind of kinship

Erin Lebar 5 minute read Monday, Mar. 29, 2021

A long while ago, so many years now I can’t remember exactly when, I discovered I have a name doppelgänger.

There is another Erin Lebar — well, an Erin LeBar — whose email address is one letter different than mine, which sometimes results in emails meant for me landing in her inbox. This was a shock to me, as my last name is not a common one and, as far as I knew, I was related to most of the Lebars in the world. But, she was out there, the Other Erin LeBar, and she had the Gmail address everyone assumed was mine.

One day, all those years ago, sparked by a missing email I desperately needed, I decided to take a chance and reach out to her.

As it turns out, the Other Erin was thrilled to hear from me and had been keeping a few messages she assumed were important, hoping one day I would get in touch. And then she forwarded... and forwarded and forwarded; trip itineraries, invites to wedding and baby showers, order confirmation emails and, more recently, a few Zoom invites for family video calls I otherwise would have missed.

Monday, Mar. 29, 2021

The Other Erin LeBar (back right, with her husband and sons) lives in California. (Supplied photo)

Canadian rock classics reimagined for string quartet

Erin Lebar 4 minute read Preview

Canadian rock classics reimagined for string quartet

Erin Lebar 4 minute read Wednesday, Apr. 8, 2020

When Kenny Shields died in July 2017, the inaugural edition of the Winnipeg Classic RockFest at Shaw Park a month later quickly morphed into a tribute to the late Streetheart frontman.

Musicians from Loverboy, Harlequin, Honeymoon Suite and the Pumps & Orphan shared the stage with the remaining members of Streetheart to honour their friend while entertaining the crowd with their respective catalogues of Can-rock classics.

Violin player and classical arranger Karen Barg was in the crowd that night, and on the way home, inspiration struck and she decided to try her hand at reimagining some of the songs she heard into arrangements for the string quartet she leads, Luminous String Quartet.

First, she tackled I Did It For Love by Harlequin, and then Miracle by Pumps & Orphan, working slowly and diligently to make her four-part arrangements sound as close to the originals as she could.

Wednesday, Apr. 8, 2020

James Rinn photo
Violinist Karen Barg and her Luminous String Quartet has produced a CD featuring string-quartet versions of a number of Canadian rock hits.

Centre stage

Reviewed by Erin Lebar 5 minute read Preview

Centre stage

Reviewed by Erin Lebar 5 minute read Saturday, Mar. 28, 2020

It’s sometimes hard to feel pity for someone who seemingly has it all: a true vocal talent, parents who encourage a career in music, all-American good looks and wholesomeness, a husband (and a second husband) who is also mostly wholesome and also all-American — and let’s not forget the millions of dollars.

But the story 39-year-old Jessica Simpson tells in her autobiography, Open Book, while inclusive of these points, is as the title suggests: a deep dive into some of the lowest points in her life, including sexual assault as a child, traumatizing body-image issues, torrid love affairs and a battle with alcoholism and prescription drugs. Even if you don’t end up feeling bad for her, it’s likely you will at least see her in a different light.

Opening with a scene of Simpson heading to her children’s school concert at 7:30 a.m. already buzzed on alcohol, Open Book starts at one of those lows and then flips back to the beginning to outline the path that led there.

Simpson, the daughter of a former Baptist youth minister and a stay-at-home mother, faced criticism the moment she entered the music industry at the ripe old age of 16, when she was signed to Columbia Records and was immediately told to lose 15 pounds. Prior to that, she was made to feel ashamed of her quickly developing body while singing in her church choir — her ample teenage bosom being the cause of much concern — and was rejected by the Mickey Mouse Club in favour of two other girls who would be her lifelong competition, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.

Saturday, Mar. 28, 2020

Chris Polk / The Associated Press files
In this 2004 photo, Nick Lachey and Simpson pose for a photo in Beverly Hills, Calif. The couple’s problematic relationship was on display in full force in the MTV reality TV series The Newlyweds.

Pandemic-spawned cloud of silence, darkness envelops city's arts and culture community

Randall King, Frances Koncan, Erin Lebar and Jen Zoratti 25 minute read Preview

Pandemic-spawned cloud of silence, darkness envelops city's arts and culture community

Randall King, Frances Koncan, Erin Lebar and Jen Zoratti 25 minute read Friday, Mar. 20, 2020

Concerts have been cancelled. Theatre productions have been suspended. Museums and galleries are dark. Venues are facing uncertain futures.

As the world shuts down amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, Winnipeg’s arts and culture scene is taking a huge and immediate hit, with aftershocks yet to be felt. From the theatre to the symphony, from the opera to the rock clubs, the closures and cancellations are casting a shadow on one of our city’s most vibrant sectors.

Here, Free Press arts reporters take a look at the immediate impact the virus is having on arts organizations in town, and how they are navigating unprecedented waters.

● ● ●

Friday, Mar. 20, 2020

Rehearsals were underway for the cast and crew of the RMTC show A Thousand Splendid Suns when the plug got pulled. (Leif Norman)

Pandemic playlist: Your soundtrack for self-isolation

Erin Lebar 5 minute read Preview

Pandemic playlist: Your soundtrack for self-isolation

Erin Lebar 5 minute read Friday, Mar. 20, 2020

It’s understandable if, at this point in the coronavirus cycle, you have decided to stop consuming content related in any way to COVID-19 and instead have started reading, watching and listening to some lighter material.

I get it — a Friends marathon followed up by a listening party of only ’90s pop and R&B music sounds like a good self-care plan to me, too.

But, on the other hand, if you feel the need to lean in to your current state of self-isolation, confusion and concern, we’ve got you covered on the music front.

The following 10 songs run the gamut of emotions from optimism and humour to loneliness and fear — our isolation playlist will be there for you no matter the situation or socialization restrictions.

Friday, Mar. 20, 2020

Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press
Céline Dion is all by herself, and she makes it sound so good.

Musicians silenced by COVID-19 find creative outlet in streaming

Erin Lebar  7 minute read Preview

Musicians silenced by COVID-19 find creative outlet in streaming

Erin Lebar  7 minute read Wednesday, Mar. 18, 2020

Last week, as the first round of major festival, tour and concert cancellations and postponements started rolling in, it felt a bit like the day the (live) music died. 

But now, just a few days later, music stars all over the world have adapted to the current, very odd situation and are hosting small concert sessions from their homes or studios, streaming them online via their various social media platforms.

Coldplay’s Chris Martin hopped online Monday for a 30-minute session during which he played through a few songs, chatted with fans and even took some requests; Keith Urban similarly played a set from his basement, with wife Nicole Kidman being his “audience of one” as she danced in the background.

Jann Arden went live on her Facebook page for nearly 50 minutes, encouraging folks to stay home if they can while she told stories and played some tunes; Vancouver singer-songwriter Dan Mangan, whose Toronto show had been cancelled, played to an empty room, recorded it and released it on YouTube Monday night; and Max Kerman of Hamilton band the Arkells has started hosting daily music classes, dubbed the Flatten the Curve Music Class, during which he teaches anyone watching how to play one of the band’s songs and answers a few questions.

Wednesday, Mar. 18, 2020

JOEY SENFT PHOTO
The Village Idiots/Live at the Roslyn team, from left: Rylie Saunders, Mike Osikoya, Atom Dzaman, Kevin Repay, Derek Benjamin and Kevin Maretz; front, Joey S

Dearly beloved, we are not gathered here…

Erin Lebar 8 minute read Preview

Dearly beloved, we are not gathered here…

Erin Lebar 8 minute read Tuesday, Mar. 17, 2020

It’s been months, maybe even years in the works. Invitations have been sent out, deposits have been paid, RSVPs have been tracked — and then the world goes into lockdown right before your wedding day.

That’s the hard truth a lot of couples are facing as they prepare to tie the knot during a time of extreme uncertainty, when governments and health officials are strongly advising against large gatherings of any kind. It’s an unprecidented restriction for the wedding industry, and one that will likely be difficult to handle for everyone involved.

Kendra Turl, an American bride living in Winnipeg, is set to get married in front of a crowd of 130 people on U.S. Independence Day, July 4, at Fort Gibraltar. Turl isn’t considering cancelling or postponing her wedding just yet, owing to the large number of out-of-town guests who may not be able to get their money back on pre-booked flights.

“We’re going to see what happens and I know Fort Gibraltar is aware of the situation and are having discussions with people about this,” she says. “I think they’re really understanding and will be flexible with brides and grooms.”

Tuesday, Mar. 17, 2020

SHANNON VANRAES / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Kendra Turl's basement is full of wedding social prizes that may never be won. She is considering postponing her wedding social, as well as her wedding, amid widening efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19. She is pictured at her home in New Transcona on March 16, 2020.

Ralph goes from Good Girl to Rich Man

Erin Lebar 5 minute read Preview

Ralph goes from Good Girl to Rich Man

Erin Lebar 5 minute read Saturday, Mar. 14, 2020

There’s a scene in the 1996 film That Thing You Do when the members of the band at the centre of the story, the One-Ders, hear their single on the radio for the first time. There’s lots of screaming and jumping and hugging; they felt like they had finally cracked into the industry in a real way.

Toronto-based pop artist Ralph (Raffaela Weyman) had a similar moment the first time she heard her most recent single, Gravity, on a Top 40 radio station. Her career has been on a steady incline since the release of her debut full-length, A Good Girl, in 2018, but it was that event that sticks out in the 29-year-old’s mind as a milestone.

“That is a pretty surreal moment,” she says. “We were like, ‘Oh, OK, that is a good sign.’ Me and my manager keep joking that 2020 feels like a good year, 2020 feels like our year. It was a joke when we first started saying that, but now, you know what? It almost does, like, it feels like it’s this clean slate; 2019 felt like a remainder, it felt like the last straggler before a nice, clean... even the evenness of the numbers comforts me.

The songwriter says she and her manager, Laurie Lee Boutet, have been telling each other that all their efforts would pay off at one point.

Saturday, Mar. 14, 2020

Ralph, a.k.a. Raffaela Weyman, is nominated for Dance Recording of the Year at the now-cancelled Juno Awards. (Supplied)

Celtic Illusion a magical look at Irish dancing

Erin Lebar 4 minute read Preview

Celtic Illusion a magical look at Irish dancing

Erin Lebar 4 minute read Friday, Mar. 13, 2020

It seems unlikely anyone who took in the cultural phenomena of Riverdance or Lord of the Dance thought to themselves, “You know what this needs? Magic.”

Anthony Street, creator, producer and principal dancer of Celtic Illusion, agrees the concept of his Irish dance and magic show is, at first glance, bizarre. Despite that, the 36-year old has been winning over audiences all over the world by combining two art forms he has dedicated his life to perfecting.

“I looked up to Michael Flatley and David Copperfield as my two biggest inspirations, and I just thought to myself I may not get time in my life to do both of these shows, so I thought I’d combine the two together and achieve both dreams with the same show. And that’s pretty much how the concept came together,” says Street.

The Melbourne, Australia-based performer picked up magic as a young kid and quickly found an idol in Copperfield, the legendary illusionist. When Street was 14, at the height of Flatley’s fame as a world-renowned Irish dancer, Street signed himself up for Irish dance classes — even though he’s not of Celtic descent — and looked to Flatley for inspiration.

Friday, Mar. 13, 2020

supplied
Every illusion used in the show has a purpose, creator Anthony Street says.

Concert-goers throw caution to the wind for one night with Wilco

Erin Lebar 4 minute read Preview

Concert-goers throw caution to the wind for one night with Wilco

Erin Lebar 4 minute read Thursday, Mar. 12, 2020

Festivals and concerts around the world have been postponed due to fear the close proximity those events require could lead to the spread of coronavirus, but Winnipeggers threw caution to the wind Wednesday night just for Wilco.

After all, the last time the Winnipeg Folk Festival (which also presented this concert) hosted the alt-rock band, their headlining set got rained out three songs in. This time, fans were going to get the full deal, come hell or possible quarantine.

"Who knew when I wrote so many lyrics about social distancing they'd come in handy? I'm prepared, if I could just stop touching my face," joked Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy a few songs into the band's set at Centennial Concert Hall. "Everyone OK? We're all in this together."

The Chicago-based band is on tour supporting their 2019 release, Ode To Joy, and started the night off with the opening two tracks from that record, Bright Leaves and Before Us. A bit of a lumbering start, but things quickly picked up with the peppy Company in My Back from 2004's A Ghost is Born and the bluesy, two-decade-old fan favourite Can't Stand It.

Thursday, Mar. 12, 2020

Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press
Jeff Tweedy and his band Wilco.

Jazz fest partners with True North on headlining acts

Erin Lebar  3 minute read Preview

Jazz fest partners with True North on headlining acts

Erin Lebar  3 minute read Tuesday, Mar. 10, 2020

After a rocky year that saw the exit of multiple staff members, including the executive and artistic directors, and an “unprecedented budget deficit,” the Winnipeg International Jazz Festival announced Monday the 31st edition of the annual festival is definitely happening and will run June 11-19.

This year’s festival is bolstered by a new collaboration with True North Sports and Entertainment, which has joined the jazz fest team to present all the headlining artists. True North will play a role in programming and marketing the headlining shows, and will assume the risk of those larger productions in order to remove some of the financial burden from jazz fest. 

“We look forward to the festival every year, and to have the prospect, this year in particular, to discover in November or December that our June might not be the June we were hoping for wasn’t very appealing to us, so we thought, ‘What can we do to help?’” says Kevin Donnelly, vice-president of venues and entertainment for True North.

“They’ve got lots to do in terms of stabilizing their own business but also planning a festival they can afford to put on,” he says. “We’re in the business of talking to agents and managers daily, and doing so daily at the Burton Cummings Theatre, so it just made sense to bring our strength of that communication, that activity, that stability into the conversation so we can build a really cool event together.

Tuesday, Mar. 10, 2020

Brent N. Clarke / Invision
Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals will headline the Winnipeg International Jazz Festival.

Folk Fest lineup includes Australian acts Vance Joy and Tash Sultana, Iceland's Kaleo

Erin Lebar  6 minute read Preview

Folk Fest lineup includes Australian acts Vance Joy and Tash Sultana, Iceland's Kaleo

Erin Lebar  6 minute read Wednesday, Mar. 4, 2020

The 47th edition of the Winnipeg Folk Festival will be its first without its founder, but the four-day show will go on July 9-12, with its longtime focus on headliners spanning ages, genres and geographical locations marching on.

Australians Vance Joy and Tash Sultana, Iceland’s Kaleo and American country-folk legend John Prine all top this year’s bill at the festival, which will also include a special workshop dedicated to folk fest founder Mitch Podolak, who died last August.

The 32-year-old Joy took the world by storm with his 2013 ukulele-infused bop Riptide, which has nearly a billion streams on Spotify, and while fellow Aussie Tash Sultana may not yet be a household name and radio favourite such as Joy, her star, too, is rising. A phenominal guitarist and multi-instrumentalist, psychedlic-rock and reggae singer-songwriter Sultana, 24, already has a sold-out world tour under her belt, which included a stop at the Burton Cummings Theatre which — you guessed it — sold out well in advance.

“Tash is a bit of a phenomenon because she’s quietly been doing outrageous business around the world,” says folk fest artistic director Chris Frayer. “And with her reggae positive vibe, it’s a good summer sound. I think her and Vance, they’re both from Australia and it’s perfect summer soundtrack.”

Wednesday, Mar. 4, 2020

Tash Sultana

Singer’s latest project lights up

Erin Lebar 4 minute read Preview

Singer’s latest project lights up

Erin Lebar 4 minute read Wednesday, Mar. 4, 2020

In the mid-’70s, musician Brian Eno and painter Peter Schmidt created a card-based method for sparking creativity they dubbed “Oblique Strategies.”

Each of the cards, which come packaged in a black box, has a challenge written on it, a constraint meant to push artists outside their normal comfort zones, ultimately helping to smash through creative blocks.

For Saskatchewan-bred, Toronto-based singer-songwriter Andy Shauf, the card that really spoke to him as he worked on his new record, The Neon Skyline, was one that read, “Slow preparation, fast execution.”

“That was my motto for this record, so I did a lot of tinkering on the way to getting to the final idea, but once I had the structure I did it really quick,” says Shauf, 32, over the phone from a U.S. tour stop. “I wanted it to be more related to the moment than related to all the tinkering that happened before you get to that moment.”

Wednesday, Mar. 4, 2020

Colin Medley photo
The Neon Skyline is Andy Shauf’s latest concept album effort.

Genesis star Steve Hackett revisits glory years in Sunday night show

Erin Lebar 6 minute read Preview

Genesis star Steve Hackett revisits glory years in Sunday night show

Erin Lebar 6 minute read Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020

After more than 50 years in the music business and dozens of studio albums — both with Genesis and as a solo artist — guitarist and vocalist Steve Hackett isn’t looking to slow down any time soon.

The 70-year-old British rocker released his 25th solo record, At the Edge of Light, last year and has just embarked on a North American tour that brings him through 18 cities, including Winnipeg Sunday night, at the Burton Cummings Theatre.

In addition to tracks from At The Edge of Light, Hackett will also perform most of his Spectral Mornings album, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2019. Largely, however, the concert will see Hackett play through the seminal 1973 Genesis album Selling England By The Pound in its entirety, a record often cited as the definitive Genesis album.

Hackett hopped on the phone a few weeks before the tour kicked off to chat to the Free Press about revisiting Selling England By The Pound, the importance of multiculturalism in his music and his then-upcoming 70th birthday plans.

Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020

Lee Millward photo
Steve Hackett had to relearn his guitar licks from the 1973 album Selling England By the Pound to prepare for 2020 concert tour.

Slow and steady road to success for band fronted by local brothers

Erin Lebar 3 minute read Preview

Slow and steady road to success for band fronted by local brothers

Erin Lebar 3 minute read Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020

Over the course of a six-year career, Winnipeg country trio Petric has moved its way up from the stages of the Hi Neighbour Festival in Transcona, to playing bars all over the city, to logging a few performances at Dauphin’s Countryfest.

On Saturday, Feb. 29, Petric takes one more big step up the performance ladder — headlining a show at the Burton Cummings Theatre.

“This is going to be a fantastic night for us as a group and I think our whole support group, our family, friends and fans who have been following the band for years, this is going to be a big night for everybody,” says guitarist Jason Petric, 30, who started the band with his brother, singer Tom Petric, in 2014.

At that time, the then-duo caught the eye of Canadian country singer and Countryfest regular Dallas Smith, who signed Petric to his newly minted label and artist development firm, SteelHead Music.

Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020

SUPPLIED
The members of Petric, from left: Jordan Day, Tom Petric and Jason Petric.

Folk festival partners with McNally

Erin Lebar 2 minute read Preview

Folk festival partners with McNally

Erin Lebar 2 minute read Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020

The Winnipeg Folk Festival is one week away from announcing its 2020 lineup but is getting the buzz going early with some other festival news — McNally Robinson Booksellers is partnering with folk fest to run the on-site music store during the event, which runs July 9-12 at Birds Hill Provincial Park.

The former Festival Music Store will now become Music, Merch and More and will offer the typical festival and artist merchandise attendees have come to expect, as well as a selection of music, books and other items that will “complement your experience.”

“A lot of the artists are writing books, or have written books, so we’ll do some book signings, which will be kind of nice,” says festival artistic director Chris Frayer. “We know it’s same audience in some ways, between folk fest and McNally, so it’s an exciting partnership. It’s going to be a cool store, and I think it’s a great alignment.”

A news release from the festival on Wednesday welcomed McNally Robinson — which has two Winnipeg locations, one in Grant Park Shopping Centre and one at The Forks — into the “folk fest family.”

Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020

The Winnipeg Folk Festival is one week away from announcing its 2020 lineup but is getting the buzz going early with some other festival news — McNally Robinson Booksellers is partnering with folk fest to run the on-site music store during the event, which runs July 9-12 at Birds Hill Provincial Park.

The former Festival Music Store will now become Music, Merch and More and will offer the typical festival and artist merchandise attendees have come to expect, as well as a selection of music, books and other items that will “complement your experience.”

“A lot of the artists are writing books, or have written books, so we’ll do some book signings, which will be kind of nice,” says festival artistic director Chris Frayer. “We know it’s same audience in some ways, between folk fest and McNally, so it’s an exciting partnership. It’s going to be a cool store, and I think it’s a great alignment.”

A news release from the festival on Wednesday welcomed McNally Robinson — which has two Winnipeg locations, one in Grant Park Shopping Centre and one at The Forks — into the “folk fest family.”

Hanging out with Begonia

Erin Lebar 8 minute read Preview

Hanging out with Begonia

Erin Lebar 8 minute read Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020

When an act such as Elton John, Paul McCartney or Céline Dion or even Rage Against the Machine comes to town, it’s expected that tickets will fly out the door quickly.

Apparently, this is also the case for Winnipeg’s Begonia.

On the heels of the release of her debut album, Fear, the 32-year-old alt-pop singer-songwriter — whose given name is Alexa Dirks — swiftly sold out a precedent-setting five shows at the West End Cultural Centre, the first of which takes place Friday night.

Right out of the gate, Fear was a success for Dirks. Reviews from outlets such as Exclaim, CBC Music, Dominionated and the Free Press praised her candid, emotional songwriting and ability to craft a thoughtful bop. The album remained in the No. 1 spot on Earshot’s Top 50 chart for 10 consecutive weeks and her singles Beats and Hanging On a Line were both named as CBC Music Top 20 Fan Favourites of 2019.

Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files
Winnipeg’s Begonia (Alexa Dirks) plays the first of five sold-out shows at the West End Cultural Centre tonight.

John K. Samson refuses to be quiet about library measures

Erin Lebar 1 minute read Preview

John K. Samson refuses to be quiet about library measures

Erin Lebar 1 minute read Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020

Winnipeg singer-songwriter and former Weakerthans frontman John K. Samson released a new solo single Thursday in support of activist group Millennium for All and its desire to retract the heightened security measures implemented at the downtown library last year.

The track, Millennium For All, was written in protest of those increased security measures — which critics have said are barriers to entry, especially for marginalized and vulnerable people — as well as the decrease in funding for all of the city's public libraries. It includes the talents of many recognizable local names such as Ashley Au, Scott Nolan, Jason Tait and Samson's frequent collaborator (and wife), singer-songwriter Christine Fellows.

The song and accompanying stop-motion video made by Fellows is available on YouTube now.

Samson, along with Fellows, has close ties to Millennium Library: the pair acted as writers in residence there in 2016-2017.

Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020

John K. Samson's new single was written in protest of increased security measures at Winnipeg's Millennium Library. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

Sprawling food and fun centre features everything from axe-throwing to virtual reality

Randall King, Frances Koncan and Erin Lebar 5 minute read Preview

Sprawling food and fun centre features everything from axe-throwing to virtual reality

Randall King, Frances Koncan and Erin Lebar 5 minute read Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020

If your experience of entertainment arcades includes aisles of quarter-fed video games, tilt-prone pinball machines and pop-and-potato-chip food options, prepare for a game changer.

Compared to the sketchy arcades of old, The Rec Room, newly opened on Sterling Lyon Parkway, looks like gamer valhalla. The 42,000-square-foot space operated by Cineplex accommodates old-school entertainment — 10-pin bowling, Ping Pong and Pac-Man — alongside virtual reality games, Halo pods and even axe-throwing (which is extremely old school, come to think of it).

Free Press reporters took a tour of the facility Wednesday, the day after its official opening, led by operations vice-president Christina Kuypers. She says this is the eighth Rec Room to open across the country. While it’s an all-ages space, Kuypers acknowledges millennials are a prime demographic for the facility’s one-stop shop of food, drinks and games. That’s why it’s so big.

“We want to make sure it’s easy to accommodate large groups,” she says. “Millennials — and I’m one of them — we move in packs.”

Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020

PHOTOS BY MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Arcade games at The Rec Room entertainment centre on Sterling Lyon Parkway. This is not your parents’ arcade. The site was designed with millennials in mind.

Duhks’ original lineup has ‘something magical’

Erin Lebar 4 minute read Preview

Duhks’ original lineup has ‘something magical’

Erin Lebar 4 minute read Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020

A year ago, almost to the day, Grammy-nominated folk outfit the Duhks played a reunion show at Festival du Voyageur as part of the event’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

It had been more than four years since the band had played together, and even longer since the original lineup shared a stage. The performance felt good, they said, so they picked up a couple of other gigs and began to address the possibility of touring again.

While a Duhks reunion and tour aren’t formally in the cards, things seem to be heading in that direction. The group, with its original lineup mostly intact, have already locked in several shows this year, mostly for charitable fundraising events, including one Friday, Feb. 21, with Sierra Noble and fiddling duo Double the Trouble at the Seven Oaks Performing Arts Centre. The concert will raise money for the Seven Oaks Educational Foundation.

“There hasn’t been a plan or much of a discussion, really; it’s just time doing its magical thing. When four out of the five band members live in town here, a fun opportunity arises,” says Leonard Podolak, one of the band’s founding members and the son of late Winnipeg Folk Festival founder Mitch Podolak.

Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020

SUPPLIED
The Duhks circa 2014 (from left): Jordan McConnell, Tania Elizabeth, Jessee Havey, Leonard Podolak and Scott Senior.

Alan Doyle takes things in twangier direction on new EP

Erin Lebar 5 minute read Preview

Alan Doyle takes things in twangier direction on new EP

Erin Lebar 5 minute read Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020

If you’re ever lucky enough to receive a phone call from Canada’s best friend, Alan Doyle, you’ll know it’s him before you even answer — because his name comes up on the call display.

This may not seem like something worth mentioning, but the more common practice with music stars of similar fame is to co-ordinate with a publicist who connects the two phone lines and listens on the other end to make sure nothing goes too far off track.

But not with Alan Doyle; those formalities are replaced with true East Coast hominess when you’re dealing with the pride of Petty Harbour, N.L.

Perhaps that casual, friendly approach also comes from more than 30 years in the business, first as frontman of Great Big Sea, and then as a solo artist with three full-length albums under his belt and a brand new EP, Rough Side Out, which takes him down a slightly different sonic path, into the world of country music.

Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020

Alan Doyle fronted Newfoundland Celtic group Great Big Sea for years before going solo. (Dave Howells)

Rich vocals, effective storytelling has sold-out crowd giving Prince standing ovation

Erin Lebar 3 minute read Preview

Rich vocals, effective storytelling has sold-out crowd giving Prince standing ovation

Erin Lebar 3 minute read Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020

The first lyrics out of Winnipeg-based singer-songwriter William Prince's mouth Sunday afternoon — "So am I dreaming? Or is this just how we're living now? from The Spark — took on new meaning when belted them out to the third sold-out crowd in as many days at the West End Cultural Centre.

The entire afternoon, in fact, was glazed with a sort of humble incredulity at the roots artist's own current state of affairs; not in a way that was corny or annoying or false, but instead Prince, 34, emitted genuine joy at being able to share these shows and the release of his sophomore record, Reliever, with so many people.

The setlist was a good mix of old and new, pulling from both his 2015 release, Earthly Days, and his one-week-old release, Reliever; one of the best traits of the newer tracks is Prince's ability to live more in his upper register. Though he's known for that booming baritone, the brighter vocal moments, such as the sweet chorus of Always Have What We Had and the poppy verses of The Gun, are beautiful and smooth in their own right.

To see Prince live is to understand what an effective storyteller he really is, both in song and his banter in between. As Prince hovered on a stool centre stage, a near-constant stream of guitar strumming soundtracked stories about his life, the people he's met, the songs he's written, his priorities and perspectives on life and a series of in-depth thank yous — to his son and his son's mother, to his own mother, to his current partner, to his incredible three-piece band, to his fans and label and the Winnipeg Folk Festival and West End Cultural Centre and just about anyone else who had a hand in making his dream life a reality.

Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020

MIKE SUDOMA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Winnipeg musician William Prince, performs for fans during his third consecutive sold out show at the West End Cultural Centre Sunday afternoon.

Heart on sleeve, new foot forward

Erin Lebar 4 minute read Preview

Heart on sleeve, new foot forward

Erin Lebar 4 minute read Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020

A reinvention during a career upswing is a tough thing to pull off, but the step was a necessary one for Winnipeg indie-pop artist Micah Visser, who performs under the moniker Boniface.

The 23-year-old had become a darling of the Winnipeg music scene, picking up steam after the release of the 2016 EP Forward, and quickly signing with the independent label Transgressive Records out of London, England. As both Visser’s career and sound began to grow far beyond the solo project it started out as, a name-change felt like the appropriate path to take.

The songwriter chose Boniface, after the neighbourhood where Visser and brother/bandmate Joey grew up, and released a long-awaited eponymous debut LP under that name on Friday, which will be celebrated with a show at Festival du Voyageur tonight.

“I think I just wanted to put a new foot forward with Boniface,” Visser says. “I feel like I had learned a lot as Micah Visser (the band) and I wanted to try something new, I guess, just re-establish it with a bit more knowledge of what I was actually doing.

Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020

Winnipeg singer-songwriter Micah Visser performs under the name Boniface. (Supplied)