15 Sep UP+DT Profile: Brent Oliver, Artistic Director
Meet Brent, the Artistic Director for UP+DT Music Festival!
Favourite genre of music: Rock & Roll | Favourite artist: The Yawpers (for UP+DT), The Who (real life) | Favourite Edmonton venue: Freemason’s Hall
What is your role with UP+DT?
I’m the Artistic Director. My job is to find the bands that make the festival what it is. I’m not the only one that makes these decisions though – Jason Flammia (our Executive Director) also has equal input, along with local promoters and festivals we like to involve as part of our commitment to the community. We work with Not Enough Fest, Folk Festival, Blurred Lenz, JCL, Clean Up your Act, Double Lunch, Night Vision, ConcertWorks and more. It’s a real “Edmonton” booked festival.
How did you become involved with UP+DT?
I met Jason about 5 years ago when I was an agent in Winnipeg and he was booking events for his regular job with Alberta Culture. After I moved back to Edmonton, we both worked in different departments for the Government of Alberta and our paths crossed a few times. He mentioned to me that he and Allan Harding (a former Director, now living in Vancouver) has an idea for a multi venue festival happening in downtown Edmonton over Thanksgiving. I loved the idea, and wanted to help where I could. Thanks to my connections as an ex-agent and promoter, I was able to open a few doors for them, and my role has expanded ever since.
Who/where are you most excited to check out at UP+DT 2016?
The Yawpers. I saw them in a sweaty tent on an afternoon in Austin for SXSW and became completely obsessed with them. They’re two acoustic guitars and drums, and absolutely KILL live. The singer is a mix between Faces-era Rod Stewart, and Damian from Fucked Up. I highly recommend checking out their live videos online, and their last record American Male on Bloodshot Records.
When not planning UP+DT, where can you commonly be found?
Well, like everyone involved with this festival, I do this as a volunteer. My regular gig is in the same world – I’m the Director of Culture for the City of Spruce Grove, a community just west of Edmonton. I’ve been working in the public sector for 4 years now, and the last two in Spruce Grove and love it. Great team of dedicated arts folks here. Besides that, I also volunteer my time to Alberta Music as their Vice-Chair on the Board of Directors. It’s another way I like to be involved in the provincial scene, and help new and ready bands’ hit new stages of their career – here and abroad. Oh! And I have a wife and three kids that I see once in a while before they go to bed.
What is your favourite thing about the music scene in Edmonton?
For me, it’s always been the camaraderie. I remember the 90s when metal bands, folk bands, rock and roll and hip hop acts would all go to each others’ shows, and support each other whenever they could. Same thing happens now – I see guys the guys from the Dungarees, supporting folk and rock and roll acts; The Hearts out to see garage rock or hip hop groups… I honestly think that no one hates each other here. It’s really something.
How do you feel the music scene has grown and changed over the years in Edmonton?
I think it’s pretty clear… It’s the venues. We’ve had 18 venues close or change names in the past 12 years. Venues that honestly can never be replaced. That all being said, the live music scene seems to be going on the right trajectory. House gigs, the Needle opening in March, more DIY venues, City regulations softening for outdoor events… All signs point to a pretty vibrant thing happening. It’s not going to be easy, but if bands, venues and audiences all keep supporting each other – we’re going to be in a good spot.
No matter the festival, concert-goers always leave with a memorable story or two! What’s your fondest music festival or concert memory?
This is a tough one. I’ve been going to concerts since I was about 11 years old, and picking your favourite memory is like picking my favourite kid (…It’s the middle one. Don’t tell the other two.)
I’ve seen some great sets at the Folk Fest (Richard Buckner, Gillian Welch, kd lang), the old Jazz City fest (Herbalizer, Kid Koala), Sidetrack Cafe (Ike Turner, Big Sandy, Leon Russell) and theatre shows for Al Green, Elvis Costello, Chris Isaak and others.
My favourite show of all time has to be DEVO, live at the Austin Music Hall in 2008 as part of SXSW. The band was in their late 50s and put on not only a visual delight with a 60 foot high LED screen (which were really new at the time), but played the SHIT out of the material. Everything was perfect.
What is something that readers may be surprised to know about you?
Hmmm.. my current non-musical obsession is my family ancestry. I started looking into it after my kids were born, and it got really obsessive after my Dad passed away a few years ago. I’m able to track some of my direct ancestors all the way back to Robert The Bruce, King of Scotland about 1000 years ago. I’ve become so obsessed my Scottish heritage, I’m learning the highland bagpipes.