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X-Fest brings popular jams to Fort Calgary

X-Fest is an alt rock music festival that bloomed out of Edmonton’s Sonic Boom festival. With past headliners like the Arctic Monkeys, Blink-182 and Jack White, the festival has built a reputation as an opportunity for Calgarians to see current acts that frequent the radio and charts.

The festival takes place on a single stage at Fort Calgary. This year, headliners include July Talk, Halsey, Twenty-One Pilots and the Lumineers.

Festival producer Nhaelan McMillan says this year’s lineup is one of the most anticipated due to of the diversity of the acts and the popularity of the bands performing.

“It’s certainly one of our most diverse lineups,” he says. “It’s also one of our most current lineups, if not the most current. Calgary has always been a great music city. It’s always been very open and wecoming to festivals. I know they say Edmonton is the festival city, [but] I think Calgary is equally a festival city.”

X-Fest will take place on September 3 and 4 at Fort Calgary. The Gauntlet highlighted five artists worth checking out among a line-up of familiar faces.

The Lumineers

When: Saturday, September 3 at 9:25 p.m.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know a lot about music. I don’t go to concerts very often and I can’t even remember the last
time I bought or downloaded an album. I just like having something play in the background when I’m driving or doing the dishes.

Why do I like the Lumineers? I can’t say much about the band’s progression as a folk-rock group, or the evolution of their sound through their discography. The only songs I can name are the singles that get air time, like “Stubborn Love,” “Ho Hey,” or lately, “Ophelia.”

This is probably how a lot of festival-goers feel about the band, which is bound to make them a popular pick this year. All I can say is that when a Lumineers song starts playing on the radio, I turn the volume up a notch and feel like tapping my feet.

Scott Strasser


When: Sunday, September 4 at 1:15 p.m.

Fight off your first-night hangover and head to the festival grounds early on Sunday to catch Toronto alt-pop duo Darcys play a set full of sultry jams that would sound more at place at a sweaty night club in the early hours of the morning than on a huge stage at a National Historic Site.

The band, consisting of Jason Couse and West Markskell, made headlines in the past with bizarre projects, including a full-length reworking of Steely Dan’s timeless jazz classic, Aja.

But their new singles are pure pop bliss. It’s nothing revolutionary, but songs like “Miracle” showcase the duo’s
ability to craft crisp pop earworms.

Their early afternoon set can be expected to get even the most tired of feet moving.

Jason Herring

Atlas Genius:

When: Sunday, September 4 at 4:05 p.m.

Hailing from Adelaide, Australia, Atlas Genius are not an act to miss at this year’s X–Fest.

You’ve probably heard their mainstay hit “Trojans” at some point or another on the radio, but the band’s breezy vibes travel beyond the realm of indie pop. Lax rhythms are matched with poignant and straightforward lyricism bound to get stuck in your head.

The band’s latest album dropped in 2015. Inanimate Objects retains the synth–heavy pop of its predecessor When It Was Now, but with a stronger production style following a record deal with Warner Bros.

If you want to catch an act with chill, meaningful vibes at X–Fest this year, Atlas Genius are your band. While they may tend to steer clear of the jollier folk produced by bands like the Lumineers, this sibling duo will be sure to keep you dancing  long into the afternoon.

Emilie Medland-Marchen

July Talk:

When: Sunday, September 4 at 6:15 p.m.

Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay make up part of the blues/alternative/rock band July Talk. Dreimanis’ deep, raspy voice alongside Fay’s melodic and light vocals form an unlikely duo.

Not only does the band do a wonderful job of telling dark and brooding tales of loss and life, they deliver some of the
strangest live performances I’ve ever seen.

Dreimanis is usually static at his mic stand with a guitar while Fay prances around the stage in a sort of trance. She often drapes herself off her bandmate in an attempt to pull him to the stage she so often rolls across.

The polar opposites bring energy and passion to any stage and should not be missed.

The Toronto band’s second album is set to release in early this month, leaving X-Fest attendees in for a treat even after the festival.

Rachel Woodward


When: Sunday, September 4 at 7:35 p.m.

This year’s X-Fest lineup lacks the teeth of previous iterations. There isn’t a show-stopping Jack White, Arctic Monkeys or Tegan and Sara headliner as in past years. Instead, performers such as Vance Joy and the Lumineers will bring a pleasant simplicity to the proceedings. And perfectly suited to slot right into that vibe is American electro-pop artist Halsey.

Halsey is sort of an off-brand version of British pop artist Lorde. But while the “Royals” singer layers complex verse and melodic dimension to her songs, Halsey skews more towards simplicity. With anthemic riffs like “We are the new Americana, high on legal marijuana,” expect yourself to start singing along with the 21-year-old.

With a recent explosion of success, the young artist is growing in confidence at every turn. Her 2015 debut album Badlands was an enjoyable encapsulation of teenage melancholy. Check out Halsey if you’re looking to be part of the new Americana too.

Melanie Woods 

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