Sound Checkby Amber Goodwyn

What I love best about Saskatchewan is how you can follow any major road and in a few minutes end up in the countryside. It’s how I imagine early geographers imagined the world to be: flat, with an edge you could fall off of. Regina’s edge, however, is a pleasure to leap from. For me, the prospect of swift escape from the city is a sweet relief heightened by a view that goes on forever. Be still my Easterner’s heart!

No matter how refreshing the big sky might be, the relative isolation of Saskatchewan’s cities also poses significant challenges for touring musicians. The distance between urban centres has made it difficult for a provincial indie touring culture to establish itself.

“Friends in Toronto go on an Ontario tour for a week and sleep in their own beds every night, and I’m like, ‘that’s not a tour. You didn’t sleep in a Petro-Canada parking lot in Golden Prairie,’” says Carl Johnson of Library Voices and other Regina bands.

Johnson is working to help change that.

Johnson — along with Rich Taylor and Tyson Brookes McShane of MOSO Fest in Saskatoon — have concocted SaskWatch, a touring exchange aimed at “pairing up one Springfield band and one Shelbyville band plus a band from a smaller city” to share bills in each of their respective hometowns over the course of a weekend. Johnson will be SaskWatch’s man on the ground in Regina, with the MOSO Fest duo shoring up the Saskatoon connection; all will be in contact with musicians and bands from smaller cities like Moose Jaw.

SaskWatch’s first event starts this weekend with Coldest Night of the Year from Regina, Gunner and Smith from Saskatoon and Megan Nash from Moose Jaw. The tour first stops at The Artful Dodger on March 7, before heading to Amigos in Saskatoon on Saturday, March 8 and then finishing up in Moose Jaw on Sunday, March 9 at Bobby’s Place.

The SaskWatchers look forward to building interesting line-ups for two or three more tours over the next several months.

“There’s lots of great music [here] and we want to help it out as much as we can,” says Johnson. “Other touring networks do exist in Saskatchewan, but we want to make sure we cover music that doesn’t get helped out as much, like punk and metal shows and other kinds of more underground music.”

Show Me What You Got

On Tuesday, March 11drop into O’Hanlon’s to witness the “emotional dinosaur vomit” of The Faps. Be sure to clean that shit up in time for psychedelic California band Sleepy Sun with Regina’s Black Thunder on the 14th, once again at O’Hanlon’s, and then chill the fuck out with Ottawa singer-songwriter Kalle Mattson at The Artful Dodger on Tuesday the 18th.

In my ears:
Twitter: @ambergoodwyn
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