If asked to define “Moosefest” one could be forgiven for thinking it had to have something to do with the creature that roams the northern prairies and has a scientific classification reads Kingdom: Animalia; Phylum: Chordata; Class: Mammalia; Order: Artiodactyla; Family: Cervidae; Genus: Alces. However, with another successful festival in the books, MooseFest organizers Joel Gaudet and Mark Poppen are writing their own definition. MooseFest, spearheaded and organized by MooseFest Entertainment and Funky Moose Audio, is an event whose intent is to highlight up and coming “indie” artists who are on the Canadian charts right now. The music for MooseFest, in their own words, could be classified as radio rock, rock music that is currently trending on the radio. “Indie” artists are individual artists and bands whose music is produced independently from commercial record labels or their subsidiaries. According to Gaudet, MooseFest’s mission is to “help promote the indie arts and artists to new and existing fans for the generations that are coming up through our children and to continue to do so for our children’s children.” Mark Poppen added there was so much interest in this year’s MooseFest that they’re already planning for 2023, and Gaudet says next year will be even bigger than this year.
Last year’s event featured three bands and a supporting act and was held in the Bellevue Community Hall. The festival’s debut came on the heels of the province’s lifting of the pandemic restrictions and bands as well as fans were more than ready for the return of live music events. It was a long year and a half for bands as they waited out the pandemic longing to be able to perform again. That frustration was expressed time and again to Mark and Joel during their podcast. So, when the opportunity presented to perform at a new festival organized by the co-hosts of The Sit Down Podcast, a show where they discuss music topics and have conversations with different artists, many of the bands they had conversed with since the inception of the podcast in 2020, jumped at the chance to perform. The success of the first festival paved the way and bands reached out to the pair to see if there was room to join the lineup this year. Poppen shared in an interview earlier that organizing a festival was a “bucket-list” item, and with the success of their inaugural event to bolster them, the pair set out to make the 2022 event new and improved. Poppen added that there was so much interest in this year’s MooseFest that planning has already begun for 2023.
The lineup for this year’s Moosefest included, out of Regina: The Hourhand, King For a Day, and Christie-Anne Blondeau formerly from Bellevue; out of Saskatoon: The Radiant, and W3APONS; out of Prince Albert: Traitors’ Gate; and rounding out the list were two bands out of Winnipeg: Northern Royals and Ex Ømerta.
This past weekend’s event rocked the little hamlet of Bellevue from the sportsgrounds where many ball tournaments were hosted in years past. With only seven bands originally slated to perform, the response of ticket buyers was so great that an eighth band was added to the lineup. With just over 100 residents in the hamlet, the 300 people in attendance made a significant population growth for the weekend but the impact of that many more people was negligible. Making sure that all the attendees could enjoy a trouble-free music experience, the organizers had PA Security providing security for the day and evening as well as Wakaw and District EMS standing by in case of emergency. Two stages provided an almost continual stream of exceptional live music from these truly impressive performers. The bands alternated between the main stage and the secondary stage set up in the gazebo that stands on the grounds. Television networks may boast shows like America’s Got Talent, but this weekend shone light on the truth that Saskatchewan’s got talent too.
For those unaware of who these festival organizing fellows are Mark Poppen started Funky Moose Records, an online record store selling new and used vinyl records, record storage accessories, record cleaning supplies, turntables and speakers in 2015. Raised in Holland, he relocated to Canada to marry his wife Jennifer, and eventually combined his love of music, his web design expertise, and his joy of selling things to people. The result was Funky Moose Records. and give our unsalted opinion. With vinyls showcasing reggae to country, easy listening to rock, and jazz to blues the Funky Moose has every genre well represented. Joel Gaudet and Mark were friends long before Funky Moose Records was born. When there was finally room in the business for another person, Joel joined the Moose family. Joel takes care of the data management and together the friends host the podcast “The Sit Down”. The podcast started as just a cool way to reach out to customers, but since its launch in 2020 the show has gained much attention from fans of indie music in Saskatchewan. Gaudet told CBC in March, “We have more American listeners and viewers than Canadian at this point…the podcast is a means to help promote the great music from indie artists from Canada.”
With the camping available on site, people could relax in their campers, play with their dogs and enjoy the relaxed friendly atmosphere while still enjoying the music. Everyone from fans to performers enjoyed the event and shared comments on social media about how inviting the festival was and that they can’t wait for the 2023 event. Joel stated that with attendance just over double that of last year, in planning for next year, he’ll “plan for triple this year.” One thing’s for sure, Mark and Joel will do their best to bring more amazing indie talent back to Bellevue.
Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wakaw Recorder