East Town Get Down 2024 Had a Bit of Everything

Calgary, May 25

With Chrome Harvest, Jed Arbour, Ghostkeeper and R.A.P. Ferreira

Photo: Em Medland-Marchen

BY Em Medland-MarchenPublished May 28, 2024

With a barrage of unpredictability that included some minor flash flooding and musical talent from a diversity of genres, East Town Get Down loaded up and fired off on May 25 for their fifth annual festival in Calgary.

Fostering true collaboration through serendipitous and spontaneous opportunities to jam with musicians far and wide, East Town Get Down descended on seven blocks of International Avenue. Calgary's incremental and unpredictable weather struck again: heavy rain and hail postponed the festival's outdoor stage at Unity Park, but just as quickly as it came, it went. A restaurant, a bar, a bowling alley and more stood as makeshift venues for one day only; Between $5 plates of food and the assortment of buskers who seemed to refresh every 30 minutes on street corners (bagpiper, xylophonist, fire breather, jazz band) the day was a collision of food, culture and music. East Town Get Down might just be Calgary's next go-to independent music festival.

We went, we watched, we ate and we relished in the fever dream. Here's who had us ranting and raving at this year's festival.

Chrome Harvest

A new discovery, and perhaps one of the more underground acts on this list, Chrome Harvest certainly made an impression in their early sleeper show at Red Sea Restaurant. Preliminary research into the band was unsuccessful — a broken Squarespace website and bare-bones presence on Spotify makes them somewhat of a mystery — but their live show did much to make up for a lack of virtual presence. With nearly no banter between songs and performing to a small crowd that seemed more interested in gorging themselves on savoury Ethiopian delicacies than listening to experimental folk, their distracted audience was quickly won over by Chrome Harvest's impressive sonic fusion. The band presented an uncanny mix of prairie punk, gothic folk and experimental post-punk, churning out songs from their 2023 album Sun-Circuit. At one point, guitarist and vocalist Benjamin Wellman swapped out guitar for banjo. Rather than plucking the strings in a manner more suited to the alt-country acts at Border Crossing Pub next door, Wellman began strumming, then screaming into the mic in an intoxicating, discordant mania. I never thought a banjo would fit so well into Calgary's post-punk fold, but now that I've seen it, I'm not sure I can go back. Committed to instrumental experimentation, and with the musicianship to back it up, Chrome Harvest are one to watch in 2024.

Jed Arbour

Sometime in 2022, the talent that is Jed Arbour graced Calgary with their presence, moving to Cowtown permanently from our more avant-garde, long-distance neighbours in Montréal. That move gifted the scene with a presence that's hard to match, and even more difficult to pinpoint. After seeing Jed perform a few times at Palomino basement ragers and local queer open mics, I was excited to catch them once again at East Town Get Down. Performing to a small but enthusiastic audience of local fans at Pacific Hut restaurant, Jed was fearless, captivating and brilliant. It was hard not to draw comparisons to the energy a young Sinéad O'Connor brought to her live sets in the bars of London in the 1980s, a similarity that extends far beyond the to-the-skull buzzcut Jed rocked throughout the set. Jed's empowering and unabashedly honest lyricism featured a gritty sense of realism that's representative of today's youth struggle: crashing overnight in a Walmart parking lot, feeling unsafe in your own body, knowing something is off but not being able to identify what or why. A powerful voice that's equally matched by tight drums and a lead-heavy bass, Jed can shred, scream and thrash with the best of them. Heavyweights "Walmart" and "Parasite" from their 2023 album Disappointing Dog Park were rounded out with a slew of new songs that were both cathartic and ruthlessly grim. Their integral voice was balanced with a warm smile, tender commentary and a shy laugh between songs, a mix that's gifted them with a gaggle of fanbois and recognition from the Calgary scene and beyond.


There's been a renewed buzz about town lately in the form of Ghostkeeper, a veteran Calgary-based art-rock collection of four, fronted by the plucky tongue-in-cheek songwriting of Shane Ghostkeeper. Shane is more than captivating enough to perform on his own, and often does, but at East Town Get Down he showed up to Kokonut Kove Pub & Grill accompanied by his bandmates and — thank heavens — a lonesome pedal steel, currently making a run for the city's signature instrument. The band was tight and the pedal steel added alt-country romanticism as Ghostkeeper opened up with "Rolly" from 2022's Multidimensional Culture. Ghostkeeper's songwriting was a real standout, supported by choir-like vocals from bandmates Sarah Houle, Eric Hamelin and Ryan Bourne. His knack for storytelling was recognized in 2023 when Multidimensional Culture was longlisted for the Polaris Music Prize; Ghostkeeper has also credited his father's love of pure country as a foundation for his musicianship — Hailing from High Level Alberta with an upbringing that included plenty of hockey rather than music, Ghostkeeper has refined his palette over the years, honing in on songs that meander with subject matter as broad as the prairie sky is wide. A thread of truth unifies it all, bringing songs about bees, working up north and modern Indigenous life to vivid life.

R.A.P. Ferreira

Headliner R.A.P. Ferreira has a way of slipping into a show unannounced, sauntering up on stage and sprinkling around enough salt to make the whole place sizzle. He was loaded up with remarks about Cowtown; it was the Tennessee rapper's second appearance since his first visit to Calgary for Sled Island in 2022, and he had a lot to say about the experience. "I seen a fella get up here with five other people and call every song his," he said, grinning with gold grills. "That was crazy to me. No shade to anybody, I'm just saying that's crazy. I do this shit for real by myself… maybe I'm just a stickler, but if they on stage with you, give 'em props."

It wasn't clear who exactly he was referring to, but rumour has it that R.A.P. Ferreira had dipped in and out of shows down International Avenue. At any rate, the diss (probably) comes from a place of deep experience and a desire for excellence in the scene. The rapper formerly known as milo is also the founder of his own record label, Ruby Yacht (RBYT) and operates from Soulfolks Records in Nashville, a record and tape shop dedicated to sharing hip-hop the way it was meant to be shared. His appearance in Calgary was met with a barrage of Recordland bros and nerdrappers who dutifully bobbed their heads, booed when prompted, threw their hands up in the air and begged him for autographs post-show. Ferreira seemed aloof and slightly bewildered by the attention, opting to drop slick bars accompanied by nothing more than a control panel loaded with beats and samples for the philosophically inclined. Despite his resistance to his own cult fame, there's a lot to like about R.A.P. Ferreira — songs performed from his latest album The First Fist to Make Contact When We Dap featured the underscored, experimental hip hop and penmanship that the rapper is renowned for, refined with laser-like focus. Its creation alongside collaborator Fumitake Tamura while on tour in Japan gives tracks like "begonias" and "hereing color, green" a hint of naturalism that keeps the astral projections grounded. R.A.P. had a lot to say about that too. "I think I got the most songs named after flowers than any other rapper," he said as the crowd chowed down on sour soup, egg noodles and spring rolls at Saigon Chef. "That's my claim to fame." Perhaps, but R.A.P.'s claim also comes from a penchant for penmanship, which he wields with more style and grace than any of his contemporaries in the game.

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