Upcoming Garth Brooks concerts have raised the ire of performers and attendees of the 50-year-old Regina Folk Festival in the Saskatchewan Province of Canada after Brooks booked consecutive shows in the city the same week as the 2019 Folk Fest. Set to take place on August 9th thru 11th at Victoria Park, the Regina Folk Festival is one of Canada’s many long-standing and nonprofit folk festivals supporting both local and international roots acts. Performers this year include Jason Isbell, Amanda Shires, The Blind Boys of Alabama, and Saskatchewan native Colter Wall, who is one of numerous performers now speaking out about the Garth Brooks bookings at Regina’s Mosaic Stadium.
Celebrating its 50th year, the Regina Folk Festival announced its full lineup on May 24th, and had announced the dates for the 2019 festival long before. But that didn’t stop Garth Brooks from announcing an initial performance five days after the folk fest finalized its lineup, setting a date of Saturday, August 10th for his stadium tour. Garth Brooks is the first ever country music performer booked at Mosaic Stadium, and shattered the venue’s ticket record after seats went on sale. The initial Garth Brooks announcement drew the ire of some, but when his first show sold out in 59 minutes, a second performance was added for Friday, August 9th, further overshadowing the folk festival, and inspiring numerous artists to speak out.
But the anger is not all aimed at Garth. The second show was booked at the request of Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, and was also approved by the City of Regina. These officials have drawn the lion’s share of the heat for booking for two major music events just 12 blocks away from each other in Regina.
“I won’t get too heated about Garth Brooks but I will say the city of Regina is blatantly fucking over Folk Fest this year by having him play during the same weekend. Pretty damn disrespectful,” Colter Wall said June 12th on Twitter after the 2nd Garth Brooks show announcement. Colter Wall’s dad also happens to be the previous premier of Saskatchewan, Brad Wall.
“The fact that there’s a festival that brings amazing music to our Province, and so if someone comes in and takes a hit on that, it’s just upsetting,” said folk musician Poor Nameless Boy, who is also from Saskatchewan. “It’s a lineup that is curated for the country, alt-country, Americana kind of listener. I was disappointed because from that perspective, it’s taking a hit for the festival for sure.”
Poor Nameless Boy also responded to Premier Scott Moe’s Tweet about inviting Garth Brooks to a second show, “Nevermind that it’s the Regina Folk Fest weekend and it’s a massive part of the city and allows free music to people during the day and constantly champions bringing Canadian music to Regina throughout the year. Just nevermind that.”
Canadian string band The Dead South, who are also from Saskatchewan, responded, “It’s Great that Garth is coming to Regina but this definitely fucks over Regina Folk Fest.”
But not everyone is convinced the double booking is a bad thing. Some are hoping Garth Brooks will attract even more people to Regina over the weekend, and they will stay longer to take in the folk festival as well.
“When you live two hours from the city you like to make a day of it,” Megan Nash of the band Moose Jaw told CBC. “Hopefully people can make the most of their time and try something new.”
But others are not sure this will be the case. “It’s not easy to convince people to spend more money, stay longer, and do more things,” says Poor Nameless Boy. “I just hope that the people that are coming to see Garth will give the Folk Fest a chance as well.”
As for the festival itself, Regina Folk Festival CEO and Artistic Director Sandra Butel said when the initial Garth Brooks concert was announced, “We really have confidence that there will be enough people at our show, and there will be enough people at the Garth Brooks show, and it’ll just be a fantastic weekend of music in Regina.”
Garth Brooks is no stranger to controversy over concert bookings, and not always by his own hand. In 2014 amid his unretirement, a series of shows in Ireland were all cancelled last minute after local officials put their foot down about the amount of shows Garth was allowed to play. He decided if he couldn’t play all of them, he wouldn’t play any of them, and cancelled the performances, leaving promoters and fans in the lurch.
Competing performances and events are becoming an increasing problem in an overcrowded live music space. Old Settler’s Festival in Texas has dealt with competing booking issues the last two years, and LiveNation has been known for predatory practices of setting up rival festivals and events to attempt to undercut more established events, including events promoted by grassroots or nonprofit organizations.
“Twitter feather ruffling … aside, I hope everyone has a good time regardless of what show they attend,” Colter Wall says. “I also hope to see a little more foresight with regards to double booking events in the future.”