Building An RFF Lineup

Like a lot of people, Sandra Butel, the artistic director for the Regina Folk Festival, went into The Muppets with some anticipation. Like myself, she wound up crying at a particular moment.

“When Kermit is singing ‘Rainbow Connection’, I was bawling,” says Butel. “Singing along the whole time, just weeping.”

It’s a great moment in the movie but it had added resonance for her.

“I think I identify with Kermit. The person who’s trying to hold it all together.”

Holding it all together has become a much large task than it was when Butel first started fifteen years ago. In that time, the RFF has taken on more staff members, watched its budget grow and become a more and more professional event. There are a lot of details she’s keeping track of, to say the least.

One such detail was a late-breaking addition to the lineup. When I spoke with her a few days ago, she’d just recently added Canadian rapper Shad to the weekend. By Butel’s reaction, I think I was visibly excited.

“It’s good you reacted to Shad. He’s for your demographic,” she says, half-joking.

As she explains it, the process of choosing artists is largely organic, a balance of seeing who’s available, what the festival has the budget for and what other festivals are booking. That last one is a big factor; by sharing artists with festivals like the Edmonton Folk Festival, they’re able to bring in bigger names while not breaking the bank.

The situation also ties Butel’s hands in some ways, though. For example, she previously tried to organize the nights by audience, with Friday nights being for younger crowds. That’s not a luxury they have any more, though Butel doesn’t see it as something that ultimately detracts from the festival.

“I don’t get to choose that in the same way and I think it becomes an overall weekend experience,” she says. For example, “[t]he one year, I got John Prine for Friday night and that’s the only night I could have him. It couldn’t really be young-persons night with John Prine, so I had to build that with him in mind.”

She says she has a very good idea of how the evening schedules will work this year but isn’t telling quite yet. Some details she’s still figuring out are which Saskatchewan artists will play this year, some of whom will play their way on the bill at the Sask Sampler at Bushwakker’s on April 21. Plus, when I talked with her, a prominent act had dropped off the bill recently.

If dealing with details like that bother Butel at all, she certainly isn’t showing it.

“It’s almost like playing a game, like playing Freecell. Suddenly, I could move a lot more cards,” she says of the opening in the schedule.

You can find the lineup over here. Keep checking the Dog Blog for Butel’s thoughts on some of the artists playing.

Author: James Brotheridge

Contributing Editor with Prairie Dog.