Calgary is about to be electrified once again with music, art, and all-around good vibes at the annual Electric Highway festival. 

After three years of cancellations due to COVID-19 restrictions, the event is finally ready to give guests an in-person experience. This year’s festival will run from March 23 to 25 at Dickens in downtown Calgary and will feature performances from bands like Sasquatch, Black Mastiff, and HypnoPilot.

Every little thing is gonna be alright

The festival began in 2017 and was originally called the 420 Arts and Music Festival. Before the legalization of marijuana, one of the primary goals was to eradicate the stereotypes surrounding its use. 

The festival’s branding was changed to avoid issues with new laws and stricter social media policing, according to the festival’s co-founder and coordinator, CC Getty.

“We were having tons of problems selling tickets through social media, we kept getting bans that we were selling drugs,” Getty says. “When really all someone had to do was click a ‘Buy Now’ link and see we were selling tickets to a music event.” 

Sasquatch members Jason Casanova (left), Craig Riggs (middle), and Keith Gibbs (right) will be headlining the final night of the Electric Highway. PHOTO: Supplied by Jon Asher

It was like lightning

Changing the name and branding to Electric Highway was a way to expand the festival’s music and audience reach. The original festival’s slogan was, ‘All roads lead to Calgary for 4-20.’ After rebranding, Getty says they changed the saying to, ‘All roads lead to Calgary for the Electric Highway.’

“We wanted to bring in a wider variety of music, so we decided to have the music we were being involved with be electric and exciting,” Getty says. 

Diversifying their music performances is also in an effort to get rid of the stigma and change the language around music genres like stoner rock.

“I actually hate that terminology, it fosters a lot of stereotypes that might not apply to some people,” Getty says. “By getting rid of the 4-20 thing, it let us go forward with a music festival featuring music we love, and not have any stereotypes.”

“We love seeing people have a good time out in the audience because it makes us happy and we turn and look at each other and we’re like, ‘This is great. Look, they’re all having such a good time.’”

Keith Gibbs

Crazy, but that’s how it goes

The Electric Highway is the first festival of Calgary’s festival season, being held in March. Getty says that contrary to other festivals who have their events outdoors, the Electric Highway is held indoors for a few reasons. 

“These bands, especially the psychedelic bands, there’s a lot of imagery, a lot of light systems and lighting shows,” Getty says. “We wanted to have a nice, tight environment that we could put everybody all together and not have to worry about the weather.” 

Aside from the elaborate performances, Getty says the festival will be a fuzzy good time with great food and beverages over the three days of the festival.

I’m not the only one

The last night of the festival will be headlined by California-based heavy metal band, Sasquatch. The band’s lead singer and guitar player Keith Gibbs says that even though the band is there to perform, they’ll be active audience members too.

“We get to see a bunch of bands we would never see, so I think that’s exciting.”

Gibbs says the Electric Highway is a place where rock and metal fans can come together to simply appreciate the music and the atmosphere, free from the typical scenes at a rock festival like mosh pits or fights.

“Everybody’s having such a good time, all as one enjoying a band, I like that kind of vibe,” Gibbs says. “Sort of a feeling of community with other people you know that love music.”

Sasquatch was formed in 2001 and now consists of Craig Riggs (left) on drums and vocals, Keith Gibbs (middle) on guitar and vocals, and Jason Casanova (right) on bass and logistics. PHOTO: Supplied by Jon Asher

And the energy from the audience motivates the band members even more in their performances.

“We love seeing people have a good time out in the audience because it makes us happy and we turn and look at each other and we’re like, ‘This is great. Look, they’re all having such a good time,’” Gibbs says.

Other than playing some fan favourites, Sasquatch has a few surprises in store for the audience.

“They’re going to get some songs that they probably haven’t heard live in a while,” Gibbs says. We’re in the midst of writing a new record, so they’re going to get songs that aren’t even out and recorded yet.”

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