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Local band Jung People is slated to perform at Calgary's first annual Blank-Fest
courtesy Branston Photography

BLANK- FEST

Canadian musicians collaborate to warm up Calgary's homeless

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Upon hearing the phrase "rock 'n' roll," one's thoughts might fall to sex and drugs. But this rock concert has a much bigger vision -- and so do these rockers.

Hopefully the start of a yearly tradition, Calgary's first annual Blank-Fest debuts this weekend at the Blind Beggar Pub and features some of Calgary's (and Canada's) up-and-coming independent rockers from punk to metal -- with a little hip hop thrown in. For 12 hours, music lovers and musicians alike will come together to gather donations of blankets and winter clothing for the Mustard Seed, who will pass them on to those in need of these essential items to bear Calgary's extreme winter weather.

While Leanne Harrison is the creator of the Calgary festival, the idea originated in 1997 in New York City, where founder Kenn Rowell (frontman of the '90s pop-punk group The Baghdaddios) held a benefit concert where partygoers could donate a blanket instead of pay cover charge. This year will be the 14th annual Blank-Fest in New York City, and numerous other cities around the world have satellite festivals celebrating anniversaries as well.

Harrison's interest in the cause stems from her interactions with homeless individuals both in her hometown of Vancouver and throughout her travels. She is determined to bring awareness to the issue. Harrison says many people choose to donate to more "trendy" causes, and she feels that "we forget sometimes that charity begins at home, and those people who are living on the street, they are part of our home."

Calgary's festival is the first of its kind in Western Canada and will feature a long list of artists -- from new local bands, to more seasoned groups like hip-hop and metal act Grime House (Airdrie/Calgary) and metalcore band Stella (Surrey, B.C.). All of the artists will be covering their own costs, from travel to the cost of performing. Since Calgary's Blank-Fest is so new, organizers have had difficulty securing financial support. As a result, booking and management company SIN Agency, public relations firm Asher Media Relations, the Blind Beggar Pub and The Mustard Seed have all been responsible for carrying a bit of the weight for this event.

Two bands on the bill are noteworthy for their own philanthropic spirit independent of the festival: Calgary's Jung People (pronounced "young people") and Edmonton's All Else Fails.

Jung People are an experimental indie/post-rock band influenced by conservation, animal rights protection, David Suzuki, societal issues and the 1992 film Fern Gully.

"[We're] all about being part of the cure and not part of the disease," says Giordano W. Bassi, the group's drummer.

Their name is a reference to the famous psychiatrist Carl Jung and a comment on the forward-thinking nature of youth.

Proceeds of Jung People's next two full-length albums will go toward an animal rights non-profit organization and a conservationist society, respectively. The idea is simple: instead of donating once to an organization, Jung People will create a "residual income that constantly comes in for as long as that piece of intelligence property exists," according to Bassi. It's only natural that Jung People are part of Blank-Fest -- they're perfect examples of musicians giving back to their community.

All Else Fails is an apocalypse-themed metalcore band whose members have a lot to say about making the world a better place. Though metal has a bad reputation for having, well, a bad reputation, this band's bark is worse than its bite. According to Seedy Mitchell, the group's vocalist and bassist, All Else Fails aims to inspire listeners to think for themselves and create an "inspired awareness" about social issues.

"We feel a certain way about certain topics and we write down our feelings," he says. "If nothing else, we'd be super happy [if our music] gets people to think about topics that they normally wouldn't think about."

In essence, their message is about taking change into our own hands -- which is legitimately good advice to ward off an apocalypse.

These musicians are giving rock 'n' roll a new reputation. It's all about philanthropic youth who jump at the chance to give back to their community and warm a few hearts and hands.

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