Sam Roberts and his bandmates have forgotten how to pace themselves.
"It literally feels like we’ve been shot out of a cannon right now," the alt-rocker says with a laugh during a break from his first tour in two years. "Part of being on the road all these years is (knowing) how to curb that over-enthusiasm and now we don’t have that self-control anymore — we’re just so excited to be back onstage."
Concert previewClick to Expand
Festival du Voyageur feat. the Sam Roberts Band
● Friday at 5 p.m.
● Fort Gibraltar
● Tickets starting at $44.50 at heho.ca
First he has to "mow the lawn and change up the clothes," but Roberts will be hitting the road again this week to perform in Winnipeg at an outdoor event hosted by Festival du Voyageur. The annual cultural festival is wading into summer programming with a live music party at Fort Gibraltar this Friday featuring the Sam Roberts Band and a bevy of local talent.
Roberts, an anglophone who grew up in the French-speaking city of Montreal, says he feels a kinship with Manitoba’s francophone community.
"Having always lived and participated in both languages and both sides of the culture, I’m glad to kind of bridge that gap between where I grew up and the folks out (in Manitoba)," he says.
On Friday, the band will be playing a selection of tunes from its French catalogue as well as music from its most recent album, All of Us, which was released in 2020. Putting out new music amid the pandemic has been a strange experience rife with ambiguity.
"It was really tough on all of us not to go and play that music live when it was still in its infancy," Roberts says. "It feels like we have a lot of unfinished business when it comes to that record."
The songs will finally get their due this summer as the band is set to tour through a number of festivals and venues across the country.
With summer festival season returning to Manitoba in earnest this year, Festival du Voyageur was keen to join in and try something new. After two years without a full-scale winter festival, this year felt like a good time to test out year-round programming — something the public has been asking for, says executive director Darrel Nadeau. It’s also a chance to create more performance opportunities for French and bilingual musicians.
"There’s not a lot of events that showcase francophone artists," Nadeau says. "We feel there’s a gap there and there’s demand in the community."
“There’s not a lot of events that showcase francophone artists... We feel there’s a gap there and there’s demand in the community.” – Darrel Nadeau
Friday’s show will feature 10 artists across two stages — organizers are bringing back the mobile music venue debuted last winter with performers playing from the trailer’s rooftop. Also on the docket are local acts Akina, Attica Riots, Bobby Dove, Cassidy Mann, Fire & Smoke, Fowler, the JD Edwards Band, Jérémie & The Delicious Hounds and Toulouz.
Concerts will take place on the festival grounds in front of Fort Gibraltar. There will be food trucks on site and beverages provided by St. Boniface brewery Kilter.
Planning an outdoor event without having to consider windchill or below-zero temperatures has been a rare treat.
"Logistically, most certainly, it’s been a lot simpler," Nadeau says. "We’re excited to see how an event unfolds for visitors where you don’t need to have a parka, you don’t need to have boots, you don’t need to worry about heating tents."
Capacity for the event is 2,000 people. Masks and proof of vaccination are not required, but Festival is aiming for a cashless event.
This Friday’s show will serve as a pilot for future events that could open the door for annual summer programming, Nadeau says.
Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.