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Wade into Open Waters 

The three-day Open Waters Festival is pan genre, pan ages, pan all the things.

click to enlarge Brad Jefford Trio plays the Open Waters Festival on Friday.
  • Brad Jefford Trio plays the Open Waters Festival on Friday.

"It's good way to start the year," says the Upstream Music Association's artistic director Paul Cram of the annual improvisation and experimental music festival that has had its fair share of hiccups throughout the years. Originally started in the '90s, the Open Waters Festival ran for three years before it stalled and was restarted again three years ago. "We're not going to say it's the sixth one, but the latest. It's a bit confusing," says Cram. "We're saying it's the third one because it's the third in this series." Improvising with history seems only natural when dealing with a festival that's focus is on emerging and experimental sound. Emphasis not on jazz, though. "We don't say jazz," warns Cram. "We say 'improvised music'—if you say 'jazz' people run away." But anyone who's scared off by a little jazz talk is missing out on the bigger sound. Open Waters spans three days jumping from the Sir James Dunn Theatre concert venue to the late night indie headquarters of the Khyber and features 12 groups, everything from orchestras to vocalists. It's the perfect lure for music lovers of all persuasions, which is precisely the point. "[Last year] our guests said it would be nice to go to another venue that's a little looser to have a beer, and just around that time the Khyber was coming back which is great," says Cram. "So, we have the late night thing at the Khyber and a more legit thing at the James Dunn—a concert thing then a gallery club thing and the music sort of transposes both worlds." Jumping worlds is as easy as snagging a festival pass and wading right in. "It's adventurous and it's fun and there will be lots to talk about," says Cram about coaxing these new festival-goers. "You can argue with your friends about what's good and what isn't. It's sort of offering a lot of different angles on where contemporary music is these days—what's surviving and what's's pan genre, pan ages, straddling a lot of things in that way." So, step on out of your music box, the water's fine.

Open Waters Festival
Sir James Dunn Theatre, 6101 University Avenue, 494-3820
Khyber, 1588 Barrington Street, 422-9668

Thursday, January 10 - Saturday, January 12
$45 festival pass


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