Calgary music blog becomes full-fledged alternative festival

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The Music Times Two Festival is a brand-new showcase of local and international acts, including big names such as Peter Kember (Sonic Boom, Britain's Spacemen 3) and members of '90s alt-rock band Galaxie 500, as well as emerging artists like Cheval Sombre, who just finished recording a full-length with MGMT. Scheduled for March 24-25, this psychedelic bonanza is the brainchild of two young Calgary locals: Barnaby Bennett and Benson Simbirski. Starting off as a way of skirting cover charges and meeting bands they like, Music Times Two has sprouted from a simple music blog to a two-day multi-venue festival. But the boys, admirably, have stayed humble.

"When we started emailing press requests, we found that people were pretty into it," says Bennett. "We didn't take ourselves too seriously. That's the type of atmosphere we try to have with our blog -- it's just talking to people that we're into."

Bennett continues, emphasizing the blog as a way of introducing older bands (specifically '60s psychedelic) to a newer generation, and vice versa. But MTT is a little more exclusive than most blogs or festivals.

"We're not going to interview just whoever," says Bennett. "They're people who we listen to and genuinely want to know more about."

Via Skype, Bennett looks weary but content. Currently on a European tour, he has been organizing most of the festival from his BlackBerry -- impressive, considering those tiny buttons. After hearing his remark that he and Simbirski have done the work of a staff of eight to 25 to organize MTT Fest, it's obvious that a lot of work is involved. But the music bloggers-cum-festival curators are taking it in stride.

"We just think it's fucking ridiculous," laughs Bennett. "I mean, this time last year we were just two idiots hanging out. I wasn't doing much, making music sometimes. but now I'm travelling Europe, talking to famous bands all the time and doing business negotiations to bring all sorts of crazy bands to Calgary."

These boys are living a music fan's wet dream -- to not only talk to (and in Simbirski's case, actually become friends with) acts like The Beach Boys, Sonic Boom or Sun Araw, but to have the ability to book them for a festival in their city at their favourite venues. Maybe they've seen Wayne's World 2 enough times to know the inherent truth in Jim Morrison's advice -- if you book them, they will come. For Simbirski and Bennett, it's honestly as simple as that.

"It's really easy," remarks Simbirski. "Just make yourself seem legitimate and people will think you are."

As for future festivals, the boys already have some awesome curators slated for their next endeavour. Their goal is to hold four events a year in Calgary -- two during the spring and fall, and two smaller shows in the summer and winter. Bennett is aiming for international parties, like a summer event in San Francisco and a winter one in Berlin. If actualized, MTT festival will not only add to Calgary's already burgeoning arts scene, but spread our little prairie seeds internationally.

When asked what he appreciates most about Calgary, Bennett thanks its people.

"There's all these sweet people doing their own things in these little groups but there hasn't been anything to bring together all these different sections of the community," he says.

MTT Fest is trying to change this -- to bring together all these little pockets of different cool people together. As Bennett reminds me, there is a wonderful sense of community in this city that makes it really unique.

"Maybe . . . you have to [have this sense of community]," ponders Bennett, "'cause there's a lot of lame oil shit in Calgary . . . When you see other sweet people you've got to try to stick together and stay warm together through the shitty-ass winters."

So check out MTT Fest -- it's going to be more psychedelic than Q107 on a Sunday.