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Last Modified: January 26, 2024
These five Alberta musicians range from heavy rock ‘n roll to soulful jazz and share one thing in common participating in BIG Winter Classic, a Calgary music festival running Jan. 24 to 28.

A Calgarian music fan rocks out in the snow. Photo by Nathan Iles.

By Nathan Iles

January in Alberta can be jarring. With the holidays coming to an end and the winter season ramping up, it’s easy to think that the fun times are at an end until the snow starts melting.

BIG Winter Classic is a cure for these seasonal blues. Since 2016, this snowy festival has been kicking off the new year with a multi-day party of music and comedy right in the heart of downtown Calgary. In their own words, “BIG Winter Classic was born out of an idea to celebrate Calgary year-round, not just in the fleeting summer months.” As recently profiled Avenue Magazine, this year’s edition takes place from Jan. 24 to 28.

Over the years, the festival has hosted a variety of larger music acts like Said the Whale and The Pack A.D. Most of the festival, however, is made up of local acts. Musicians and artists who call Alberta home are the lifeblood of this mid-winter party. Here are five exciting local acts that you can catch at this year’s BIG Winter Classic.


The name of this Calgary-based four-piece is fitting for a headliner of this year’s BIG Winter Classic. Sunglaciers blends the sweet pop sensibilities of indie rock with the icy cold atmosphere of post-punk, creating a sound that is evocative of Calgary’s snow-covered downtown core. 2023 saw the band tour North America in support of their latest record, Subterranea, which was produced by Calgary musician Chad VanGaalen and released by Mothland Records. Sunglaciers’ appearance at BIG Winter Classic promises to kick the year off with a bang.


Julie G. Olive – the real person behind SHY FRiEND – has been creating music her entire life. The Calgary native has channeled a childhood of classical music lessons into a sound that mixes poppy thrills with jazzy instrumentation, resulting in an enchanting live persona. Olive is known for solo performances in which she loops all the instrumentation herself, a unique approach she has combined with irreverent humour on regular Twitch streams. In 2023, SHY FRiEND released the album frank, which Olive will be bringing to life with a full band lineup BIG Winter Classic.


The vocal-free performance of Oranje will be a unique part of the BIG Winter Classic that is not to be missed. Drawing inspiration from the American Midwest emo scene, Oranje is a Calgary-based three-piece band that describes their sound as math rock. The trio met playing in the jazz orchestra at the University of Calgary and have quickly made a name for themselves with scorching appearances at the Sled Island Music & Arts Festival and the Music Calgary SoundOff Summit. Oranje’s debut EP Pure Sport was released in 2023, conveying complex emotions through equally intricate musicianship that never loses a sense of melody. 

Gone Cosmic

Gone Cosmic’s jaw-dropping live performance is a high-flying love letter to headbangers that will make a stylish landing at the BIG Winter Classic. Featuring members of Calgary bands Chron Goblin and Witchstone, this group brings a heavy pedigree to its brand of heavy rock and roll. Their second album, 2022’s Send for a Warning, The Future’s Calling was released via Grand Hand Records and came in the wake of a near-fatal skydiving accident for vocalist Abbie Thurgood. That spirit of danger and surviving against the odds permeates every track of riff-heavy metal and soaring lyricism. 


“Love what I do, so you can love it too” is the maxim that guides all of Zenon’s artistic output. This new Calgary R&B songwriter radiates joy and passion when they perform, be it solo or with a full band behind them. Since releasing their debut album GENRE Z in 2022, Zenon has opened for Alex Cuba at the Road to Juno’s series, taken part in the TD Incubator Artist Program with Sargeant x Comrade and won Solo Artist of the Year at the 2022 YYC Music Awards. Zenon’s vibrant blend of jazzy atmosphere and soulful vocal expression is just another fitting piece to the BIG Winter Classic puzzle.