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Apr 26, 2024

4 min. read

What's Your Favourite, Chris Frayer?

Photograph courtesy of Chris Frayer. Text by Nicole Keen.

You could say that Chris Frayer grew up at the Winnipeg Folk Festival—he attended his first festival at 14 and spent the night at the campground, sleeping under a picnic table. Fast-forward 38 years, and Frayer’s in his 19th year as artistic director of the festival, in charge of securing talent and attracting crowds. It’s a role perfectly suited to someone with a love of music both old and new, and a deep understanding of how music has the power to bring people together.

What’s the best thing about the folk festival? The way the music creates a positive community for people. Compassion, a sense of joy, discovery, people making new friends, spending time with old friends—these are all things we see year after year. The music has to be compelling, yes, but it’s kind of more about what happens off the stage.

What artist would you love to see in the festival’s lineup? I love the band The National, from Ohio. We actually had a sold-out show with them back in the spring of 2020, but obviously it got cancelled because of COVID. So, I’ve been struggling to get them back to Winnipeg.

Where do first-time visitors to Winnipeg need to go? The Winnipeg Art Gallery and, attached to that, the new Inuit Art Centre, Qaumajuq. It’s so amazing.

Do you have a favourite local music store? Into the Music.

What is one musical performance that stands out in your mind? When I was 17, I drove down to Mountain View, California, with my best friend to see the Grateful Dead. That was a big one because that would have been my first concert outside the city.

Who’s your favourite folk artist of all time? Bob Dylan. I’m a huge Dylan nut. I’ve seen him play live I don’t even know how many times.

Favourite album? One of my favourite records is Wrecking Ball by Emmylou Harris, produced by Daniel Lanois. The first festival I booked was in 2005, and I got them to perform.

What makes Winnipeg such a creative place? We’re, like, eight hours away from the next biggest city, Minneapolis, Minnesota, so a lot of that creativity stems from geographic isolation. If you look at some of the people who are from here—whether it’s Guy Maddin, Marcel Dzama, Neil Young or The Guess Who—there’s absolutely no doubt that our cultural sector punches above its weight.