Royal Canoe, Begonia to headline ‘Fifty Fest’ concert at BU50 Homecoming

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Some of Canada’s most exciting musicians will headline a free concert next month to celebrate Brandon University’s 50th anniversary Homecoming.

Manitoba band Royal Canoe will top the bill, with special guest Begonia, as they add an extra date to the end of their ongoing North American tour for the BU Homecoming. They’ll play at “Fifty Fest” on Saturday evening, Oct. 13, a tented outdoor concert on the BU campus that is presented by Clarion Hotel & Suites Brandon.

“We are thrilled to welcome Royal Canoe and Begonia to the BU campus. Both are truly at the top of their game, with rave reviews everywhere they go and I’m eager for their shows at Homecoming,” said Grant Hamilton, BU’s Director of Marketing and Communications. “This free concert for the whole community is definitely a BU Homecoming highlight that you won’t want to miss.”

Royal Canoe and Begonia will be joined at Fifty Fest by an eclectic mix of artists from Brandon to British Columbia who all have BU ties.

Juno-nominated composer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Mario Vaira is flying to BU Homecoming from the west coast in honour of his father, 1970s Bobcat basketball star Mike Vaira, who passed away earlier this year and who was also an accomplished musician.

“Dad had really been looking forward to Homecoming this year, and I’m going to perform a few of his songs and stories, with a few of his bandmates from back in the day,” Mario said. “I’m also bringing a blend of funk, R&B and hip hop with electric guitars, beatboxing, looping, saxophone and higher energy that works great for people who want to dance.”

Students and faculty from the BU School of Music will also take to the stage, with the Michael Cain Quartet, featuring BU student Lenya Wilks as special guest vocalist. Along with Lenya the band will feature Luke Parnell on saxophone, James Hamilton on bass, and Kieran Wallace on drums.

“It is always exciting to play with students onstage, and we aim to transmit that excitement into the crowd,” said Cain, Professor of Jazz Studies at BU, who will play the piano in the quartet. “Homecoming this year is an anniversary party, and we’ll do our best to make sure the party is hopping.”

Lauded Canadian singer-songwriter and BU aumnus Shotgun Jimmie will perform a set of his influential indie-rock. And rounding out the bill are Lorne Lagimodiere and Rick Williamson, BU alumni and former Bobcats who will be playing a shorter set of classics.

Fifty Fest will take place Saturday, Oct. 13, from late afternoon until late evening on the campus at Brandon University. Look for the tent. The concert is free, thanks in part to sponsorship from the Clarion Hotel & Suites in Brandon.

“We are so happy to partner with Brandon University on their Fifty Fest concert at Homecoming,” said Patrick McGriskin, Group Sales Manager at Clarion Hotel & Suites in Brandon. “It is an honour to host some of the performers as well as the many Homecoming attendees from all over who are coming back to Brandon. We can’t wait to show them how our community has grown since they were last here.”

The outdoor concert is part of an expanded BU50 Homecoming celebration this year, running Oct. 11–14, which will include speakers, reunions, a Family Fun day, movies and much, much more. All are invited, and most events are free, including Fifty Fest. For more information, see

About Royal Canoe

Royal Canoe doesn’t sound anything like ‘Royal Canoe’. The name elicits thoughts of pine trees, plaid jackets and stomp-clap-whoas. ”We’ve always hoped that once people actually hear us and see all of the synths on stage that the band name can just become an empty vessel to fill with the music we make,” says singer, Matt Peters.

On Waver, their newest collection of songs, Royal Canoe are steering that vessel into new terrain. The sun-flared polaroid life of previous albums is exchanged for a miraged-out, ominous landscape. The band still has their kaleidoscopic, beat-driven heart, but these songs play with the absurdity of modern life. When truth is optional, when the most volatile people have the most power, when reality becomes irrational – what do you anchor to?

Creating the album felt like a reset – an exercise in following the seed of inspiration to its end point before deconstructing and rebuilding. Read More

About Begonia

Begonia’s Alexa Dirks has never been able to fit into the box of being a “conventional woman”. “I’m loud, I’m awkward and I’ve always taken up space. I’ve done things my whole life that some people would tell me weren’t appropriate ‘for a girl’.” That narrative that once tore Dirks down is now what empowers her to take charge of her own story, in her own way.

The Winnipeg-based Dirks is a Juno Award winner with her former group Chic Gamine. While she thrived off of the collaboration, once the band broke up she knew she was ready to go solo. Even though she was terrified to go out on her own, that feeling was a fundamental factor to positively reinforce that the path she was on was the correct one.

As Begonia, Dirks is bold, brazen with her florid, surprising pop that is tempered with sensitivity and wisdom. Read More

About Homecoming

We’re having a party, and you’re invited! It’s been 50 years since the first class graduated from a newly-chartered Brandon University, and we’re putting on a celebration for everyone. Throughout 2017–18, we have been marking this BU50 golden anniversary and it culminates at Homecoming 2018.

We are welcoming thousands back to BU, as we celebrate all alumni and their connections with our biggest Homecoming weekend yet. Join us as we welcome alumni and friends for a weekend of fun and friendship through October 11–14, 2018.

Learn more about four full days of events.


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About BU

Success is built at Brandon University. Our growing, progressive campus welcomes a diverse and inclusive community that combines proud tradition with shared ambition. Through our excellence in teaching, research, and scholarship, we educate students to make a meaningful difference as engaged citizens and leaders. Join us at