It was nearing 5:30 on the evening of March 21st when my sister and I hopped aboard Winnipeg Transit and made our way to the West End Cultural Centre for Faouzia’s first headliner show. The night’s performance was the first of two back-to-back sellouts at the venue. The first night sold out in ten hours, prompting Faouzia and her team to add a second show that sold out in under two hours.
The bus made its way across the city and pulled up in front of the West End Cultural Centre just after 6:00. We made our way inside only to find we were the first ones to arrive. With approximately 75 minutes to kill while waiting for the doors to open, we looked around at the photos on the wall before the stairs and all the signatures of previous performers on the walls of the second floor. Not too long after we had done a quick wander about the place the room filled to capacity with concert goers creating a line that made its way out the front doors to somewhere else down the block of Ellice Avenue.
Promptly at 7:15 the doors opened to let the flood of fans in the rest of the building. What each prospective party goer found for themselves to do from that point was their choice. One could mull around until the lights dropped, head off to get some merchandise, go straight for a seat, or find a spot cozy enough to stand for the remainder of the night. My hand was stamped as I walked in and I took a glance about the lobby to drink the room in. A giant, shiny, silver backdrop across from me is on the wall behind a camera for concert-goers to take pictures with.
This particular photobooth found a fair bit of use throughout the course of the night. I glanced over to see the merch table littered with three different items; a black Faouzia t-shirt, a black Faouzia long sleeve, and a bright yellow shirt with “I was at the very first Faouzia show” written across the front.
I walked into the main hall of the venue to meet back up with my sister who I see standing at centre stage. Some 45 minutes filled the space between my walking up and the venue falling into a darkness broken only by the faint glow of lights on the wall under the venue’s mezzanine. The Pop/EDM duo Ferro x Sadye step on stage to kick the night off with a bang. The group is made up of Winnipeg pianist, songwriter, and producer, Ferropop and Sadye Cage of the Manitoban Deathpop group, Efflo. For those who are unaware, Efflo used to be called SC Mira, but changed their name recently for unspecified reasons to Efflo, which is short for efflorescence.
Ferro x Sadye performed a ten song set of songs they’ve been writing for about a year, as Sadye Cage explained from the stage. This included the duo’s brand new debut single, “Blame It,” which was released on social media on March 21st and can be listened to here. Through the final two songs of the set they were joined on stage by rising Manitoban hip-hop artist, viisi for the songs “Beat Goes On” and “Let’s Get This Rhythm.” Be sure to catch viisi joined by Ferro x Sadye at Winnipeg Jazz Festival in late June.
It was now nearing 9:00 and an antsy energy began to make it’s way through the crowd in wait of Faouzia. Faouzia’s three band mates -bassist, drummer, and keyboardist- all strolled up on stage and took their places at the back of the stage. As the band stepped into those first notes of “This Mountain,” the one and only Faouzia joined them and stood center stage to bring her raw natural musical talent to the 350 or so people packed into the West End Cultural Centre.
Faouzia came prepared for her first headline ticketed shows ever with an abundance of new material along with six songs that have been previously released, many of which are already big fan favourites. Faouzia has a number of tunes that have been released with both a full band version and a stripped piano version. During this performance on the West End Cultural Centre stage, she ended her main set by debuting her brand new single “Born Without A Heart” which was set to be released two weeks after the show. The piano version of “Born Without A Heart” can be viewed on Youtube here.
Faouzia has come a long way from her previous performances at Canada Day 2017 with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra at The Forks, the Jeux du Canada Games, Festival du Voyageur, February 2018, her Winnipeg Jazz Festival performance at The Cube, June 2018, and her performance at Interstellar Rodeo festival in Edmonton in July 2018. Now, for her European fans, you have the chance to see her in Switzerland at the Montreux Jazz Festival, July 5, 2019 sharing the stage with George Ezra.
Following Faouzia’s first headline performance at the West End Cultural Centre, the 350 fans in attendance were able to hop in line to partake in a free meet and greet session with Faouzia herself! My sister and myself, along with everyone who chose to meet Faouzia at the climax of the night, got a professional picture taken by a photobooth. Fans got a 4×6 print of the picture in black and white with an autopenned message and autograph printed upon the photo, as seen in the picture to the right.
Faouzia’s future looks extremely bright with one international show already announced for July, with possibly more show announcements to come. While the Manitoba artist is still enrolled in school, it’s safe to say she will only be playing one off shows or jumping on the road for short tours in the foreseeable future. Her fans, myself included, are looking forward to a possible album in the cards. With the release of single after single as of late and the preparation of new material for these two consecutive shows, it feels more and more possible as the days go by.