Why Independent Festivals Rule By Andrew Patterson
Almost any etymological consideration of the word ‘festival’ leads eventually to the concept of celebration. That much should seem obvious, but I invite you to take a moment to think about the word ‘festival’ in the context of the music industry: consider the many and varied applications of the word. Think about all the music festivals you’ve been to.
Now, in each case, ask yourself: What were they celebrating?
If you, like me, spent part of your young life driving an ungodly amount of hours in a cramped minivan with 4+ smelly friends to some faraway Canadian city, in order to ‘play’ at a ‘festival’, then you probably have a wide range of experiences tucked under the f-word.
One such experience might include: splitting a measly $100 fee four ways, playing to a crowd of 20 people in an awkward, cavernous bar whose main attraction is a set of VLTs directly to your left, with a Virgin Mobile banner looming at your right. Meanwhile some Broken Social Scene-related project plays to a capacity crowd of bozos three streets over (at a ticket price that equals roughly half your band’s total fee), in a venue where the lines for both beer and washrooms are exceedingly long and painful (as are the late-career jam-outs at the end of the songs).
Or something like that…
So what, in those instances, is being celebrated? As an alternative, consider Kazoo! Fest. What do festivals like Kazoo celebrate?
Things like creativity, community, connection, freedom, expression, ~MUSIC~ (and yes, cats with eyepatches) come to mind. A brief glance at Kazoo’s website, mandate, design and line-ups all give you a clue: this festival is about celebrating both individuality and collectiveness aka belonging and being together to celebrate unique instances of being human. And doing so with great care and attention.
Go even deeper: think about the people behind the scenes who work tirelessly to consider artist and audience needs, who work carefully to develop bonds with community groups, who are thoughtful about their invitations, honest about their spending, who remain flexible in the face of spreadsheet details that come to life unexpectedly, who run home to their own house to get you a sweater, who ask you how you like your eggs when you wake up on their couch, who listen, who hold space, who love, who celebrate!
These are the reasons that small, independent festivals rule. And will always rule. You know this! You’re reading this blog post for gods sake. Now go out there and see a show, buy a pass, pick up some merch. Keep celebrating the good things and resisting the yucky industry, you brilliant person you!
Andrew Patterson is the Creative Director of OBEY Convention, which happens this year from May 30th to June 2nd in Halifax.