Toronto has a new folk festival to start of the month of May. The Little York Folk Festival joins the list of homegrown festivals including TURF, Camp Wavelength, NXNE, TWiMFeST, and OVO Fest. The city of Toronto has also recently adopted a music strategy designed to help cultivate and promote local artists, outdoor arts events, connections with other music cities, and bridge the gap between the music community and city hall.
The LYFF is a one day event taking place at the Tranzac Club (292 Brunswick Ave.) in the Annex. Among the several artists performing are Swamperella, Hairbrain w/Jaron Freeman Fox, and Quique Escamilla. The event will also include dance and workshops. Tickets are listed at $20 and available online (workshops by donation). The Tranzac is known for supporting live music, theatre, book launches, comedy, and other arts events. Events take place in the three main rooms, the Main Hall, the Southern Cross, and the Tiki Room.
Festival creator Sarah Jane Scouten decided to start the festival after having gone to Oregon’s Portland Old Time Music Gathering and wanting to create something similar for the Toronto music community. Sarah Jane scheduled time for an online interview with byteclay.com
Ryan Ayukawa: This is a new festival, and looking at some other ones (TWiMFeST) in Toronto, some things worked, some didn’t. Have you gone over other festivals to see, what works, what doesn’t?
Sarah Jane Scouten: I haven’t met up with other Toronto festivals, no. It occurred to me to start this festival after years of going to the Portland Old Time Music Gathering in Oregon, and wanting to model the concept as a festival for the musical community, but in Toronto’s case it’s musical communities. There’s so many that share members and interests, but they often don’t intersect as much as you’d think.
RA: Looking then at the Tranzac, what brought you there for this one?
SJS: The idea struck me while I was at the Tranzac actually for a show. There were multiple events happening, spilling over into one another. There was a community dinner going on, delicious food catered by Le Depanneur and it was then I realized what a diverse hub The Tranzac is and not just for old time and bluegrass communities that I’m most familiar with. For that reason I chose bands who contribute to the vibrancy at the Tranzac, members of Houndstooth, The Foggy Hogtown Boys, Swamperella, Kristine Schmitt.
RA: As far as curating then, is this a first time for you? Was it entirely acts you sought out?
SJC: This isn’t my first time curating, but it is the biggest curation I’ve done. I got started in roots music by running a monthly series in Vancouver called Black Strap Sadie’s Old Time Jamboree at Cafe Montmartre on Main Street. It was packed, people were sitting on the floor and spilling out the door every time. I’ve always enjoyed creating opportunities for folks to meet, and in this case discover each others’ music.
For LYFF I sought out all the bands, all of whom are good friends of mine. The more I talked about it, the more people wanted to be a part of it. As a performer myself, it’s nice to create the opportunity for other people to perform rather than always asking venues to present my band.
RA: More and more festivals are adding in elements like workshops. What will be the appeal for the LYFF ones?
SJC: There are many festivals I’ve been to including Blueskies and Hillside that offer educational workshops, often on non-musical knowledge which is completely fascinating. At Hillside I went to a workshop where a reverent First Nations 15 year old taught me about the ritual of entering and leaving a sacred circle around the fire, involving offerings of tobacco.
At our festival, we’re teaching specifically musical workshops, and not song-swapping “workshops” that are offered at many festival small stages, but hands-on interactive learning opportunities. Many of these workshops were inspired by folk music camps I have attended over the years in BC, New Hampshire and Louisiana.
RA: And how did the name happen?
SJC: Little York? I was thinking of a lot of names. We didn’t want anything too cutesy, but also toyed with more “hip” names or conceptual. I had a lot of band and forth with Kristine Schmitt who seemed to talk be down from a ledge of naming it something ridiculous. Little York is a term Torontonians used to refer to their city, and there are accounts in archives where locals called it “Dirty Little York,” we dropped the dirty.
The Little York Folk Festival
Sunday May 1, 2016
Tranzac Club (292 Brunswick Ave. south of Bloor St.)
Full lineup and times here.
Admission $20 at the door
For more Toronto music visit here.