A 15th anniversary is a notable milestone for any music festival, but Toronto's Indie Week is not making a big fuss about it now. Instead, founder Darryl Hurs and his staff are concentrating on making this year's event the biggest and best yet.
The live music fest and Indie 101 conference component are running Nov. 7-12, with 250 acts performing at over 20 Toronto venues. Early signs are auspicious, Hurs told FYI in an interview yesterday. "The response has been amazing," he says. "I'm getting people from UK, California and across Canada flying in for it, and there's a lot more international interest now. Our advance ticket sales have been the best we've ever had, at all the venues. We are usually a walk-up type of audience,"
Hurs reflects that "this was just a hobby when I started it. It was 'hey, I'm going to do some shows,' and it kept growing. We've had a presence in the UK for three years, and it is now a year-round staffed operation."
Sponsorship of Indie Week has kept growing. Jack Daniel's has been a significant sponsor for the past seven years, and a new beer brand, Hop City, is on board.
Slaight Music is back for the second year, and Hurs is grateful for that support. "To me, Slaight Music is the backbone of the music industry in Canada, and we feel honoured to be considered part of that family." In honour of Canada's 150th anniversary, the Slaight Music sponsorship has allowed Indie Week to distribute 150 fest wristbands to students at five area schools this year. FACTOR and Ontario Music Funding has also helped sustain Indie Week in recent years.
Indie Week has teamed with an Indie Week UK fest, based in Manchester. "It is like a version of where we were in Canada 10 years ago," says Hurs." I have a partner company, Dusty Pop, that runs it over there, and it closely replicates our event."
As part of this arrangement, English band The Empty Page (produced by Canadian Garth Richardson) has flown over to Toronto to perform this week, while last year's Toronto Indie Week-winning band Moon Tan played at the English event last month. There's a competitive side to the band showcases at Indie Week, leading to the choice of an overall winner announced at The Mod Club on Nov. 12 at the fest's end. "We say we're a festival with a competition element, rather than being a battle of the bands," Hurs explains.
One change this year is the removal of Indie Week's film component in favour of a beefed-up Indie101 conference. "We restructured a little to focus on the music," explains Hurs. "At the start of the year there were some issues with venues closing in Toronto, so we decided to do everything in venues, including moving our conference to multiple music clubs. Our mandate is to support indie all the way around."
A highlight of this year's Indie101 conference promises to be the Health and Wellness Day, featuring a panel that discusses life on the road and how to survive and stay healthy. "I think it is an important and relevant topic," says Hurs. "We have Martin Atkins [Public Image Ltd, Ministry] speaking, alongside Chuck Randall, tour manager of Alice In Chains and The Cult, Jeremy Wireman from Monster Truck, and John Wozniak from Marcy Playground, all talking about their experiences on the road."
A three-day songwriter series at Supermarket will cover such topics as song creation, marketing and distribution, and includes Tom Wilson as a keynote speaker.
For a full list of conference events and speakers, go here
For the live music schedule, go here