The final installment of the ongoing Long Winter Festival came on a fittingly spring-like night. The festival markets itself as a multi-sensory experience of music, art, gaming, and talk. While this may sound overwhelming, the Great Hall was perfectly structured so as to allow festivalgoers to take in a variety of pieces and performances.
I was lucky enough to have a chance to speak to one of the main organizers of Long Winter, Josh Zucker. Zucker is a member of Toronto band Fucked Up, and actively involved in Toronto’s artistic community.
“In the mid-2000’s Fucked Up would organize these three-day, multi-venue punk & hardcore festivals around Halloween,” Zucker says, continuing, “Three years ago, [they] decided to promote something again in Toronto that [they] saw [themselves] playing at and had this idea to promote inter-arts shows. [They] then met with a few different friends in Toronto and launched Long Winter. That first year Fucked Up played most of the shows, this year [they’re] not playing at all. That was part of Long Winter becoming it’s own thing.”
When I ask about how the festival has grown into their vision, Zucker says that it’s become this “kind of artist-run festival and the end-goal — at least the goals for the next while — is to push that further, get more artists involved to take some control over curating and programming, with Toronto artists to own this thing and feel like they have a stake in it.”
This was clear in the variety and blend of performance and art — even the Main Stage, which was the central room of the Great Hall, contained multiple instalment pieces as bands took the stage. A piece by the Analog Preservation Network was posed as a massive cubic disco ball (which I thought was decorative at first), but acted like a Jumbotron screen on acid during performances.
I started out at the Main Stage, but quickly began exploring around the building. I was surprised at the difference in mood and crowd in each particular room. At the beginning of the night, the Conversation Room contained two instalment pieces at opposite ends — Lucy Satzewich’s Shit Talk pop-up wall and Bottom’s Dream Collective interactive forest set-up. I then decided to go to the basement where I realized that talk show Long Night with Vish Khanna was beginning. The panel of speakers was fantastic, particularly Kids in the Hall’s Scott Thomas.
It was an interesting sensory experiment to go from listening to noise rock band Not Of, to appreciating installation art, to laughing at Vish Khanna’s opening sequence. Because I came early, there was no line and I was able to openly explore. Along with another 250 people, I also received a free vinyl featuring Long Winter acts Elsa and Dreamsploitation, although it was a really welcoming gesture. There truly was no judgement in the space as the mesh of art brought a vastly diverse crowd of people. As the night wore on, however, the event gained a heavier youth presence and progressed into a crowded party with a line-up extending around the block.
There is a room, a time (the crowd gets more interesting toward 2 am), a medium, and a performance or piece for anyone in the vicinity to stop by. Long Winter is an exciting festival that will hopefully grow into a notorious Toronto event.
Zucker feels that, “As far as popularity, I just think it’s a winning combination — there is a lot of good music and good art, the door price is Pay What You Can, it’s all ages and it’s a fun party. We’re trying to be a portal for young people into the arts scene and a way to discover stuff in person, meet people, have fun.”
DJ Maylee Todd, a multi-faceted Toronto-based artist, agrees, adding, “It’s a really liberating event, where I feel like anything goes. It’s amazing because in my experience, the people who are already coming to view stuff seem to have an open mind and an intention to communicate.”
Jonathan Rogers, the vocals & guitarist of Toronto indie dream-pop band Elsa, added his two cents to the mix: “I think the whole point of the Long Winter festival was to have varied art forms. Like there’s a talk show downstairs, new up-and-coming bands in the Conversation Room, and then there’s some bands that have been around for a long time and come from different walks of life and genres. They want it to be all over the place.”