This past weekend, my girlfriend and I travelled to Montreal to attend MUTEK, the long-running electronic music and digital arts festival, known for its carefully curated and diverse programming. With a lineup featuring up-and-coming and pioneering Canadian and international artists, we caught sets from Tim Hecker, Machinedrum, Project Pablo, and more, in a variety of indoor and outdoor venues.
While it was lovely, it was also far from the only multi-day Canadian music event taking place the first weekend of June. One province over and a couple thousand kilometres away, the city of Kitchener, Ontario (approximately an hour and a half west of Toronto) was hosting the inaugural Ever After Music Festival, headlined by EDM heavyweights Skrillex, Zedd, Dillon Francis, Adventure Club, and others.
Unfortunately for me, I had no freelance writers based in the predominantly university town to cover the camping festival, but a few days before the event, I had a brainwave: why not send my girlfriend's mother, Diane? Sure, a 61-year-old woman who primarily listens to classical and jazz might not be the target audience of Ever After's organizers, but as the co-founder of a high-end audio equipment company, she knows a thing or two about how music is supposed to sound live. Plus, she lived a short cab ride away from the outdoor venue.
I sent her a quick Facebook message, and to my complete surprise, she agreed. I arranged for her to be accredited on the Saturday, and then called her up a few days later to find out the results of my little social experiment.
THUMP: Hello Diane, so tell me about your experiences at Ever After this weekend, I assume it was your first time attending a music festival of this sort?
Diane: Actually it was. I've attended a ton of music festivals as you can well imagine, but I've never attended one like this. That's why I texted you a few photographs, my experience started with getting in, and they actually patted us down. There were all these police constables hanging around doing nothing, so I said to them, 'Hey is it inappropriate for me to ask you to get into a picture?'
What was the venue like?
It was held at Bingemans Fairgrounds, which was named after Jonas Bingeman, a local food magnate who had a restaurant in downtown Kitchener called Kitchener Dairies.
I bet you were the only one attending the festival who knew that history. Bingemans used to be a park on the outskirts of the city and now I'm shocked how close it is. It's very beautiful. There's a big hill and where the festival was, there's sort of a low area with a natural bowl shape, it was very nice with the sound.
What were your impressions of the crowd? It was like a sideshow carnival, everybody was dancing. I really feel the people were there for a physical experience rather than a musical adventure, but they were singing along to all the songs. They were often throwing inflatable objects at the stage, like a dolphin, and frankly I thought that was disrespectful.
What did you think of the performances? You told me you saw Marshmello, did you like his set?
I can't really describe it but there was a rhythmic coordination to the music and a constant repeating of formulas. I recognize a lot of the music involved popular video game [references], am I wrong?
I really thought the graphics were really uninspiring. I didn't think much of them at all, and I don't know if it's because I'm ignorant to popular culture, but I don't understand how that would affect my aesthetic appreciation of things. Marshmello's visuals were a bit more flamboyant.
Were you shocked by the behaviour of any of the attendees? I could smell weed, I honestly don't know how they got it in, I wouldn't have even dared. People were getting drunk and they were high, but they were upright regardless of whether or not they were imbibing.
Did anyone come up to you wondering what you were doing there? Yes, as a matter of fact! [Laughs] A young man came up behind me in a, you know, provocative way, and then I turned around. He started laughing, and I was laughing, he obviously didn't think I was 61-years-old until he saw my face. Then he said, 'I really hope you have a great time,' and I said, 'I will,' but it was kind of an awkward moment.
Do you think you'd recommend attending Ever After to your friends or someone who's never been to a similar festival? I would definitely recommend people go. There were lots of places at that location to go off away from the main stage and into very nice grassy areas. I would say people would have fun as long as they're not hung up on people smoking weed and having their tops off. But isn't that kind of the standard for music festivals, people are kind of liberated? I think it's a great thing to have in town.
Last question, would you ever listen to any of the artists you saw in the comfort of your own living room? Probably not. [Laughs]
Thanks Diane, I'll be in touch when I need somebody to cover Digital Dreams for THUMP this summer.
Max Mertens is on Twitter