Fandom conventions can be monotonous: panels, merch, a sea of people in cosplay. But Anime North, Canada's largest con of its kind, has something more rarely found: nightlife.
That nightlife at the Toronto convention includes official indoor and outdoor "raves" (as most refer to them), but as photographer Hayley Stewart and I found this year, the soul of Anime North can be found in the DIY gatherings in the parking lot after dark.
"Coming to an environment where it naturally feels so comfortable and everyone has similar interests lets you open up," Austin, 22, told me. Austin, like many people I talked to in the parking lot, had met friends at Anime North (AN) years ago and became close to them. He started going to the con seven years ago. "Anime is something we absolutely love, so having a shared, close connection over that is fantastic."
Earlier that day, the Conservative Party of Canada held its leadership convention at the same spot and elected Andrew Scheer; as I hung out with Austin and his friends in a pickup truck, suits were still walking by occasionally and cops in golf carts patrolled between the rows of cars.
Around 12:30 AM after a lap around the parking lot and meeting an intimidating bunch of 4chan kids wearing matching black-and-white Adidas tracksuits, I went to a renegade dance party happening near the con entrance. The host, Louis (pictured above holding Canadian cash), who had a customized white stereo, told me he has now dubbed his unofficial jam "Trap North."
"I'm just a guy who likes playing loud music," he told me. "To be honest, I'm not a fan [of anime], I'm just here to hang out with people!"