Toronto Artist Collective

Toronto Artist Collective aims to revive all-ages scene

Toronto Artist Collective (T.A.C.) is promoting its second major event this Friday at The Great Hall. Intrigued by their take on the classic battle of the bands concept, I asked T.A.C. founders Dan Drory-Lehrer, David Royer and Erik Preston about their vision for reviving the all-ages scene in Toronto, and what to expect this weekend.

You're expecting over 1,000 people to attend your second major all-ages event in Toronto. How did this idea come about and grow so fast?

Toronto Artist Collective was originally founded with the goal of strengthening the independent music scene in Toronto. This is not a new or original idea, but T.A.C added the all-ages component in independent music that we felt the city was lacking.

Our first large-scale show, Johnnyland, took place March 1 at The Annex Live and turned out to be a great success. A couple days after the show, Dan Drory-Lehrer and our friend Lucas Izzy Tennan created an idea to make a Battle of the Bands; for "Johnnyland."

How does Toronto Artist Collective operate with the bands vying for the prize? Do they each pay an entry fee to participate? What do they get in return?

There is no entry fee for the 7 bands that we have selected with this show. We pride ourselves in being able to provide artists the best opportunities to play shows with bigger and more enthusiastic audiences without forcing any promotional quotas upon them. All bands are being paid to play and the top 3 bands are getting free recording time with our partners at INEO studios.

What makes this show more interesting than your average battle-of-the-bands show?

This battle of the bands is student run, meaning that it is developed and presented to a demographic that we truly believe needs a voice in this city. For us, this battle and art show represents a new calling for young artists and musicians to hone their talent before adulthood by giving them a new venue to display their skills.

If it's an all-ages show, will there still be alcohol for sale, for those 19 and over? What else can concertgoers expect to be able to purchase to consume at the show?

We will be operating a wristband policy, so those 19+ can still enjoy the full bar available at The Great Hall. Those under the legal age will be able to enjoy any non-alcoholic drinks normally available. Within steps of the venue are many of the great restaurants seen on Queen West, many of which are open late for post-show munchies.

What's with the name Johnnyland? Where did that come from and what does it mean?

My brother Dov - pianist in the band Professor H & The Bandits (940 time slot in the battle) - and I grew up living with our dad in Costa Rica a lot, having visited over 30 times. While surfing in Samara Beach on the Pacific coast a couple years back, we would run to the ocean with our surf boards over our heads and scream, "To Johnnyland!"

To me, Johnnyland is the word that represents the biggest feeling of bliss in escapism; tying into the art expo's theme and the escapism I personally get from listening to music and my whole experience of building T.A.C.

KC Roberts

There's also the art exhibition component to the evening in The Conversation Room across from the main hall. Can you tell me how this came about and how it fits in with the event?

In booking the great hall, we had an extra room with a capacity of 100+ people. Dan jumped on the idea of curating an art show with a theme "beautiful escapism" and revolving around his artwork, Dan Art. The intention was to give fans a place to relax from the tight atmosphere of the main hall. And give artists of all ages from all around the city the chance to show their work and gain exposure. Overall, we believe the art exhibition brings another artistic dimension to the fan's experience.

After the Battle of the Bands component, there's the headliners, KC Roberts & the Live Revolution performing a set. Why did you choose them?

Since we have been dealing mainly with the 16-20+ age range, we wanted to expand our audience to an older crowd past midnight. Our second acoustic act, the lovely Annie Dorrett, referred us to her guitar teacher, KC Roberts, telling us of his 7-piece funk band. We did our research and realized a) they could bring out the older crowds in large numbers and b) they put on one hell of a live experience. Band member Matt Giffin was instrumental in the promotion of this event.

Toronto Artist Collective's Battle for Johnnyland begins at 6pm on Friday night at the Great Hall.

Photo by Keiko Chanderbhan. Photo of KC Roberts & the Live Revolution from their Facebook Page.

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