Long Winter

Long Winter goes national, plans cinema takeover

Apologies for filling you will dread on the first day of fall, but winter is on its way (and it's going to be brutal, according to some book a farmer wrote). I'm stressing over what size booties to order for my mini pug before the snow hits, but the coming cold weather does have one bonus for Toronto indie fans: music and art series Long Winter ("winter" being a six-month+ ordeal, here) will return for its third year in October, with some new surprises in store including an out-of-city expansion and a film screening party at the Bloor Cinema.

The Fucked Up co-curated Great Hall series hasn't been hibernating over the summer months: rather it was rebranded for the warmer weather (and commuting woes) as Construction, which took place at Double Double Land and Smiling Buddha over the summer months, usually with local three-band bills.

On the heels of Construction and last winter's AGO First Thursday show, the team will stage their first Bloor Cinema Hot Docs takeover on October 11 with a midnight screening of unreleased documentary Depeche Mode - The Posters Came From The Walls, the Toronto premiere of Marie Losir directed Alan Vega (Suicide) doc Just a Million Dreams, and TO's first screening of Frederic Nauczyciel and Frederic Nauczyciel's documentary on ghettos in Baltimore and Paris, The Fire Flies Baltimore/Paris.

Along with the screenings there will of course be music: Absolutely Free will team up with Toronto Laser Services for a record release, and Doomsquad and Not the Wind, Not the Flag will perform (possibly from hiding). Art installations, donuts, and a live talk show are also planned.

I caught up with Long Winter's Mick Brambillam, Josh Zucker, and Alison Creba to chat about what's in store for fans this terrifying six-month season aside from frozen eyelashes and the desperate pursuit of survival, including their plans to branch out of Toronto and (thankfully?) no plans to launch a festival.

Refresh our memory - what was the original inspiration for Long Winter?

Long Winter was originally started by a few people from Fucked Up because we wanted to play a few shows in Toronto over the winter that didn't feel like typical Fucked Up shows. Mike had been to a SummerWorks event at the Great Hall where there were art installations and performances happening in all these nooks and crannies of the building and that was a major point of inspiration.

The idea was just to throw music, art, performance, and whoever else wanted to take part into one big space that was fun, weird, and unpredictable. We asked friends from different parts of the music and arts scene in Toronto to be part of the thing, and some people really took it in. In the second year Long Winter totally stood alone from Fucked Up because it had really become this self-sufficient crew of people working on it and the party really came into its own.

How does it feel to be back for a third year?

Exciting. It's great to continue the project as an extension on existing relationships with artists and their work. Speaking with returning artists feels like checking in with a family, and its great to see how their work evolves and in turn nudges us in new directions.

New artists are approaching us with a great energy and freshness. We are excited, to say the least, for this year's collaborations. It will be our busiest year yet, and we look forward to growing even more. We just hope it isn't as cold as last winter.

How did summer series Construction compare to Long Winter?

Construction was a fun summer experiment. It's more of a standard concert series than Long Winter. We were able to book some bands that were unable to play Long Winter previously, new bands, and some old favourites.

Have your goals for the winter series changed over time?

The goals now are really to put the curation and programming into the hands of artists who embody that DIY. ethic and give as many people as possible from as many possible worlds a real stake in the event. And a big goal is to make the series be less music dominated and to feel more truly inter-arts.

What are some of the most impressive things you've seen these projects accomplish?

The variety of the programming. It's tremendous to be able to program a vast array of artistic disciplines and bring them all together for one event: it results in a very positive atmosphere where everyone attending the event came for a different reason.

What's your Long Winter favourite memory so far?

There are so many great moments from the past two years that it's difficult to pick just one. Musically, it was seeing DIANA at the first Long Winter - it was my first time seeing them, and it remains one of my favourite shows I've seen in the city.

Then in February when there was a pretty big snowfall and Ben Nelson (PS I Love You) couldn't make it to Toronto from Kingston. We were nervous that we'd have to cancel them last minute, but luckily Jonah Falco (Fucked Up) was able to fill in on drums. It made for a unique show that sort of embodied the creative and collaborative nature of the festival; everyone is willing to lend a hand to make it happen.

On the arts side, Chris Foster did a piece for the January Long Winter where he set up a forest of discarded Christmas trees. It was a magical piece, and the smell of the pine was an unexpected wonderful addition to the main space.

Then there was Olivia Chow's appearance on the Long Night With Vish Khanna talk show a few days before she announced her run for mayor.

Long Winter

What effect have you seen the series have on the music community?

There's been a lot more interaction between musicians and artists in a live setting. It seems like a lot more concerts feature artists, which is fantastic. I hope that the trend continues.

Have you thought about turning Long Winter into a festival, or do you prefer the series format?

We prefer the series. It's nice to have something to look forward to every month during the winter, and we'd rather have events spread out over the season instead of just having a weekend festival. Plus it's difficult to go out multiple days in a row in the winter.

What do you think of all the summer festivals that happened in Toronto this year?

Summer festivals are always fun activities but they aren't accessible for all music fans in the city. Not everyone can afford to go to the giant music festival. My personal favourite is SummerWorks, since they have diverse and strong local programming. A few of us have helped with their music series in the past and it continues to be one of the musical highlights of my summer.

Does Toronto need more festivals?

Toronto needs more local-oriented festivals. There's an tremendous amount of art being produced in the city and that allows room for more festivals.

What else does the city need to make the music scene stronger?

More city support for local live shows would go a long way to make the scene stronger. We're curious what will be said in the ArtsVote mayoral arts debate on the 29th.

Can you give us some hints as to your winter programming, from bands to artists to etc?

Mozart's Sister is playing the November 14 date at the Great Hall. It will be her first Toronto show since she released her fantastic debut LP so it's going to be a very energetic show that will get the crowd moving. We'll also have many returning artists that will present new work.

You mentioned the Long Winter is expanding out of Toronto. Any hints?

We're planning a Long Winter in Ottawa. We'll announce more details about that soon.

What are your goals and dreams for growing Long Winter in the future?

We believe in community collaboration, so we want to outreach and program with other organizations in the future. We enjoyed doing the AGO takeover, are looking forward to the Bloor Cinema show. We want to continue working more organizations.

Long Winter's Bloor Cinema Hot Docs takeover is October 11. Tickets are $11, or $8 for Bloor members.

Photo of Bloor Hot Docs by Joseph Michael. Photo of Long Winter 2013 by Matt Forsythe

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