The last few summers have been boom years for large-format music festivals in Canada, but bubbles, as we know, inevitably burst. On Monday, annual nostalgia punk tour, Riot Fest, announced that it would not return to Toronto in 2016, adding its name to a growing list of festivals that will forgo Canadian dates in 2016.
"With recent local changes in Riot Fest’s partnership in Toronto, the planning process and resources required in staging a fest in Ontario was no longer compatible because of the available timeline," the statement reads. Riot Fest hopes to return to Canada in future years, but for now, Canadian fans will have to travel to Chicago or Denver.
And that's not the only big touring production dropping Canada from its itinerary, or even the only punk fest. The Vans Warped Tour announced at the end of 2015 that it would skip its longtime Toronto stop because of construction on the grounds of the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, its home for the past few years. They're offering discounted tickets for Canadian fans looking to attend nearby dates stateside.
But the glut of festival programs vying for your rage sticks and ticket dollars has also begun to squeeze out homegrown events. Kingston's Wolfe Island Music Festival, which would have run its 18th edition this summer, has decided to cancel its 2016 event and focus its resources instead on 2017. NXNE, with new competition from a seemingly endless pool of new Toronto festivals, has morphed beyond recognition. The Squamish Valley Music Festival folded up shop without any clear communications about the future.
An explosion of options in the festival marketplace means not all will survive. Organizers are carving up a finite pool of dollars set aside for passes, merch table bucket hats, pulled pork sandwiches, and beer. And that competition coupled with all of the permitting issues corresponding to the hunt for new large-capacity sites and compounded by the weak dollar is taking its toll on Canadian promoters.
Evolve Festival, for example, is currently being forced, just eight weeks before its gates open, to relocate from Antigonish, NS to a farm in a supposedly real place called Beersville, NB, because they were unable to meet the deadline for a medical plan. The situation, you might say, isn't ideal.
Though it might seem like there's never been a better time to be a festival-goer, it's hard out here for a promoter. And, unfortunately, when that bubble fully bursts, we'll all feel it.