“Folk songs tell true stories but terrible stories, because folk are terrible. Terrible songs make big songs, why do you think kids like rock ‘n’ roll? Because it’s terrible.”

Abner Jay


A couple years ago – the hot, wet summer of 2011, cooling off in the yard with a beer we started rehashing an idea we’d thrown out at a community meeting at the Bickford Center a year earlier.

Business owners and community members had come together over ideas to strengthen our community. Mike Layton had just been elected as our councilor and he was really pushing to strengthen the hood. We liked the cut of his jib and so we threw in our own two cents. We thought it’d be a good idea to have a community music festival in Christie Pits. Thought it was a great space with its natural amphitheater like setting for music outdoors. Ample space for lots of fun.

Time flew on as we grew in our community, forming friendships with other local businesses and hosting music events at our own place. A key forging in that was a close relationship with all the great folks just down the road at exclaim! magazine. They started filming shows at our place for exclaim!T.V. and we got to know Roberto; the guy who was coordinating those shoots for the mag. When the summer of 2011 rolled around, we decided it might be fun to sell food at a festival outside of Toronto. We signed on board and busted our asses along with our staff, headed by our great friend Eamon, who’d been working for us for a while at that point between tour dates around Canada and Europe. By the time the festival was over, we took a step back, looked over the time we’d spent prepping for the festival and the grind once out there and we realized that it hadn’t felt like we had experienced the festival at all. To make matters worse, a few weeks later, the BIA for our community held a street festival and really left a lot of us businesses on this side of Ossington out in the cold, or should I say heat, a day which ended with a rather infamous story involving myself and a little blue meanie. And so it was that the very next day, one hot, wet day, cooling off in the yard with a beer and some friends, we started rehashing the idea for a festival of our own.

Ortega had thought it would be fun to invite some musicians over to a couple yards on Roxton and sell shit while playing tunes. Sounded good, but still mulling over the encounter from the day before, it seemed like we needed more. Started hashing out a plan for an independent neighborhood festival, kind of an experiment. Looking back, it tasted like the Dogma 95 of music festivals – traditional values of story and theme, no use of special effects, or technology. In other words, there was to be no use of social media on our end, if it slipped out by means of fest goers, no problem. It would be independent of funding from any source other than what we could put together, which meant no permits, which meant totally underground, or off the radar venues. And most importantly it would be a totally free festival for anyone who wished to come, which meant the bands had to volunteer their time to their fans and all the fans had to do in return was show up, have a great fucking time and say thank you to them when it was done. And they all did. We put together a free, 45 band festival in 8 obscure, or unknown venues, including 1 backyard and a living room, all within a five minute walk from the furthest one to the furthest one, over the course of 3 days from October 14th to the 16th.

The bands ranged from heavy Cancer Bats and Metz, to tripped out, acid jazz rock Ninja Funk, to the punk, country, Canadian rock of Eamon McGrath and catl, to Dave Bidini and Wayne Petti, the Wilderness of Manitoba and Canada’s sweetheart Julie Doiron, to name a few. We settled on Bloor Ossington Folk Festival as a name, despite the inclusion of tons of music that would not normally be included in a ‘folk’ festival, but defined the use of ‘folk’ with the use of an Abner Jay quote. –

Folk music tells true stories, but terrible stories, because folk are terrible. Terrible songs make big songs, why do you think kids like rock n’ roll? Because it’s terrible.”

In this sense, folk are people and all music is created by people, so all music is folk music, whether it’s played with a banjo, or an axe.

In the summer of 2012 we toyed with taking the festival to the park as we’d wanted to a few years earlier, but decided on a one step at a time type of attitude. In an ironic twist, the very BIA that spurred the underground festival came to us and asked if we’d put together a full day of music at the street festival they were setting up again that year. They gave us 100 percent free reign to book whatever bands we wanted and set up the day our way. Providing us with a beer garden and a stage. At the prospect of a huge audience for the performers we agreed to take the festival to the street. We took it as a step towards the park, a step towards building a truly great community festival.

And so, like Dogma 95, which had its time and place, a time and place we all remember, we are moving further out – we’re sticking with the values, it’s still a free festival for all to attend, but we’re adding studio lighting and special effects. We’re hoping to include everyone in this year’s festival. We’re taking it to the park and we’re expanding greatly upon it.

We’re scheduling a three day music, food and craft festival, for September 2oth, 21st and 22nd, which will start on the Friday afternoon at local venues and carry into the night, then move into Saturday in the pits from noon till nine, then move back up and into evening venues, then on Sunday we go back into the Pits for a noon ‘till nine day of arts, crafts, food, booze and music to wrap it up.

free music in shared community space