A new electronic-music event series will combine international acts and custom visuals.
For almost four years, local promotion company Mansion has been injecting new life into Toronto’s electronic music scene, booking a mixture of up-and-comers and established artists into a variety of interesting venues. (Mansion is probably best known for last summer’s “Happy Endings” parties, which took place inside of various Chinese restaurants.)
In March, Mansion is going to be launching its most ambitious project to date. The event series, called Foundry, will see the promoter take charge of The Black Box Theatre at The Great Hall on Friday and Saturday nights, to create what’s being billed as a “multi-sensory experience.” There will be performances by both internationally renowned artists and local heroes, alongside original visual projections and installation pieces. The nights will be co-presented with other like-minded promoters and labels, including I Love Bass Music, Breakandenter, and Box of Kittens. The month will kick off this weekend with shows by Los Angeles–based hip-hop producer Shlohmo and Detroit techno pioneer Juan Atkins.
According to Mansion co-founder Konrad Droeske, the goal of Foundry is to harness the talents of Toronto’s entire electronic music community.
“Our primary objective is to bring the underground music community together,” he says. “There are a number of teams on board with very different tastes. However, we all care deeply about bringing forward-thinking music here and the overall lineup reflects this. Essentially, we brainstormed acts with our partners, and selected our favorites based on availability. Locals were then selected based on how well they could complement each headliner.”
He adds that the idea came after the Mansion team saw similar events become big hits in other cities.
“It was inspired by events like MoMA PS1 Warm Up in New York, Warehouse Project in Manchester, and the Piknic Electronik parties in Montreal,” he says. “Basically a series of well-curated dance parties that take place in non-traditional spaces. We also wanted to create a concept that would bring together and derive inspiration from all of Toronto’s different event organizers. We’ve added visual installations into the mix as well.”
Droeske says he and the rest of the Mansion team have wanted to increase the visual component of their events for a long time, but have had to reign in their ambition because of the need to quickly set up equipment, then remove it from their temporary venues. Now, because they have the Black Box for the entire month, they’re free to experiment.
“We have the freedom to try out our riskier ideas without the fear that it won’t work out how we had intended,” he says. “Our plan is to have each weekend feature a completely different installation. In addition, each night the visuals will be personalized to the headliner. Our objective is to ensure a totally unique experience at every show.”
Mansion brought on animator and artist Fezz Stenton to create the visual displays. A DJ and producer in his own right, Stenton was excited to help.
“Some artists are more keen to get involved visually than others,” he says. “I’m consulting the curators of each night to make sure each night has its own feel…Foundry is amazing in that it’s including so many different promoters working together to create something bigger than all of us.”
Stenton says that many of the discussions he’s had with musicians have focused more on concepts than specific imagery.
“I’ve found that for me the best way to get a feeling for what someone is looking to achieve visually is to ask for abstract descriptors,” he says. “Words like ‘cold’ or ‘mechanical’ really help me understand their intentions.”
Local producer Alixander III—best known as half of Azari & III—is curating Saturday night’s festivities through his record label, Idol Hanse. He’s also performing. He says Foundry is proof that electronic music is once again thriving in Toronto.
“I’ve toured the world and can honestly say that the electronic scene here is smaller than most,” he says. “That’s not a good or bad thing. I’ve found other territories are way overexposed to it, but given that Toronto once had an enormous rave culture and was a global hub for techno, I think we can afford to get back to a happy medium between indie, urban, and electronic. Foundry is a great turning point where we can say, ‘OK, techno is alive and well…in Toronto.’”
While Foundry may just be getting started, Droeske says he’s already looking to the future.
“Toronto has a great community of producers, artists, and music lovers that we’d like to see co-operate on something big,” he says. “Hopefully in the next few years, Foundry becomes an internationally recognized, forward-thinking festival that attracts thousands of people.”