According to CBC’s Chris Boyce, the goal of this weekend’s CBCMusic.ca Festival is twofold. First and foremost, the CBC wants to celebrate Canadian music. Second, it wants to celebrate CBC Music, the broadcaster’s online music service, which launched a little over a year ago.
“During the long, cold Toronto winter, we started thinking about spring and having a festival, and how great it would be to have our listeners experience this music in a real, live venue,” says Boyce, the broadcaster’s executive director of English audio and radio services. “We felt it was something we needed to try.”
The resulting festival, CBC Music’s first ever, will take place this Saturday at Echo Beach, and will feature the likes of Sloan and Kathleen Edwards, as well as the festival’s lone non-Canadian band, Of Monsters and Men. Boyce says that while CBC Music is a multi-genre service, it opted to focus on one sound for this event.
“For the festival, we kind of focused in that indie rock, adult-alternative vein,” he says. “If you look at the artists who are playing—Sam Roberts, Kathleen Edwards, Sloan—those are a lot of the artists who form the core of the adult-alternative channel on CBC Music, but they’re also a lot of the artists who we play on Radio 2 Morning, and Canada Live, and the Sirius XM channel.”
He adds that the idea was to have a mix of established acts and emerging artists on the verge of breaking out.
Boyce says one of the things organizers wanted to do was integrate some CBC-specific elements into the festival. As a result, the audience will be treated to a special edition of CBC Radio’s comedy show The Debaters.
“The piece I’m most curious about is that we’re trying stuff that’s a little unconventional for a festival,” says Boyce. “Can there be other stuff that we can do live on stage that breaks up the time between acts? We’ve got two stages going, we have a bunch of our personalities—Jian Gomeshi and Matt Galloway and some other people—who are going to be at the festival. That’s the challenge: how to make it familiar and comfortable as a music festival, but also use those other CBC assets that we can put on-site to educate people.”
Sloan’s Chris Murphy says that he was thrilled to be asked to be part of the festival, given the support the CBC has shown his band over the years.
“CBC Radio 3 is super supportive of us,” he says. “Radio 2, they play weird songs of ours. People always say, ‘I heard you on Radio 2,’ and I say, ‘What song did they play?’ And it’s always some crazy song I barely remember.”
He adds that the festival is proof that our nation’s formerly stodgy public broadcaster has undergone a huge transformation in the last several years.
“Growing up, I thought CBC was so unhip…but now it just seems cooler than I am,” he says. “Radio 3 is supposed to be playing the stuff that’s more out there, but even on a show like Q, they’re playing some pretty out-there stuff, and that’s on Radio 1.”
According to Boyce, if the Echo Beach event is successful, it could be a template for a larger, multi-day, multi-city event.
“I would love to have a version of this that we do in Vancouver and Calgary,” he says. “We’ve already talked about a one-day festival versus a multi-day festival. We’ll see how it goes and immediately start planning for next year. So far, we’re feeling really good.”