While this may be the last year that the ALL CAPS! Island Festival will take place at Artscape Gibraltar Point on the Toronto Islands, that’s certainly not for lack of passion or excitement. As ALL CAPS founder Ryan McLaren explains, “There’s an exclamation mark on it for a reason.”
What began as a monthly all-ages series back in 2005 quickly became involved with Wavelength (“Toronto’s longest-running and most influential underground music forum, dedicated to presenting genre-smashing concerts and festivals, building innovative bridges within our city’s musical communities”). ALL CAPS soon evolved first into an all-day event at Dufferin Grove Park from 2006 to 2008, and finally settled on Toronto Island as a multi-day all-ages festival in 2009.
After five years of steady growth and unqualified success, the end of ALL CAPS is sudden, but shockingly amicable. As McLaren explained: “This is [the festival’s] fifth year on the island, so it seems like a good time to cap it off.” McLaren is also eager to move on to new things and new projects, including a forthcoming podcast. Wavelength Founding Director Jonny Dovercourt, who has been involved with ALL CAPS since the beginning, notes that Wavelength is already in the process of dreaming up new ways to keep the spirit of ALL CAPS alive in new projects. “We don’t want to just do concerts in fields. We want to create immersive musical experiences,” he said.
The final ALL CAPS looks as though it will be a celebration of everything that has made the festival unique over the past five years. McLaren and Dovercourt have brought back some of the artists whose sets they most enjoyed in previous years, including Rich Aucoin, whose set in 2011 Dovercourt described as “ecstatic.” They’ve also made an effort to book artists whose work is particularly performative, such as The Blow (a union of electro pop and performance art) and Elfin Saddle (Montreal’s experimental folk alchemists). The lineup also includes several young performers, all of whom are women. “With the rise of Girls Rock Camp, there’s this amazing generation of rocking, rebellious teen girls,” Dovercourt said. As such, young hip-hop duo biZzarh and pre-teen punk rockers Unfinished Business will be featured at the event.
Rather than a funeral, the final edition of ALL CAPS hopes to be a celebration of everything that has made the festival the only one of its kind in Toronto, from the incorporation of installations and visual art, to the musical diversity that McLaren described as “this kind of mix-tape style, where you don’t really know what’s going to happen.” ALL CAPS is also the only camping music festival to take place in Toronto. It serves as a weekend getaway, with lots of opportunities for island-exploration breaks. McLaren said that the festival’s strength has always been that it “created an encapsulated weekend experience”—its own small musical universe.
Until the next project under the Wavelength banner is revealed, the last edition of ALL CAPS is your final chance to partake in this type of musical retreat.