Eric Warner is an ambitious music promoter, A/R man, independent label head and dollar store-instrument musician. He also organizes the Over the Top festival, an assorted music showcase now in its fifth year. Here, we ask Mr. Warner about his upcoming and up-and-coming festival, his music tastes and life ambition. We also occasionally refer to him in the third person for no reason.
How did you get the idea for Over the Top?
The idea for Over The Top was conceived in 2002 with the goal of showcasing up-and-coming local acts with both national and international acts. Five years in, the goal is still the same, however, all shows are now entirely all ages, which is very important to myself and the festival ideology. The aim is not to put limitations on who can attend the shows and to maximize the audience awareness of the great acts currently out touring the country.
How does Eric Warner go about getting some of the bigger name acts for the festival?
With each year seeing growth, it’s been a gradual process of getting the acts. It’s a combination of seeking out acts early on before tour schedules are finalyzed, as well as interest from bands, labels and agents that has made all the acts possible. It’s a learning experience in the sense that you can never expect things to work out necessarily, so you need to make sure there are back up plans implented.
Last year, you recruited MC Paul Barman, who is generally considered to be ‘over the top.’ Is that the criteria for this festival?
There is no real set criteria for the genres of music included in the festival, with the goal set out to be all encompassing. The goal when booking the artists performing is to create interesting and eclectic line-ups for every show. Another criteria could be to come into things open-minded, as you never know what you may get out of it.
What’s with all the rumours around this year’s line-up (ie. the interview in NOW)? Are any of those acts confirmed?
The rumours came from a miscommunication, and it was actually a wish list of who I’d love to have perform. A few of the acts are for certain not playing due to no longer being on tour or tours being cancelled. However, you never know if some of those will come together, as I myself don’t yet. I’m hoping to create a great line-up for the 2006 edition, with more lead up events before the May 4-7 run. I can just hope that everyone enjoys the acts performing, that will start being announced in the coming weeks…
This past summer, the similarly-minded Ear to the Ground Festival turned into a bit of a disaster. Do you think that’ll have any effect on support for Over the Top?
I don’t think it would play any sort of damaging role, in all honesty. Ear to the Ground was overly ambitious in the sense that in its first year it took many marquee and established with up and coming local acts and performance artists, and took them to an outdoor setting without a contingency plan. The Over The Top Festival is one that has been slowly gaining ground each year, moving forward one step at a time to not overwhelm more than necessarily. While it would have been amazing if ETTG worked out, as it had a lot of great potential, I guess it can be looked at as a learning experience…possibly.
What is your goal for Over the Top?
The goal is and continues to be to expose people of all ages to interesting music that they hopefully will be able to take something from. You never know if the act you’ve never heard of could be one of your next favourite artists. Another goal is to continue natural growth and just take things as they come so as not to get too far over your head.
What is Eric Warner’s goal in life?
This is starting to get intense. I think that one goal that has remained constant is to always work hard and if something doesn’t necessarily work out the first time, keep trying, as drive and dedication does pay off and is a valuable learning experience. Outside of that, to keep experiencing as much as I can and learning as I go. Right now, I am working full time, finishing my BA, started a label, booking shows and the festival and playing in DOLLARAMA, the best band in this sentence.
Where can you find Eric Warner on the average Friday night?
It really depends on the Friday I guess. This past Friday, the 6th, I was at Andy Poolhall for a friend’s birthday, the previous weekend I was probably home for dinner. This weekend is the Meligrove Band record release I am helping to run. Sometimes I like to watch movies or stay in. Life is intense sometimes. Spontaneity is the best.
What is Eric Warner listening to right now?
As of late I’ve been listening to a pretty eclectic mix of things, which has included: The Silver Jews, Music Tapes, Lightning Bolt, Meligrove Band, Georgie James, Love, The Inbreds, Vermicious Knid, DD/MM/YYYY and many others. It’s great to mix things up. Any recommendations of artists to check out?
We’re currently enthralled with BMore Gutter Music. But that’s neither here nor there. Anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you very much for taking the time to conduct this interview with me. It’s greatly appreciated, and for anyone who would like more information on the festival, the website is: overthetop.com.
Over the Top runs May 4-7. The launch party is January 11 at the Great Hall (1087 Queen St. W).