Tall Poppy Interview: Ryan McLaren, founder ALL CAPS! music series
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Tall Poppy Interview: Ryan McLaren, founder ALL CAPS! music series

2006_6_22ryanbig.jpgALL CAPS! is a new series of all-ages concerts, because why should Toronto’s great live indie music only be accessible to those 19 and up. Torontoist chatted with McLaren about why the kids are more than all right and why booze and music don’t always have to go together.
What was the inspiration behind ALL CAPS! ?
Well, I’ve been working with Wavelength for a few years now, and I’ve heard people express concerns about young people sneaking into shows because of safety and legal issues. I remember Matt Collins of Ninja High School telling me how he saw downtown as this “19+ playground” that’s really exclusionary to anyone who isn’t drinking age and he made a point of getting NHS to play as many all-ages shows as they could. But it didn’t really sink in to me until last summer when I met Catherine (Ribeiro of NHS and Pyramid Culture), who’s helping me with ALL CAPS! She’s one of a couple people I met last year who were really interested in the music scene in Toronto but they couldn’t get into most shows because they were under 19. And then I started thinking back to my own high school days how bored and disaffected I was and I just thought, you know, this whole 19+ thing needs to change. Especially when there’s so much amazing music being created in this city. It can be difficult for some bands to find their audience, and here’s this huge population of people that we aren’t letting into shows. A regular all-ages music series is just the next logical step for the community to take.


You’ve done a couple of shows, and one of them was even broadcast on the CBC what was that like?
That whole show was a bit of strange experience for me because I didn’t actually put it on. Jonny Dovercourt was putting on this all-ages day show with Brave New Waves and they wanted some kind of name to put on it. I’d told Jonny about the ALL CAPS! idea a while ago and he just called me one day and asked if he could put the name on show, basically as a favour to me to get the name out there. I helped get the posters printed and tried to help out at the show, but it was really all Jonny Dovercourt’s doing.
How would you like to see laws changed in the city regarding shows so the under-aged can see them?
Admittedly I don’t know all the laws. I’m learning more and more as I do this, and different venues tell me different things. What it really comes down to is that most bars make money off of alcohol and kids can’t buy alcohol, so they don’t have all-ages shows. The laws enforce the economics and the economics don’t support all-ages shows. That’s why I think the music community has to start thinking about other ways to support its art through means other than just alcohol sales. It doesn’t make sense that the only way to put on a show is by selling something that kills the brain cells of your audience.
Do you see ALL CAPS! always being in bars?
For the next few months, yeah. But Catherine and I are trying to find ways around the whole bar thing. We’d really like to do it some place more symbiotic, like an art gallery or a cafe. It’s not going to be easy, but we’re trying.
What would your perfect ALL CAPS! venue be?
The perfect venue? The main area would have a capacity of 120, but it wouldn’t feel empty if there were only 30 people there. There would be no stage, but the back half of the venue would be raised up a step or two. There would be some natural light, maybe skylights, so you wouldn’t feel like you’re in a cave on a sunny day. The sound system would be good enough to do the bands justice but simple enough that we could run workshops for kids on how to work it. There would also be a bunch of folding chairs so we could use the space for other workshops, seminars, readings, plays, etc. It would have a front lobby where the socializers could go; it would be like a cafe, with seating and a counter where you could buy drinks and food. And it would be located near a subway stop.
A lot of people kinda look down their noses at all-ages shows, why do you think that is?
Promoters and bars often do because they don’t make money. I’ve heard the odd story about kids showing up drunk or stoned and that being a problem, but I haven’t heard much about people disliking the actual shows themselves. I’ve been talking to a lot of people — mostly fans and bands in their 20’s — about their experiences with all-ages shows and they all talk about the shows they’ve played, and use to go to, with a sort of reverence. I’ve been really amazed at how supportive people have been of this idea, and I hope it means that we’ll be able to build a sustainable foundation around this series, and it’ll get easier and easier to put on shows. Then, I hope, it’ll open the door of the music community and the arts community in general for more people to get involved. Because what it comes down to is that there are a lot of good ideas at the independent level of music and art, and it’s really about time we started to let these younger people in on it.
The next ALL CAPS! show will be at the Drake on July 8th. Go to the ALL CAPS! site for more info and to join their mailing list.

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