Toronto's coolest music fest returns for 2018
Fighting the Patriarchy by Coming Together at Venus Fest 2018.
In astrology, grace, charm, and beauty are ruled by Venus. So it’s only fitting that Toronto’s first festival celebrating women and non-binary artists in music is named after the goddess of love. And we can expect all these things –- grace, charm, beauty, and sweet, sweet lovin’ – at Venus Fest 2018. We caught up with founder/mastermind/beauty human Aerin Fogel for a quick chat about the upcoming festival, happening September 20–22 at four different concert venues around the city.
Yohomo: What does Venus Fest mean for the artists and festival-goers alike?
Aerin Fogel: I hope that Venus Fest represents something different in a music industry that has left many behind and kept many out of the gathering spaces. We exist as a proactive response to those challenges, and the reception from artists and community has proved to us that people need, and are looking for, this response. Venus Fest means that people can come together and celebrate music in a new way, and that cis and trans women, women of colour, non-binary people, and marginalized women can see themselves represented and experience new possibilities and opportunities. I hope that Venus Fest can also show people what is possible when they come together around a common vision. We are a very small team who have created something in a short time because we all care deeply about the meaning behind it.
This is Venus Fest’s second year. What did you learn last year, and how has that influenced this year’s festivities?
The biggest thing we learned was how meaningful Venus Fest is to so many people, and what it represents. I wasn’t expecting that when we first launched. So this year we will have three nights instead of one day, with a kick-off party and an afterparty, to hold a more lasting celebration and spread out the joy a little bit. We learned a lot last year from a logistical standpoint that I think will allow us to be even more attentive to the details and subtleties of how people experience music spaces. I hope that Venus Fest will always be learning as long as we are running because people change and adapt, and it’s important for us to grow with our community and continue to hear their needs.
In a year where the #MeToo movement has been front and centre, what role might an event like Venus Fest play in creating a safe and balanced playing field for all people, in and outside of the music industry, here in Toronto and at large?
So much of the abuse brought to light through the #MeToo movement happened in unseen spaces by men in positions of power. The movement has been crucial for many women and non-binary people to reclaim some of their power, but I believe as a collective and as a culture we have a long way to go. There have been a lot of studies on the gender imbalances for on-stage performers, but there hasn’t been a lot of conversation about the people who are behind the scenes making the decisions, the budgets, and hiring employees. I believe that placing more women and non-binary people in positions of power will change our understanding of and relationship to power altogether.
The Venus Fest team is making decisions and structuring the festival around what they need (and may have needed in the past and not received) in a safe and welcoming music space. We are thinking, all the time, about how to use the opportunity Venus Fest has created in service to change and to lifting others up. I hope that Venus Fest represents a next step after #MeToo, where we can start to create new structures that celebrate our lives instead of trying to fit inside the structures that are breaking apart. We need space for healing now, and music is one of the most powerful forms of healing we have.
Can we expect to see any wild performances this year? Can you tease us about any tricks you have up your sleeve?
This will be Moor Mother’s first Toronto performance a long time in Toronto, and I know she has a lot of fans here, so that’s one performance you won’t want to miss. Zola Jesus is queen of her own realm and is more powerful every time I see her. Partner might be one of the most fun live bands in Canada right now and were just shortlisted for the Polaris Prize, so I will be right up front singing loudly during their set. We are also really excited to bring back the Restorative Tent we had at last year’s festival, a yin to balance out the festival yang with community-engagement activities, a mindfulness zone, tarot readings, and a community art installation. I think the Restorative Tent brought a whole other level of connection to the space.
What are you most excited about sharing with our community of queers this year?
Many of the staff and performers at Venus Fest are a part of the queer community. We have so many incredible queer artists taking the stage this year, some of whom are local and have been integral parts of the Toronto community and some of whom are flying in just for the festival. We welcome queers of every kind at the festival, as an important part of what we’re building and who we’re building it with and for! This community is part of what we are celebrating in Toronto music.
When I hear “Venus Fest,” as a single queer woman, I think, “I’m definitely going to fall in love at first sight with about a thousand Wonder Women, and I’m in deep trouble – but so be it.” Am I right about that?
Actually, I know of at least three couples that met at Venus Fest last year, and those were just people I knew personally! So yes, I think you might be right about that. I believe that when we create spaces that are more welcoming, safer, and foster more connection with one another, some really special connections (all kinds of connections) can come out of that. In traditional astrology, Venus rules over love and connection, beauty, abundance, and music. It seems only natural there would be a lot of that in the room!
For more information on the lineup and how to get hooked up with tickets, click here.