Entertainment

Forge Fest aims to put Tillsonburg on the music map

By Chris Abbott, Postmedia Network

Forge Fest will be rocking Tillsonburg on Saturday, July 28th. Some of the local acts in the new 30-plus band music band include, from left, Abby Weisler (Bird), Pete Klassen, Chrys Welch (Stompin' Groundz), Gerhard Bartsch (Small Town Leeches), with Forge Fest festival director Ben Andress, and Dan Price and Craig MacLachlan. For more information see www.forgefest.ca. (Contributed photo)

Forge Fest will be rocking Tillsonburg on Saturday, July 28th. Some of the local acts in the new 30-plus band music band include, from left, Abby Weisler (Bird), Pete Klassen, Chrys Welch (Stompin' Groundz), Gerhard Bartsch (Small Town Leeches), with Forge Fest festival director Ben Andress, and Dan Price and Craig MacLachlan. For more information see www.forgefest.ca. (Contributed photo)

Ben Andress of Blacktop Records is taking music to another level in Tillsonburg with the creation of Forge Fest.

On Saturday, July 28, Forge Fest will see 30-plus bands play in a multi-venue music, comedy and arts festival. It starts at the Oxford Parkette, the fountain on the corner of Broadway and Oxford Street, with an acoustic set of five or six artists. Sammy Krenshaw's, across the street, will host seven or eight bands on the main floor, and approximately 15 upstairs. Boston Pizza and The Copper Mug will have six acts each. Broadway Laundry Mat will provide a fifth 'intimate' environment.

"Everything's super close," said Andress. "Different genres at the same time, so it's probably not going to be two bands people want to see playing at the same time. I've booked it very strategically, how it's laid out. They don't all start at the same time, and they don't all overlap. So you could go see 15 minutes of a band here and if there were two bands that you wanted to see at the same time, you could walk two minutes to the next place and watch 15 minutes of the next band. Everything's so close you're not really going to miss anything."

Andress says it will be possible to see every band play if you really wanted to. Or you could just pick one place and stay the whole night.

"You could do laundry the whole night and watch bands there," laughed Andress, who has actually played in a laundromat before, but noted, "it's a first in Tillsonburg."

Participants purchase a $20 (in advance) wrist band to watch any number of acts on the 28th.

"It works out to less than $1 per act, which is kind of nice," said Andress, noting they had between 70-80 band applications, which make up about 40 per cent of the festival's lineup.

"With this festival we tried to balance out the stage (with female representation) so there's Cursed Arrows, female-fronted Small Stresses and Candy Hangover, Black Hearts of Tobacco Country has a female member. And there's a couple female comics - we tried to balance it out."
Music genres include alternative rock, punk rock, singer-songwriter acoustic, and even ska, said Andress.

"Pretty much everything except for country and hip hop really. Not that we wanted to exclude country or hip hop, I wouldn't be against having them... the idea is to have everyone included."

The concept was not original, said Andress, who was inspired by St. Catharine's SCENE Fest, featuring bands from all genres since 1995.

"I think I was still in high school, Grade 12, and that summer I ended up being a volunteer as a videographer through Bedlam Society. It was just kind of awesome to be able to jump between 15 different venues and see a bunch of bands. A lot of bands that I still listen to, I probably found out randomly hearing them at SCENE Fest. And pretty much every year since then, I've missed a couple because of other music commitments, I've either had bands in my label participate in it or I've been there myself just hanging out."

But Forge Fest is unique to Tillsonburg.

"Our downtown core is very small, but there's a lot of different spaces. The idea, the first year, is to keep it small, see if it works, see how much people are into it. See if we can make some money to donate to a cool cause."

If this year's inaugural Forge Fest is a success, Andress would like to see it expand in 2019 north on Broadway all the way to Kelsey's at Bridge Street.

"All the way down the strip. That's kind of the idea, see where it goes."

It's an ambitious project, but one that Andress, who has brought in dozens of entertainment acts in the past year alone, was willing to tackle.

The success of any music festival, he said, is dependent on the lineup and dependent on whatever else is going on that same day.

"It's like going to buy a lottery ticket and scratching it, you don't what's going to be underneath," Andress laughed.

"If you have a solid lineup, it doesn't matter what happens. People are going to be there," he said, recalling a line from Wayne's World 2, 'if you book them they will come.'

Every show is not a 'Woodstock' but Andress is confident with the 30-plus bands and comedians for Forge Fest, they will draw a healthy crowd on July 28th.

The lineup includes Single Mothers, Eamon McGrath, John Wozniak of Marcy Playground, Cursed Arrows, Kill Surf City, Dboy, Averages... and many more.

Locals include Jaclyn VanHappen, The Paisley Stares, Small Town Leeches, Elias the Band, Black Hearts of Tobacco Country, Pete Klassen, and Dan Price.

"Single Mothers is from London, Eamon McGrath is from Toronto, Cursed Arrows are from Brantford, Kill Surf City is from Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Small Stresses are from Detroit, but even then the Midwest, it's pretty close."

Brian O'Gorman will headline the comedy stage.

In May, Hometown Brewery, a Forge Fest sponsor, and Boston Pizza hosted a Welcome Home Pub Crawl in Tillsonburg.

"You'd spend one hour at a venue, then an hour at the next venue, and so on," said Andress. "It's kind of the same idea, but with Forge Fest you can make your own schedule. You can do it with friends or you can do it independent, you don't have to follow the pack.

"But it's a similar idea and it sort of jump-started the (Forge Fest) idea. When they did that I wondered, if a lot of people are going to come out for a pub crawl... I wonder if enough people will come out for a music festival? So it was that, and the whole Niagara Music Scene that inspired it."

Proceeds from the 2018 Forge Fest will be donated to Canadian Mental Health Association Oxford, which helps offer programs and services to people experiencing mental health issues in the community.

Wristbands ($20) are available in advance in Tillsonburg at Bell Store, Petro Canada, Sammy Krenshaw's, or Grooves Records (London), Long & McQuade (Woodstock), or online at www.ticketscene.ca/events/2401/.

For the full lineup, schedule, and ticket information, see the Forge Fest website at www.forgefest.ca, follow on twitter @forgefest1 and Facebook @theforgefest.

cabbott@postmedia.com