It’s August and Toronto is bursting with exciting festivals and performances for fans of indie theatre and jazz. But for folk music aficionados getting a summer-time fix can mean trekking out to bug-infested fields in foreign lands (just where the hell is Ingersoll, anyway?).
Following in the footsteps of urban folkies like City Roots, local singer/songwriter Jamieson Eakin is bringing the folk-music focus back downtown via a new festival with a decidedly queer bent. Sneak Attack, which premieres at Buddies in Bad Times on Sat, Aug 9, offers up an all-day program of workshops, networking events and performances by queer folk musicians in the Toronto area followed up by an evening of performances.
“It’s about getting the established artists I know and putting them on the same stage as the up-and-coming artists that I’ve met at open mics,” he says.
Eakin hopes Sneak Attack will help change what he feels is an outdated perception of folk music.
“It’s hard to define what folk is,” he says. “It’s changed in the past 15 years. It used to be Gordon Lightfoot and Joni Mitchell but now I think it’s that category we use when we don’t know what the genre is.
Local acoustic artist Kay Pettigrew couldn’t agree more; though often labelled a folkie she feels that there can be a certain stigma attached to the genre.
“I think there’s an archetype that comes along when you self-identify as a queer female songwriter,” says Pettigrew, who will be performing during the evening portion of the festival. “For instance the first thing that comes to my mind when I think singer/songwriter is Melissa Etheridge or Ani DiFranco or Tegan and Sara, and if you think about it, those are all really different artists.”
Planning a community event can be overwhelming but songwriter, poet and social commentator Evalyn Parry, a colleague of Eakin’s from the Buddies youth program, says she was happy to lend a hand in sorting out logistics for the ambitious festival.
“I’m really excited to see it coming to fruition after all of Jamieson’s hard work,” says Parry. “It’s a great initiative he’s put together and I’ve really enjoyed watching him come into his own as an artist.”
Parry says she’s particularly interested in Sneak Attack’s vision of intergenerational exchange within the queer artistic community.
“That part is closest to my heart,” she says. “It’s the bringing together of the young and the more experienced in mentorship and sharing.”
The morning and afternoon program will highlight mentorship with workshops from industry stalwarts keen to share the wisdom of experience with those just starting out. Dora Award-winning actor and showtune-belter Paula Wolfson will hold court with her Song as Monologue tutorial, while guitar songstress Amy Campbell will counsel newbies with her Intro to Indie Music seminar. True to its folky roots Sneak Attack will also feature a lecture on political consciousness with Stacy B’s Use and Create Spoken Work for Social Change.
Later that night the focus will shift to performance with a lineup that features Eakin and performers he’s run into at open mics around town.
“I really wanted a stage for myself and my friends,” he says, “and to try and go beyond just doing a little cabaret.
“It will have the energy of a folk festival, where the artists can hang out, jam with each other and network among their own community. It’s less about the performances that will be happening, and more about being together in the same place to talk about our projects and our goals.”