I’m really, really hoping that Lollapalooza is coming to Toronto next year. I spent my August long weekend at the Chicago edition and while it’s been a few years since I’ve been, the festival is just as fun and as well-organized as ever. I think Toronto Lolla could be fantastic, if C3 Presents, the promoters behind the festival, keep the following topics in mind*:
#1. Don’t Break The Mold Too Much
Toronto festivals tend to be rather genre-specific. While there is certainly a time and a place for these events, I’m really looking forward to an event that lets me see an upcoming indie act, an established rock band and a variety of dance acts all in the same day. Lolla Toronto needs to do the same even though there likely will be some bitching about mixing dance acts with rock acts (Toronto is sometimes quite segregated when it comes to music genres). Lolla Toronto also needs to borrow the Chicago version’s efficacies as well as its attitudes and approaches to everything from getting through the gates (if you don’t have a bag, you can basically just walk in) to security (you can do almost whatever as you’re not assaulting someone or climbing on the Abraham Lincoln memorial) to food vendors (all local vendors providing a wide variety of tasty offerings). While Lolla Toronto shouldn’t be a clone of the Chicago version, in many areas, it should be pretty close.
#2. But Do Scale Things Down A Bit
Lollapalooza Chicago hosts 300,000 people over three days. This makes it the largest music festival in the US. The Toronto version shouldn’t even try to go there. Instead, C3 Presents should start off with two days and keep in mind that while Toronto might now be larger than Chicago, the larger area just doesn’t have the same numbers. I’m sure that C3 Presents would love for Toronto to beat Osheaga when it comes to numbers but I just don’t think that will happen the first time out (unless the lineup is something like Daft Punk/Radiohead/The Smiths). Dropping a stage, or maybe even two, would be a good, cost-saving move, while some serious market research should be done when it comes to VIP, Platinum and cabana offerings as well as after-shows.
Also, relaxing/modifying Lolla Chicago’s radius clause a bit would go a long way to earning some goodwill in the local community.
#3. Incorporate Canada In Appropriate, Tasteful Ways
Please C3 Presents, do not dedicate some far-flung stage to Canadian baby bands. Instead, incorporate Canadian acts at all the stages and don’t make too much of a fuss about the fact that they are from here. Go light on any kind of Canadian motifs and for all that is musical, please no “eh” jokes. But do make sure to include at least one poutine vendor. Also, you might t check out the Celebrate Ontario grant program, funded by the province’s Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. After all, if it can give money to Drake’s festival, maybe it can give some cash to you too.
#4. Replace the Beer Garden With The Booze Garden
One way to appropriately bring some local flavor to Lolla Toronto is to offer a range of Ontario craft beers as well as local wines and spirits. For reasons to do with sponsorship as well as practicality, I realize that these products couldn’t be offered at every drink booth however, two or three booze gardens, instead of Lolla Chicago’s beer gardens, should be set up. These should all offer an impressive selection of alcohol as well as some nice, shaded spots to sit.
#5. Cater to Families
The family demographic is one that seems to be increasingly growing at festivals and Toronto is no exception to this rule. This is one area where Lolla Toronto needs to go even bigger than what’s offered in Chicago. There needs to be a variety of family-focused entertainment including bouncy castles, kid-appropriate music and arts and crafts. Hey, if a boutique festival like Field Trip can offer these things, so can a mega-festival like Lolla.
Bonus #6: Get Things Organized With The TTC
One of the reasons why I love Lolla is that it’s a breeze to get to and to leave because those people who stay downtown can just walk to it. A Toronto version likely won’t have that luxury (I suspect it’ll be held up at Downsview) so that means that a ton of people will be depending on the TTC to get them there and out. It will be absolutely crucial for organizers to meet with TTC officials and come up with a plan that will see dozens of buses/streetcars/subways available during time periods when you’re lucky to see one vehicle every five minutes. If this doesn’t happen… Oh, the bitching, the bitching and the complaining and the anger that will result could be strong enough to ruin the whole festival experience.
*I need to add here that I actually know what I’m talking about below. Besides being an avid music festival goes, I’ve worked in the music industry for nearly 10 years, including for some of the biggest acts in the world. I also have experience as a concert promoter and while I’m never worked on a festival, I know more than the average Joe about how these things are organized.