Is it really a seven year itch? It was seven years ago, in the summer of 2006, when two local creative types – filmmaker Ben Young Hart and artist/musician Murad Erzinclioglu – started looking for bigger and better avenues to showcase their crafts. As plans for the multi-media and art showcase began to unfold, it also exploded. The duo met with former UWSA Director of Student Life, Meghan Carbone, and Harvesting the FAM Festival was born. Windsor’s largest inter-arts community festival was hatched.
After months of planning, Harvesting the FAM Festival was officially launched in January of 2007 as a one-day, ten hour festival, incorporating all three levels of the CAW Student Centre at the University of Windsor. Film screenings by area film makers, art exhibits by local visual artists, as well as non-stop musical performances by such various acts as Measured In Angles, MicLordz & Sauce Funky, Ron Leary, Days Fade, The Hung Jury, Portia, FURS, and Explode When They Bloom made the first foray into Windsor’s creative collective conscious since GreenArtsFest folded in the late ’90s.
The desire to top the success of the first festival was immediate and plans were sped up to make Harvesting The FAM Festival II happen in the fall of 2007, just eight months after it’s first inception. Working once again with the University of Windsor, an outdoor stage was added to expand FAM’s presence on the campus. More and more screenings of new local film makers, increased visual arts displays, and additional musical performances ensued, this time from such acts as The Golden Hands Before God, The Locusts Have No King, VEX, Orphan Choir, Lodown, Lone Locust, Kero, What Seas What Shores and Two for the Cascade, as well as returning FAMily members Measured In Angles, Portia, Tara Watts and James O-L & The Famous Last Words. Musically, the show saw double the features of the first installment, going from 12 to 25 films, 30 to 45 visual artists and 21 to 35 musical acts. It also marked the first involvement with local fashion designers.
Despite the growing success of the festival – with an increase in crowd and community support – the University decided to withdraw backing of the festival and the organizers (now beyond just the principle duo) decided to move the event to the downtown core, with the idea that the it should happen once annually rather than twice per year.
Harvesting The FAM III ran from September 12 to 14, 2008 in downtown Windsor, incorporating several live music venues that have continually nurtured original music in town – Phog Lounge (157 University Ave. West), The Loop Complex (The FM Lounge, The Coach & Horses and The Loop, 156 Chatham St. West) and Milk Coffee Bar (68 University Ave. West) – as well as coffee shops, art galleries and more to make the downtown core a central celebratory hub for Windsor’s vibrant creative communities to showcase their talents to the rest of the city. The additional days allowed for more freedom of shows and again the roster increased, to 30 films, 60 artists and a staggering 80 musical acts, including new additions Michou, The Peace Leeches, Salt of the Chief Cornerstone, Perilelle, and The Square Root of Margaret, plus multiple returnees from the prior two festivals.
In 2009, Harvesting The FAM IV continued to strengthen the realities of the downtown core being the central breeding ground for original new music (although more and more venues outside of downtown are realizing the strength of original new and local music). There was the usual cast of local music star power (The Locusts Have No King, James O-L & The Villains, Tara Watts, Square Root of Margaret,Sledgehammer, etc.) as well as notable FAM debuts for The Stand Stills, The Golden Eagles, The Vaudevillianaires, Magic Hall of Mirrors, Silent Movie Type, and Which Witch. It also marked the debut of the FAM Fashion show at the Loop, with electronica music composed by local artists Kero, VEX and FURS. One of the co-ordinators for the 2009 festival, Emily Copeland from CJAM 99.1 FM, also organized some hip-hop and electronic symposiums featuring many Detroit electronic and hip-hop artists at Empire Lounge (now Untouchables).
The next year, in 2010, Harvesting The FAM V exploded with even more films, art showings and yes, more live music! Indie pop favourites Yellow Wood and metal icons fiftywatthead were welcomed additions to the now weeklong endeavour. It also marked memorable FAM debuts for Years of Ernest, Surdaster, Red Rows and Red Red Run, as well as amazing sets by surprise national touring acts Hot Panda (from Edmonton) and the unforgettable entrance from My Son The Hurricane (from Vancouver). Carried by the reliable sounds of veteran FAMilia The Locusts Have No King, George Manury, Monique Belanger, ASK, Explode When They Bloom, Eric Welton Band, The Vaudevillianaires, shinje and much more, the FAM festival officially became the once a year “can’t miss” festival for fans and musicians alike.
The 2011 line-up for Harvesting The FAM VI continued to grow on its humble beginnings from the University of Windsor, including the addition of two new live music venues joining the cast of host sites – The Dugout and Villains Beastro. Learning the lesson of “less is more”, the event was scaled back slightly, with just over 50 acts performing, one day of film screenings, and two venues showcasing art exhibits throughout the duration of the festival. A more concentrated festival meant that less ground needed to be covered, increasing the accessibility of the festival.
Musically, 2011’s festival featured the long awaited return to the Windsor music scene of Salt of the Chief Cornerstone and The Sean Connery Supergroup, FAM debuts from acts such as The Blue Stones, Repititions, Dave Russell, RYE, Cellos and Diesel Junkies, plus local heavyweights such as Surdaster, The Locusts Have No King, Orphan Choir, Poughboy, The Nefidovs, The Vaudevillianaires, Kaycce Closed, Kero, Vultures?, Explode When They Bloom, The Rowley Estate, Jae Cyphe, Years of Ernest, James O-L & The Villains, Two for the Cascade and much much more! Also, this year’s festival was dedicated to memory of Bradford Helner (who played several previous FAM festivals), the local musician who passed away suddenly and unexpectedly that summer.
Last year’s festival added yet more new venues, The Room (which showcased several film screenings and fashion shows) and Rino’s Kitchen (art exhibits), plus the FAM debuts of the unquiet dead, Paul Jacobs, Menos Mal, The Hypnotics and Syslack. The local mainstream media – from the Windsor Star to CBC news – began covering and promoting the festival, bringing the audience to a grander scale.
This year marks the 8th instalment of the FAM Festival and for the first time, the submission process was opened to international and touring bands. Art exhibits have expanded to venues such as POP Hair Gallery, Glass Monkey Studios and the Artspeak Gallery, film screenings shift to the Capitol Theatre, and live music will fill the night air with multiple venues, including such imports as DJ Q-BERT, WAXEATER, Wild Domestic, TV Freaks, and Eightcubed, not to mention the local FAM debuts of Of The Pack, Heavy Suns, Middle Sister, Tea Leaves, The Line Drawn and RAID, plus the additional inclusion of the Walkerville Brewery for one of the festival’s finale show on October 12th.
The great thing about the FAM Fest is that there are many waves of FAM. One is the familiarity of the faces you see every year: be it the amazing bands that get consistently stronger in their craft, or the fellow music lovers in the audience. Another is the camaraderie shown by all the musicians who frequent each show. Yet another is the unpredictability of the “debuting” bands. Who can forget the debut of little-known Death or Comber at Milk in 2008 (or Shawn Daniel at the same venue in 2009), where people were pouring out onto the street, the walls of the small venue unable to contain the bodies who had come across this amazing new act. Or the unparalleled entrance from funk maestros My Son The Hurricane to their show last year at the Loop when they marched up Chatham Street playing horns and drums, announcing their own arrival?
FAM Festival has truly become an annual rite of passage for the local Windsor music scene – the scene that creates their own songs, who play the “dives” or seedy parlors that day-folk scorn, just to get their songs heard. The FAM Festival becomes that celebration that there is a collective group – whether they’re playing thrash metal or folk rock – of individuals in this community who thrive on creating music, regardless if they’re making money off it. They tour, many of them outside of Windsor-Essex, they sell CD’s, sell on iTunes – but they all love to create. If you’ve ever wanted to truly taste the music (as well as films, art, fashion and more) that is truly coming out of Windsor-Essex county, this is the festival to check out. Not only is the festival free to the public, but there is literally a taste of something for everyone, from rock and roll to experimental, heavy metal to folk, blues to electronic. These aren’t musicians covering songs from British or American bands – these are musicians telling their own stories, stories cultivated right here in Windsor-Essex. And what tales we have to tell.
Welcome to the FAMily.
By: Jamie Greer
Photos by: Murad Erzinclioglu