Daniel Wilson formed Festival Lingua Franca in 2017 to show the diversity of rock – that the genre and its subgenres are more than four white dudes with guitars – and to create space for different voices.
Now, in his fourth year of putting on the broadly BIPOC punk-focused event, Wilson’s mission has extended the festival from three nights to a whole week – and for six months leading up to it, too.
This year’s Lingua Franca will take place from August 24 to 30, with the three main days still happening over the final weekend. And a series of events will lead into it under the Lingua Franca Presents banner – the first happening this Saturday (February 15) at Handlebar.
Wilson says he’s expanding Lingua Franca for a few reasons. “I realized that there was still more work to do in providing a platform for diverse voices to be heard in the underground rock scene beyond an event that only happens once a year,” he says over the phone. It’s also a chance to showcase POC creativity beyond music – painting, photography, zine fairs and other community get-togethers, plus matinee shows.
He’s starting to see a community form around the festival, he says, and he wants to keep that going for more than three nights a year. “[It’s about] encouraging people not to be afraid to be involved in a scene they might have thought they wouldn’t be accepted in,” he says. “To know that there’s someone out there ensuring that they have their voices heard.”
This weekend’s show features three local bands that highlight “the Afropunk side of the DIY scene” in honour of Black History Month: Weatherboy, Bunk and Wilson’s own band, Joncro. They all show off different sounds: soul-inflected indie rock, math/noise and Joncro’s “proudly Jamaican noise rock” from Mississauga.
All three bands will also play the festival in August. The Lingua Franca Presents series is a way of showcasing the bands performing at the fest, giving them a chance to play with other diverse acts from other regions, as well as supporting some bands that might not be able to play the festival due to time constraints or other commitments.
The series will take place over the next six months leading up to the festival. Wilson plans to have one event in March and one in April, and from there have it run either once a month or once every other month.
Wilson says he’s noticed Toronto bills generally getting a bit more diverse, pointing to the recent Dan Burke’s Class of 2020 shows, which had a few nights with more than half the bands including non-white members, as a good example. “Years ago, multiple bills like that would have been an oddity,” he says.
Punk, too, is getting more diverse, he argues, with many of the new bands more diverse by default. He compares it to the nueva attenzione movement of music in 1960s Mexico. “I would call it the new wave of POC punk, the new face of punk, which is more diverse and experimental, less confined to the same narrow outlooks on the subculture [that have existed] since the 80s.”
Still, he continues, “the old white dude bands are still taking up most of the space in terms of attention, touring, radio play, everything. A band that could become the next Nirvana, let’s say, doesn’t get the same opportunity because everyone is just focused on playing the Foo Fighters on the radio.”
That’s what makes the space that Lingua Franca creates so necessary. Here’s who’s confirmed for the festival this year. More acts will be announced later.
Festival Lingua Franca #4 (August 24-30)
Burner (Multi-city garage rock)
Doctors Hate Her (Durham/Toronto post-hardcore)
Animatist (Toronto/Guelph Jazz rock)
Spirit Desire (Toronto emo) – four-year alumni
Elmer Flood (Toronto screamo)
Unknown Voidz (Sauga Garage rock)
Sea of Troubles (Brantford hardcore punk)