When Soundz of the Youth throws its final all-ages show Friday (June 22) at the Kapisanan Philippine Centre (167 Augusta, doors 6 pm, $10), Toronto's young music lovers and musicians will once again find themselves with few live music options. For a year now, the monthly all-ages music series has provided a place for underage indie rock, funk, jazz-fusion and punk bands to perform, with each show carefully curated by young local promoter Marc Z. Gold to ensure a stylistic fit.
The finale features Lesbian Bondage Fiasco, Ghost Daze, Shipley Hollow, Look Out Below and I'll Tell You When you're Older. NOW spoke to Gold about the current state of Toronto's all-ages scene ahead of his departure for the Israel Defense Forces.
What prompted you to start Soundz of the Youth?
It was partially because of your article about the few opportunities for underage bands to play. I remembered having difficulty finding shows for my band, the Fancy Claps (RIP). I started setting up all-ages shows at Third Floor Reillys (RIP) with a friend, and those were always great and successful.
What challenges have you faced?
The biggest issue was finding bands when I first started the series. That was about a year ago, when I was 21 and didn't really know kids who were underage any more. I started by talking to some younger siblings of friends on Facebook, asking them if they had friends in bands. After a bit, I found enough good ones to put on the show. Now we have more than enough that want to participate because the series has grown by word of mouth.
Low attendance has never been a problem, and the shows are financially successful. Bands pay $100 to cover costs and then keep all ticket sales. With tickets priced at $10, everyone usually walks home with a solid bit of cash. Underage drinking has been a problem and we've become increasingly harsh because of an incident where a kid got out of control. But since then we haven't had any problems. Most kids understand that that's exactly the kind of thing that ruins the fun for everyone.
Is there a thirst for these types of events in Toronto?
Absolutely. I see the same kids come back over and over and bring their friends and tell their friends' bands to play. They've built a whole community around the shows, connecting kids from Rosedale, Etobicoke School of the Arts and Lawrence Park especially. It's a beautiful thing.
How do you feel about the series ending?
Really sad. It's ridiculous that nobody has stepped up and said, "I'll continue it!" I've asked a few friends, but also Kapisanan Philippine Centre's not even sure it wants to keep doing shows - all-ages or otherwise - so that's very unfortunate. Everybody email them and tell them to keep allowing all-ages shows!
I feel I've created an entirely new community - and nobody outside of it knows about it. After shows, I see these bands adding each other's members on Facebook and writing like, "Yo, dude, your band's awesome," on their walls. Hopefully those band will keep making music and affect the Toronto music scene at large. Right now it's kind of in a very self-contained bubble.
What's the biggest challenge facing the scene?
The lack of venues. So many all-ages friendly have closed down or cost too much to rent because they're bars. The government should stop funding shitty bands' studio recordings and start putting money into community centres with PAs that kids can do shows in.
And the biggest misconception about all-ages shows?
That all teenagers are drunken airheads and that all-ages shows suck because the kids are too young to be any good. It's not true. It's just that one drunken idiot can so easily ruin things for everyone, and promoters seem to grab whatever bands will pay them to play with no regard for quality or style.
Most of the kids I work with are the nicest, coolest kids. They're really grateful for the opportunity to play and appreciative that they're not being ripped off, because I think underagers have it ingrained into their minds that all-ages-show promoters will rip them off. They actually can't really be ripped off with my system. It's just not possible. So I think that makes the whole business experience nice for everyone.
Why is a healthy all-ages music community important to Toronto?
With an unhealthy all-ages scene, kids in underage bands will likely play shitty or no underage shows, get frustrated and discouraged, and stop making music, and then Toronto loses another potentially great artist/band/musician.
But also, as a teenager, your options in Toronto right now are mainly just going to house-parties or drinking in a park or a basement. Neither are productive activities, really, and often are the perfect set-ups for getting in trouble with the law or your parents, and getting into bad situations. All-ages shows allow kids to socialize, have a good time, do something productive and exciting (and, with us at least, profitable), and for the most part stay out of trouble.
Why are governments not coming up with all-ages-show youth strategies or something? Instead, venues are shutting down or not doing all-ages shows because the law is insanely hard on venues [if kids are found to be drinking]. And community centres are seeing their funding cut. It's the stupidest thing. A healthy all-ages scene makes a city a safer and more fun place for an underage kid to live.