Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Calgary’s youth rock out this Friday

Calgary’s youth battle of the bands is coming up this Friday, August 7, at Canada Olympic Park. Toast N’ Jam is in its eighth year and typically attracts a crowd of about 2,000, and I had a chance to talk to Greg Dycke, one of the event’s organizers.

Cora: What can we expect on Friday?
Greg: First of all, there’ll be incredible young talent playing some great music, and from every genre, including R&B, folk, rock, death metal and pop punk. We try to create a festival atmosphere – there’ll be a skate park with a mini half pike, a resource fair with about 20 non-profit agencies, like the Youth Employment Centre and Boys & Girls Club, temporary tattoos, a climbing wall – and it’s all free. We have two big special guests: opening will be 40 Gun Flagship, a local rock band led by a great female singer, and closing will be the Arkells, a Canadian band just starting to make it big.

Cora: How many bands are in the competition and how were they selected?
Greg: This year we had 35 bands apply and 14 will be competing – we’re looking at ways to increase the number of bands that can participate in the future. There’s a panel of five judges made up of sponsor reps, including the New Black Centre, The Beach recording studio, Axe Music, the lead singer from 40 Gun Flagship and X92.9. They were looking for musical talent and genre diversity so we get a well rounded show.

Cora: What’s the purpose of the event?
Greg: Young musicians under 18, especially kids in rock bands, don’t have many opportunities to showcase and hone their skills in Calgary. There are very few all ages shows, so that’s where we come in. Some of the best young talent in Calgary have come through this program, like Matt Blais who won in a radio contest and made a CD. This program lets them play in a rewarding environment where they all feel like rock stars – you’ll see it on Friday.

Cora: What are the prizes and how do you pick the winners?
Greg: There’s a whole list of things the judges look for, like musical quality and stage presence, and the prizes are crazy this year – our sponsors really stepped up. First prize includes the Ultimate Rockstar Experience, with eight hours recording time and six hours mixing time with Lanny Williamson, who produced Usher, Paul McCartney and many others. It also includes producing a CD, designing a poster or CD cover, appearing on X92.9, and, to top it all off, the next day they get to open for the Virgin Festival.

Cora: How did you land the gig with Virgin Fest?
Greg: We have a lot of respect from the industry in Calgary because they recognize the struggle for a young artist and the development focus of Toast N’ Jam. When Virgin Fest chose C.O.P. as a venue, we started talking and they were excited about it being for kids under 18 and the chance it gives them to develop as musicians. So they donated prizes, including this opening performance.

So this Friday, August 7, check out some of the hottest young talent in Calgary. Toast N’ Jam starts at 5:30 p.m. and runs to 10 p.m. To get in on the hype, take a look at the Toast N’ Jam page on Facebook.

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