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Venerable music festival reaches out to youth

By: Heidi Ulrichsen - Sudbury Northern Life

 | Apr 15, 2014 - 2:53 PM |
Tokyo Police Club is the Friday headliner at the 2014 edition of Northern Lights Festival Boreal. Supplied photo.

Tokyo Police Club is the Friday headliner at the 2014 edition of Northern Lights Festival Boreal. Supplied photo.

NLFB bringing Tokyo Police Club to 2014 event

Without reaching out to young people, there's no way the more than four-decades-old Northern Lights Festival Boréal will last another 40 years, said the festival's director, Max Merrifield.

That's the idea behind bringing in more groups that appeal to a youthful demographic to perform at the festival, which runs July 4-6 at at the Bell Park amphitheatre.

Festival organizers let the cat out of the bag this week on a few of this year's major performers in advance of the April 22 full festival schedule release.


This includes Tokyo Police Club, an indie rock band from Newmarket, Ont., which will be the festival's Friday headliner.

Merrifield said the band, whose members are all in their 20s, recently released an album called “Force Field.” He said their new single, “Hot Tonight,” seems to be on the radio all the time right now.

Hopefully booking Tokyo Police Club will serve to get “some young people” out to the venerable festival, which has its roots in the hippie era, said Merrifield, a hip-hop artist who is just 28 himself.

“We're really glad to have them,” he said. “I believe they played a frosh event at Laurentian before and they were a big hit there, so we're hoping they're an even bigger hit here.”

The other act festival organizers revealed this week, The Strumbellas, has fans bridging several generations.

The Toronto-based band, which will perform on the Sunday in workshops and on the main stage, has a sound that has been described as alternative country, indie rock and even, as Merrifield said, “folk pop grass.”

Their album, “We Still Move on Dance Floors,” earned them an award for roots and traditional group at the most recent Juno awards.

“I think The Strumbellas sort of present the Canadian folk roots sound in a new package,” he said. “It involves those rustic elements of traditional music, but presents it in a new way.”

The only other two acts revealed so far are the winners of Boreal's Meltdown event, which took place this past weekend, and gave emerging musicians the chance to compete for a booking at the festival.

Jazz Paradis won the right to perform at the festival after winning in the solo category, while the Francophone band Patrick Wright et les Gauchistes won in the group category.

Merrifield said many of the other performers at the festival will also play well with a younger crowd.

He said he's hoping youth will come to the festival to see an act such as Tokyo Police Club, but broaden their musical horizons while they're there by taking in some of the diverse musical acts Boréal features.

While Merrifield wants more young people to become engaged with what Boreal has to offer, he hasn't forgotten the older people who built the festival.

“In a way it's kind of a cheesy metaphor, but our program is kind of like a tree,” he said.

“Our roots are equally as important as the new buds and blossoms and leaves. So we're always looking to the evolution of music and the future of music, but we're also trying to develop people's appreciation of the past and of tradition and where newer musical styles come from.”

While it's great to have acts that attract younger people, it doesn't do much good if they can't afford to go see them, Merrifield said.

That's why they've introduced discount student weekend passes for the festival at $60 — significantly less than the $85 in advance or $95 at the gate a weekend pass costs non-students.

For more information, or to purchase advance passes, visit www.nflbsudbury.com.

Heidi Ulrichsen

Heidi Ulrichsen

Staff Writer

@heidi_ulrichsen

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