When Jason Flammia and his business partner, Allen Harding, volunteered at a downtown block party back in 2011, they threw around the idea of starting a festival of their own. While it’s not uncommon for friends to sit around and come up with grand scenarios that would just be so awesome if they actually pulled it off, doing just that is a whole other story
“At the time Edmonton didn’t have a multi-venue music festival so we knew there was an opportunity there”, says Flammia. “Especially in the downtown area; there are all these new venues popping up that no one was really taking advantage of. We also felt that outside of the traditional summer season there weren’t that many festivals happening – especially after September long weekend, everything just drops off. So, we thought there was an opportunity to do a cool music festival during the fall months.”
Now in it’s second year, the Up + Downtown festival is riding on the success of it’s inaugural year, bringing in more bands and bigger names to fill Edmonton venues with wall to wall music in October.
“[The first year] was really intense”, adds Flammia. “Building something from nothing was so time consuming. We also had to sell people on what a multi-venue music festival would be like, but now that we’ve done it people have a better understanding of it. Al and I kind of joked that it almost killed us that first year, but now that the machine is built we just have to plug it in.”
Flammia and Harding, along with their fellow group of self-proclaimed “music nerd” board of directors, collectively come up with their wish lists of bands they’d like to see, and make sure to go to as many shows as possible both locally and abroad.
“We plan our vacations around seeing shows and going to festivals, so we see a lot of stuff, and then we just say, ‘Well who’d be good to bring to Edmonton that maybe hasn’t been here before or maybe hasn’t been here in a long time?’”
Their commitment to building a solid roster of talent sees them bringing in an eclectic mix of acts from cities like Portland, Boston and Berlin, while giving newer and established local musicians like Slates, The Secretaries and Old Wives the spotlight as well, with at least half of the acts being from Edmonton.
Similar festivals, like Calgary’s Sled Island or Austin’s SXSW, have helped their respective cities receive national and international attention as major players in discovering up and coming talent while simultaneously courting veteran names. Although the Up + Downtown Festival is still in it’s infancy, Flammia has high hopes for what the festival could become.
“I have a five-year plan, so if everything goes according to plan we will be expanding to include bigger and more venues; that’s what I’m looking forward to. This year, I’m just excited to see everything take shape and take in some shows myself. Like I said, I’m a music nerd so I want to see some shows at the end of the day.”
The Up + Downtown Festival runs from October 10-12 in Edmonton, Alberta. Tickets are available now.