Not Quite festival is redefining Peterborough’s culture

Photo of the Beef Boys, who are playing the festival. Photo by Keila MacPherson.
Photo of the Beef Boys, who are playing the festival. Photo by Keila MacPherson.

So much about this weekend’s Not Quite Music Festival, March 26-29) comes at seemingly just the right time after a school year in which both Trent University and the Peterborough off and online communities have been in embroiled in bitterly divisive local and social issues.

Feelings held by many in the community, that Trent seemed to be continually retreating from its in the downtown area and the wider Peterborough community, were exacerbated by frustration over both the student centre levy and the way that it was passed.

Issues like sexual violence and street harassment continued to plague us both on and off campus.

An article in Arthur about comedian/burlesque performer Kristal Jones helped add fuel to an ongoing online incident igniting an often tense and polarizing cultural divide, waged online and off, about the role of rape culture, victim blaming/shaming and cyberbullying while subsequently revealing not only just how deeply entrenched those attitudes are but also how inadequate the resources allocated to addressing the issue.

To make matters worse, there has been a growing trend among local  media outlets to blame the city’s crime and unemployment on the poor, the mentally ill, and the disabled while simultaneously disparaging the downtown as some sort of Central Ontario Tatooine of panhandlers.

On campus, the year ended with two extremely combative and fiercely contested events- the debate and the rescinding of the Israel-BDS and the scandals surrounding both the resignation of Braden Freer and subsequent head-scratching attempt to impeach VP of Campaigns and Equities Boykin Smith. These are events that in combination, and without going into all the details here (they’ve been covered elsewhere in Arthur), involved alleged incidents and accusations of racism, anti-semitism, corruption and harassment.

Taken all together, this is a narrative that paints Peterborough as a uniquely shitty town most likely to find itself spending another decade slowly slithering down the drain. But it’s also a narrative that’s not quite true, and the Not Quite Festival is the proof.

At almost twenty acts, about two thirds of which are local, over  four days at multiple venues,  the festival is an attempt by the organizers to create a platform with which to draw the attention of wider variety of bands in order expand their touring circuits to Peterborough, while also pooling local talent into an event big enough to expand and articulate Peterborourgh’s art and music scene into a wider regional provincial presence.

More than that, the organizers have taken care to promote and incorporate the festival along the lines of wider safe space movements, offering spaces and events free of oppressive and abusive language and activities. In many ways, Not Quite is not just a celebration of local and independent music but a response to many of those issues listed above.

And has to be, because if local politicians, the DBIA, the University, real estate developers and the community itself is as serious as I think they are about the potential for the creative and digital economies to rebuild the local economy, then the importance of developing Peterborough, in both actuality and brand, as a site of inclusiveness, acceptance and respect can’t be underestimate.

What the organizers of Not Quite have done, demonstrated by both their willingness to do it and the support that they’ve already received, is given us an opportunity to re-asses the narrative I presented above, the one that I think is given too much credence far too often.

Ultimately and unfortunately, people being dismissive and abusive of rape survivors and people who dare to speak out about the normalization of rape culture isn’t unique to Peterborough; rather, what is unique to Peterborough, is that when Ms. Jones found herself embroiled in those circumstances, Arthur gave a platform for her voice that eventually drew to her side students, activists, artists and public figures even as many in the local media establishment backed away.

Street harassment isn’t unique to Peterborough, but what is though is that an awareness campaign like #Courageptbo could not only emerge and find support from a wide spectrum of the community.

Casting suspicion on the poor or seeing their very presence as a reason to be afraid of crime is unfortunately common- what’s uncommon is that when the community speaks out against those representations, those voices actually find people willing to listen.

What’s unique to Peterborough isn’t that 13 year old autistic boy could be bullied and neglected by his peers; it’s that when his mother told people about it, Peterborough listened. And then they went bowling.

And lastly, there are many cities across the province, country and even continent stagnating under the persistent grind of manufacturing losses and searching some way of revitalizing their ailing through their cultural economy and ‘vibrancy.

What’s unique to Peterborough is that two third year Trent students and local musicians decided not to wait for Peterborough to be hand-picked from above, but to invest their time, energy and whatever financial resources they could find into making it happen in the here and now.

Peterborough: Not Quite Toronto, Not Quite Ottawa and so much the better for it.

Early bird festival passes are $20/$15 for underaged attendees, however each individual event is specifically priced. Also a special shout out should be given to TUMS (Trent University Music Society) for sponsoring and supporting all the events of the fest.

For more information about the festival check out Passes are available at Curated art gallery.

not quite

Not Quite Festival Lineup

Thursday, March 26:

East Coast solo musician, and former member of influential east coast indie band Plumtree, Catriona Sturton will be not only be performing at Sadleir House dining hall but also giving a Harmonica workshop.

Joining her onstage will be local acts Hello Babies, Slowly, Slowly, and  solo musician Musgrave Ritual.

This event is all ages but licensed. The workshop and the show together is $7 and the show on its own is $4. Starts at 7:30.

Friday, March 27:

One of the festivals most anticipated acts, the London based, frenetically eclectic and just downright weird, Nihilist Spasm Band take the stage at The Spill.

These cult favourites established themselves a devout fan base amongst the pathologically particular while opening fr the likes of Sonic Youth. The oldest, still active noise band in existence, NSB offer a chance to really explore the farthest reaches of the musical universe. Or they’ll just madden you into a puddle of incoherent sobbing. Whatevs.

Playing with them are experimental jazz band Commander Goznalez, the aforementioned Hello Babies and local soundscape artists Paulabulus.

This show starts at 9:00 is all ages but licensed, and is $12 if paid for individually (sertiously, the $20 festival pass is such a great value for the number of shows going on- go get one.)

Starting an hour later than The Spill show, The Red Dog will be hosting awesome Guelph-based fuzzed out two-piece math rockers Badminton Racquets, surf-psychadelic band The White Crowleys (Peterborough/Hamilton) and the groove heavy, reverb laden local psychadelic rock band Severed Feathers.

10:00pm start, l9+, $5 individually priced.

Saturday, March 28:

Headlining the Saturday night event at Pappas Billiards is uptempo and energetic dream pop/shoegazers Moon King (Toronto).

Joining them are The Lonely Parade, who have been steadily emerging as one the city’s most enthusiastically embraced new bands, dance floor stirrers Television Road (Peterborough) and noise-pop band Stuka (Guelph/Toronto).

All ages and licensed, starts at 9pm and individually priced at $10 ( did I mention there’s  a $20 pass that gets you into all the shows?)

Starting at 10pm, The Pig’s Ear will be hosting an all local line-up featuring Toronto’s raw and raucous facemelters Soupcans,  2013 TUMS Battle Of The Band winners (and festival organizers) The Watershed Hour, and garage rock incendiaries The Beef Boys.

19+, individually priced at $3.

Sunday, March 29:

Finally, the festival winds down with an afternoon at Curated (203 Simcoe)downtown.

Running from 1-4pm, passholders who come will be treated to a vegan meal and live performances from the atmospheric and lyrically dextrous hip-hop of Continuous Lee (Danny Taro) and the one-man Peterborough arts community institution Nick Ferrio.

For people without festival passes, the Curated event is $3 or $5 to get in and get some Chilli.