Tim Harrison has felt like there’s been something missing to connect the world class musicians that live in the area to the wider Stratford community.
But it wasn’t until he was speaking with his friend David Free that an idea began to take shape.
“I was complaining about it to him and he said ‘why don’t you do something about it?’ And I thought … uh oh. That’s a great point. ”
From that initial discussion, Harrison has come a long way. With co-founders Tim Nicholls and Dan Rajagopalan (and Free who joined the project as the artist coordinator), Harrison has put his money where his mouth is and started the OnRush Festival, set to take place in Stratford this spring.
The festival’s goal is to give smaller, independent artists in the region a headliner experience.
“It’s an on rush of energy,” Harrison said. “Whether it’s the artist stepping onto the stage or the audience having that experience of being present, to see somebody present.”
As he told StratfordToday, Harrison works in the tech industry and does not have any experience in organizing events or festivals. He described himself as a “basement musician,” who wanted to start the festival in order to learn more about the regional music scene, something that has happened since announcing the project.
“The community is so engaged here. I would never call it a subculture because it is woven into the fabric of the city … It's getting really excited. They're reaching out to me and other members of the committee.”
Nicholls and Rajagopalan have been hugely helpful, Harrison said. Nicholls has been a local fixture in the Stratford music scene since the 1990s, involved in local bands Soylent Green and Lungbutter. Rajagopalan is a local community organizer who originated the Stratford 5K Run/Walk for the Local Community Food Centre.
OnRush will be held at The Hall, formerly known as the Masonic Temple, and The Bunker Performance Lounge and Café.
The Hall will be a bigger venue, with The Bunker being reserved for more intimate, “exclusive” shows, Harrison explained. Neither will be relegated as the “additional” or “extra” venue, rather they will both provide an experience unique from the other.
While there is no genre restriction per se, Harrison said that they wanted a cohesive show with acts that aren’t so different that attendees will come for specific artists and leave midway through when the music changes.
To that effect, OnRush will have music in the “alternative” category, and the various forms that may take.
Digital auditions wrapped up this week (Friday), with close to 100 acts from across southwestern Ontario trying to make the list.
More news on participating acts will be forthcoming, once artists are officially signed on and announced.
Additionally, the festival is looking for any organizations willing to sponsor the event.
Harrison said that in the future they have considered registering as a not-for-profit and sharing any revenue gained with community organizations in need. This year, however, they are focused on making the festival as good as it can possibly be.
Just doing that, he said, is an on rush in itself.
“Hearing the responses and getting direct feedback, it feels a bit like what it's like to step out on stage,” Harrison said. “Because you're taking your idea, you're putting it out in front of people and you want to see them get excited about it … It's truly wonderful.”
The OnRush Festival takes place April 4 to 6. Tickets will be available on its website once available.