The idea for Lavender Wild came to Alex Simpson while attending a Fletcher concert. Simpson, festival manager at Live Nation Canada, was inspired by the sense of community and queer joy in the crowd, and decided to create a festival that would provide the same type of experience. The one-day Lavender Wild, the inaugural edition of which takes place at RBC Echo Beach on June 4 in Toronto, aims to focus on resistance, empowerment and inclusion to bring the queer community and their allies together for more than just your average music festival.
Over a Zoom call, Simpson explains that when she started planning Lavender Wild in October, 2022, the concept was a festival that would foster a sense of belonging within the LGBTQ community. “I really wanted to create a safe space for our community to gather and enjoy music while highlighting the artists that represent us on stages worldwide every day,” (When I share that the festival has echoes of Lilith Fair, the groundbreaking all-female, feminist music festival organized by Canadian musician Sarah McLachlan for the Gen Z crowd, Simpson laughs. It’s “awesome that we can reinvent those things,” she says.)
Festival performers include Girl in Red and Hayley Kiyoko, plus drag performances and and a vendor market where individuals can purchase from and support local queer artists. The event’s photographers, videographers, muralists and vendors were also chosen to help Lavender represent the LGBTQ community’s diversity.
Musician Shawnee Kish, a Mohawk singer-songwriter who identifies as two-spirit, will also perform. After winning CBC’s 2020 Searchlight talent competition, Kish will be back on stage to share their music – which they describe as medicine – with an audience. And as a passionate advocate for the power of music, Kish says they are thrilled to be part of Lavender Wild. Kish grew up closeted, which led to depression and hardship until they found music. “It gave me a sense of hope and helped me gain awareness and confidence in myself,” they say.
Simpson also hopes the festival will expose allies and others to new types of artists and performances. Take, for example, Wreckno, a rising gender-nonconforming queer rapper/producer/DJ from Michigan, who says that homophobia has always existed in the electronic dance music scene. Wreckno’s shows include signage that decries racism, sexism, antisemitism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia and body shaming.
Simpson hopes that if this first installation of Lavender Wild goes well, the festival can expand across Canada. “There is such a huge demand for queer events like these, and music is such an integral part of that,” Simpson says. “It provides such a beautiful space for us.”