Where some major Toronto musical festivals have come and gone of late – Riot Fest, Bestival and the Toronto Urban Roots Festival are not on this summer's calendar – others have flourished. And while Drake's star-studded OVO Fest (deservedly) gets the most attention, the Arts & Crafts label's two-day Field Trip has established itself in short time as a top-notch boutique indie-rock affair. The Globe spoke with Field Trip co-director Aaron Miller about bad weather, a good brand and bonding with a city.
In the five years Field Trip has been around, the Canadian dollar has dropped and the competition for top acts has increased. How have you succeeded, where other festivals have struggled and dropped out?
The festival dynamic doesn't exist in a vacuum. You identified a couple of factors. Ultimately, we're not only competing against the festivals in Toronto; we're competing against festivals around the world, and other entertainment events. Festival consumption swelled and now, perhaps, it's reducing.
But for smaller events [such as] ours, we're in a good position. Something that's community focused and that doesn't necessarily require huge investments of capital can be successful, and it can build long-term.
Is having Field Trip on the first June weekend a bit of a sweet spot? It feels like summer's arrived, and yet, people aren't heading to cottages just yet. They're still in town, looking to get outside.
The date has been great to us. It does feel like Field Trip's become the unofficial kickoff to the summer festival season. The calendar flips from May to June, and it all comes together for people. We had a little inclement weather on the Sunday last year, but some of our competitors have had worse fortunes.
Well, it was severe weather last year, and you had to evacuate the festival for a few hours. How do you think you handled that?
The ticket says rain or shine, but there was electrical activity and extreme rain. The decision was made to evacuate everybody off the site. It's something you can't risk. It's standard protocol. We would do it again if it's called for.
I found there to be some confusion, as far as the communication. Not everybody seemed to be on the same page.
It was a scramble, obviously. We juggled what we could, in real time. You don't know when the weather will clear up. We made decisions on the fly.
There may have been some breakdown in communication, but I feel pretty good about the way it was handled overall.
This year's Field Trip features both Broken Social Scene and Leslie Feist. As far as attracting top acts, it must be nice to have those two on speed dial, right?
It never hurts when Feist and Broken put out new records. The fact that they have records coming out in the same year and that they're collaborating again is obviously special for us. We didn't put the Feist record out this time, but she's still part of the Arts & Crafts family.
About that family, do you feel that Arts & Crafts brand and the label's connection to the city has something to do with Field Trip's success?
There's absolutely a strong connection. We have a community of artists going back 15 years now. We're a small part of the narrative of the music of the city.
It's a matter of trust, don't you think?
Well, we've been here. We understand the people who live here. We are the people who live here.
Field Trip happens June 3 and 4. $125 to $200 (weekend pass) or $80 to $130 (single day). Fort York and Garrison Common, fieldtriplife.com.
This interview has been edited and condensed.