Welcome to Grubtunes’ coverage of Over The Top Fest 2009, the Toronto-wide all-ages music festival taking place Thursday May 21st to Saturday May 23rd.
Those in the know are aware that Over The Top Fest is the brainchild of Toronto’s Eric Warner: a 25-year-old entrepreneur who’s been setting up concerts around Toronto for the last ten years. Warner is also the owner of We Are Busy Bodies, a record label and management company that works with bands like DD/MM/YY, Meligrove Band and By Divine Right.
Unassuming in appearance, though articulate, Warner seems surprisingly modest and mild mannered for a young, successful businessman who runs a respectable label, management and promotional company and deals with some of the bigger names in indie rock on a day to day basis.
Warner got into the concert business at the tender age of 15, beginning with a small concert in a small anarchist store in Kensington Market called Who’s Emma? (which sadly no longer exists):
“I started writing a zine when I was 14 called Wacked Out and then from there I put out a few issues, I was like, “You know what, I’ve been able to interview bands, I’ve been able to do these different things – I’m gonna try and put on a concert.” My friend Zack at the time had put on a few shows, so he gave me a little bit of insight and a few other friends gave me some insight and I thought, “ok, I’m gonna go for it.” Says Warner. So that kind of worked out really nicely and I gained some experience, like, “You know what? This is cool, let’s try doing this again.” And then my second show also sold out, and then it was like, “Ok, I’m gonna keep trying to do this,” and it kept growing and growing.
In 2002 Warner began the now-annual Over The Top Festival. He was 18.
“The goal of it was to put on an all-ages music festival – at that point it didn’t expand into film and theatre – to allow people of all-ages to have the opportunity to see bands that were really interesting or really great that were not only Canadian, but international as well. And really, that’s how it started initially and each year more shows were added and the focus kind of opened up a little bit more to allow me to program more theatre, film, art events, and things of that nature.”
In 2002, the festival had acts playing at three different venues. Now in its eight year, the festival includes events of several different mediums taking place at upwards of 40 venues located across the city. And it’s still all all-ages, which, in Toronto with its ridiculously tough liquor-license laws, makes everything a lot harder and a lot more expensive. But undaunted, Warner is already thinking about how he’s going to make next year’s Over The Top bigger and better.
“I want to keep making it interesting as possible for people in terms of engagement but also making sure that I’m reaching the audiences at all times.”
And although Warner claims that he’ll be checking out every single event twice each night of the festival, he did mention that he was particularly looking forward to seeing Woods [8 at the Whippersnapper Gallery on Friday, the 22nd] and Tiny Masters of Today [7 at the Whippersnapper Gallery on Saturday, the 23rd].