2010 Buskerfest in Toronto should be on your to-do list for this weekend

By Megan Mooney

I just spent a wonderful 6 hours at the 11th Annual Scotiabank Buskerfest in support of Epilepsy Toronto.

This kind of thing is just one of the many things that I love about Toronto.  Front Street is closed off from Jarvis to Yonge Street and it’s packed with things to see and do.  There’s all the requisite festival food (mmm, funnel cake), there some interactive festival stuff (face painting seemed to be a big hit), and it’s all held together by amazing performances from amazing people. 

The Renfrews Mounted Police Musical Ride

There are the big stages and spectacles, but then there are also little gems tucked away in surprising places.  Like, the mini–musical-ride offered up by The Renfrews on a sidewalk by a cafe.  Even with cardboard horses the Mountie uniform makes people look regal.  It’s impressive really.

Stunt Double Circus Then there are big areas that draw huge crowds, like the show from Stunt Double Circus, which was in the middle of the street at Scott St (right by the Sony Centre and the St Lawrence Centre for the Arts).  A huge crowd formed a circle around some crazy men, in crazy moustaches, doing crazy stunts.  Everything was over the top and playful.  The characters were fun, and the performers were impressive.

The picture of Stunt Double Circus on the left may not look terribly exciting (although, lord knows I couldn’t do anything like that), the exciting bit comes in the form of a back flip immediately after this.

There’s a lot of flipping in this act, and it’s very impressive.

Also, there is the inclusion of the coolest seeming heavy-duty pogo sticks ever.  I want one, but I’m not sure the downstairs neighbours would approve.

In terms of official staging areas, there are event 9 stages, but that doesn’t include the people walking through the streets on stilts, the living statues, the sidewalk chalk drawing. Plus there’s the 6 music stages. 

As you may have already gathered, you will spoiled for choice, and you most certainly won’t see everything the festival has to offer.  The nice thing is, there’s no admission price, just whatever donation you can afford, and the acts are all pay-what-you-can (these are buskers after all.  Highly trained and incredibly skilled buskers who make their living based on what money their audience chooses to give them after they are done their show.

The Privy People It seems likely that at some point during your visit, you will have to pee.  Although there are a number of portapotties provided free of charge by the festival, I have a recommendation… Visit The Privy People strategically placed near the beer tent at Front and Church.  Some brilliant person came up with this idea.  Deluxe portapotties.  Mine was Hawaiian themed, and spacious, and clean. 

If you squint at the picture to the right you can see that they also offer: Baby Powder; Foot Powder; Body Spray; Hand Lotion; Sunscreen; Hand Soap; Sanitizers; Toothbrushes; Mouthwash; Feminine Products; Band Aids; and Magazines.  All at no charge.

You don’t have to pay, but they accept tips.  Really, these folks are buskers too, they get paid by the change you leave in their bucket.  So, my recommendation is you visit the pee-buskers, because, honestly, the other portapotties looked a bit scary. 

I took my son along with me, he’s only a year and a half old, so a lot of the nuances of the performances were lost on him, although he did seem to enjoy people watching.  But there was one show that seemed to totally capture his attention.  He couldn’t take his eyes off of Dylan Studebaker’s Punk Magic.

Punk Magic My kid has good taste.  Studebaker, who you may have seen at other Toronto events, since he’s one of the local talents being featured, is a playful magician.  Lots of laughs are mixed in with the impressive slight of hand and playing with fire. 

Studebaker also gets my vote for best hair in the festival.  I imagine it’s a lot of work to get it to be as crisp and neat looking, and in a way that will last for the whole day, but I’m glad he took the time.  It’s a fun hairdo.

We also checked out the fantastic band Dirty Dishes in the kids section.  Although Dirty Dishes does gospel and bluegrass music, not traditional kids music, the kids didn’t care.  They were dancing about and generally being very cute.  The energy was fantastic.  Plus, the CD they were selling only cost $10 and is now happily living in my apartment.

But the highlight of the festival for me, without a doubt, was "Saurus" put on by a group from the Netherlands called Close Act Theatre.  These huge puppets of prehistoric-like creatures roam through the crowds.  Their cries are heard as they explore the crowds around them. 

saurus 1

When I first saw them I was just struck by their beauty, and the complexities of the puppets.  But then I wanted to know more.  I followed them all through the festival, partially for answers, and partially because I wanted to make sure that my $5 bill went into their bucket (turns out there was no bucket, they are one of the few acts hired by the festival, since the nature of the act basically precludes them collecting money). 

Audience reaction was wide-ranging, but also pretty universal.  There were excited people, curious people, and some scared people.  They are really very intimidatin
g beasts.  I am so very glad that I had the opportunity to see this in person.  It really struck me. 

saurus 2

I’m not sure if I would have loved them as much as I did (because, I really really did) if I had known the whole back story, or if the mystery and trying to fill in a narrative was part of the experience for me.  For instance, they seemed to be led around by a wrangler of sorts.  The ‘wrangler’ was a gruff-looking silent man, who, in his overalls, smoky goggles and big beard somehow reminded me of someone who should be in a Max Max movie.

saurus 2He led the way and occasionally lit flares that burned a bright red, and released a lot of smoke.  His coveralls said "Circus Orange" and I started filling in some narrative of him being a trainer or ring-master at a post apocalyptic circus.  I filled in a storyline, one that is never confirmed or denied, because there is no dialogue, no more hints about what the story may be.

saurus 4

I was a bit amused when I came home and looked up Circus Orange, just to see.  Turns out they’re an Ontario performance company and one of their areas of specialty is pyrotechnics.  I still like my storyline though, so I’m sticking with it.

So, there’s my day in a very big nutshell.  Bottom-line?  Buskerfest is fun.  You should go.



Scotiabank Buskerfest in support of Epilepsy Toronto runs from August 26 – 29, 2010

– Front St is closed from Yonge to Jarvis to accommodate the festivities

– Saturday the festival runs from 11am – 11pm.  Sunday from 11am – 8pm

2 thoughts on “2010 Buskerfest in Toronto should be on your to-do list for this weekend”

  1. I went for a couple of hours on Thursday, 6 hours yesterday – oh, wait, that was with you – and I’m going to go again today. It’s such a happy atmosphere.

    I’ve now seen two shows by Dirty Dishes and plan on seeing at least two more.

    Today I want to see Saurus again and also the balloon with the man doing aerial dance.

    We don’t have a lot of buskers doing things other than music in Toronto. I was thinking about Barcelona and the amazing street acts. Even in Carcassonne – a very small city in the south of France – there is a much wider variety of performances.

    I figured out why. You need a vibrant pedestrian area to have interesting buskers. Best if it isn’t a destination rather a street or area that people use every day.

    Maybe someday.

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