All My Friends Fest offers a sweet escape from self-isolation

Cities across Canada are beginning to open up, and although the parks are slowly becoming busier and the weather hotter, no Montreal summer is complete without its signature cultural events. Event cancellations and venue closures due to COVID-19 are undoubtedly putting a damper on spirits, not only for city residents but especially for the local creatives whose livelihoods depend on these events. In spite of this, creatives are finding ways to connect with their community and share their work. One shining example is All My Friends Fest.  

All My Friends Fest, to be held on May 30, is a one-day digital festival that serves as a direct response to the challenges faced by artists in the time of COVID-19. Organized by Vice Versa Productions and partnered with Also Cool Mag and Canvas & Cassette, the festival’s goal is to showcase art from the queer community. Originally intended as an in-person event in  New York City before the pandemic hit, the festival includes a wide range of musicians and artists in its lineup.

“Every single person who’s a part of this festival is so talented and so passionate and so excited to connect with the community,” Malaika Astorga, co-founder of Also Cool Magazine and festival organizer, said in an interview with The McGill Tribune.  

Performances will include a variety of singer-songwriters and live visual artists, with about half of the artists based in New York City and the other half in Montreal. 

Aside from the variety of featured artists, the festival is a queer-femme-run initiative that directly compensates participating artists, which Astorga emphasizes as a reason to attend in itself. 

“We really want to support our musician [and artist] friends whose entire careers and livelihoods have been compromised,” Astorga said. 

The festival is divided into daytime and nighttime segments: The daytime lineup on Instagram Live starts at 12:00 p.m. and runs until 6 p.m., and includes a number of musical and visual artists.

“We wanted to keep in mind the screen exhaustion that everyone is feeling. Sometimes being on Zoom for three hours is a bit much,” Astorga said. “We wanted [Instagram Lives] to be a more passive way of interacting with the artists, but also a way to directly communicate with them, too [….] You can kind of tune in and out and comment.”

The nighttime lineup begins with a panel on organizing and hosting digital events and parties from 8:00-9:00 p.m., including panelists from Club Quarantine, Global Relations, and Club Hunhouse. Following the panel, a dance party hosted by BLUSH will feature live DJs and go-go dancers. All funds raised from this specific portion of the festival will be donated to ASSTTeQ Tio’Tiak:ke – Montreal and Taking What We Need, both organizations that support marginalized trans folks who are directly impacted by COVID-19.

Tickets to the festival are based on donations, and donors of 10 dollars or more will receive thank-you gifts from event organizers. 

Although the concept of a digital arts festival may feel unusual, it certainly has its perks. Due to it taking place in a virtual space, the festival will be able to include visual artists who utilize digital mediums in ways that would not have been possible in-person. Additionally, Astorga added that attending a show online can be less intimidating and more accessible.

Despite its unconventionality, All My Friends Fest offers the familiar comfort of connection through the arts.

“If you’ve been feeling lonely during quarantine or bummed out about the lack of community interaction, it’ll be a nice supplement until we’re able to [meet] in real life,” Astorga said. “All these people want is to make new friends on the internet and play music and hang out.” 

Information about tickets and the festival’s fund can be found on the event’s Facebook page.

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