Countdown to KOI Music Fest – Q&A with Cory Crossman

By: Cassandra Popescu

The time has come for our final day in our Countdown to KOI Music Fest, since the fun starts today in Kitchener, ON. Our countdown consisted of four previous Q&A’s with some of the great bands/ artists that will be playing at the festival this weekend. In case you missed them, check them out: Harbour, Bitter Kids, Scott Moffatt & Repartee.

Today, we are happy to announce that we had the chance to ask the Festival Director, Cory Crossman a series of questions, so sit back, relax and see what he had to say!

Can you tell me a little about the festival’s beginnings? What were some of the biggest steps or challenges you had to overcome in order to successfully kick off KOI?  

Truthfully, I think our challenges get bigger each year. As Biggie said, ‘Mo Money, Mo Problems’. As we grow so do our challenges. With growth come new challenges. Being a small independent festival is difficult on a good day. We’ve always punched above our weight class and we’ll continue to do that. With limited resources and funding it’s a challenge, but not one we haven’t overcome before. Getting to the point where we are self-sustainable is our goal. It takes longer when you’re a smaller festival competing in a highly saturated market. We offer a unique product that is become increasingly sparse as largest festivals move in.

How do you go about creating a lineup? What do you look for in an artist when determining who will play the festival?

We look for artists that inspire and will add a ‘Wow’ factor. A band like July Talk will really leave concert goers jaws dropped. We look for bands that are primarily independent and on the cutting edge.  We want fans to walk away in awe.

What has the festival done for the community’s music scene?

Kitchener doesn’t have a dedicated live music venue. It’s really a bummer. KOI has enabled bands from within the community to perform in their home town. Kitchener is host too many great festival but doesn’t have a dedicated venue. It’s important for us as citizens to get out and support live music or the scene and cultural community will die. This is us trying to get the scene alive.

KOI has continuously grown since its conception, with exciting additions to the festival every year. What’s in store for KOI 2015? Is there anything new that audiences can look forward to?

You’re totally right. KOI has always been about pushing boundaries and trying new things. This year we are working off a new model with ‘Pop-up’ venues. We are moving into spaces that are currently vacant (brick and beam style) and putting on a hell of rock show! As Kitchener is in a major transitional redevelopment we have run out of venues. In true KOI fashion we are reinventing things and creating vitality within the downtown core.

Do you have any favourite memories or performances from past years?

I think Every Time I Die’s performance is something that will stick with me forever. We had lighting strike nearby and had to move our headliner indoors. We safely cramped the venue, the band took the stage and everyone went wild. In all the years of going to shows and presenting live music I have never seen a band and audience go off so hard. Mad Caddies were incredible last year. It was a life long dream to book that band.

What sparked your passion for music?

I’ve always been a music lover. My family grew up with music always being around the house. Each of us played multiple instruments but it wasn’t until I got into Punk Rock that I began truly loving music. The DIY ethos and sense of community really stuck with me. I’m a lover of music but there is just something about the punk / indie scene that is so compelling.

How have you been preparing for the festival in the weeks leading up to the weekend?

Long, long days putting things together. We are an incredibly small team so it becomes all-nighter after all-nighter to get things ready. Lots of coffee and awesome music gets us through it!

What are you most excited for at this year’s festival?

We have so many amazing bands and this is always a tough question to answer. I’m really excited for our headliners July Talk and August Burns Red but my favourite part of the festival is always the acoustic brunch. We take a headliner from Saturday and have them play an intimate mellow acoustic performance on the Sunday over brunch. Every year I hear people walk away saying WOW that was the best part of the festival. I will never forget it. So yeah, I’m really looking forward to sitting down and enjoying a brunch and taking in some acoustic Hawthorne Heights.

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