The Original Edgefest, The Precursor of Today’s Alt-Rock Festivals, 30 Years Ago This Summer
It was 30 years ago this year–July 1, 1987–that the old crew at CFNY-FM decided that it was time for a big summer blowout. The station had just turned 10 and someone somewhere suggested that we should throw a big party.
Great, but where? How?
The “where” was settled when we were offered use of Molson Park in Barrie, a place we’d never heard of. The initial reaction was “Barrie? Who’s gonna go all that way?” But after a quick tour of the site, we decided to risk it. Besides, the park had already hosted a few shows (Beach Boys, Images in Vogue and Burton Cummings had there in 1986), so it wasn’t like were going into a place that didn’t understand the logistics or didn’t have the facilities. Our event–the CFNY Canada Day Picnic–would be the fourth-ever music event at Molson Park.
As for who would play, we called in some favours with some old Canadian friends. The Spoons, Images in Vogue were in, as were Northern Pikes, Pukka Orchestra, Carole Pope, Vis a Vis, Blue Rodeo and Teenage Head all agreed to appear. International flavour came from Australia’s The Saints.
We also booked in a carnival set-up and created an area where people could sell arts and crafts.
When it came to selling tickets, they were offered through Pizza Pizza outlets for $1.02. Hey, we had to make it attractive, right? It’s a long drive up the 400.
While not a sellout, 25,000 people did turn up for the music and the end-of-the-night fireworks display. The feedback was so positive that we decided to do it again. So we did in ’88, ’89, ’90, ’91 and ’92. In 1993, a few months over CFNY was rebranded as The Edge, we also rebranded our Canada Day event as Edgefest. We returned to Molson Park for 1996-2003, years that included taking Edgefest across the country much like Lollapalooza. Other similar events were created: the Tragically Hip’s Another Roadside Attraction and Our Lady Peace’s Summersault come to mind.
But then, disaster. We were told that Molson Park was slated for redevelopment and that it would no longer be available for live music events. Dammit.
Edgefest continued intermittently thereafter, showing up at different venues (Molson Amphitheatre, Downsview Park) and almost every gig sold out well in advance. Eventually, though, our festival fell victim to the insane competition that emerged among a new crop of festivals that were established in the wake of the collapse of CD sales.
This may be a bit boastful, but those of us who were involved in that first show at Molson Park like to think that we were precursors to the whole alt-rock radio station festival. We picked up where Heat Wave and the Police Picnic left off and laid the groundwork for something new.
People still remember those days at Molson Park, events that became a rite of passage and then an annual tradition for GTA music fans.
My best Edgefest memory remains something from that first night 30 years ago. The staff all sat on the lip of the stage as the music played and the fireworks burst overhead. I remember thinking “This is the best job ever.”
Anyone have any momentos of that first show? Send me scans and I’ll post them here.
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