A gloriously incoherent mix of genres, moods, and artistic media, Seasons Festival embodies the way people consume music.
Showcasing more than 60 artists across eight locations over the course of five days, the electronic-music focused festival is all about personal decisions. Encouraging audiences to pick and choose different shows, the event offers a wristband that allows individuals to flit between classic Vancouver venues, drop in and bounce out, plan their own schedules—and call it a night on their own terms. So much more than turning up in a field, camping out for a couple of days, and being trapped by rigid lineups, Seasons provides choice, mobility, and familiarity.
Which, if you think about it, is basically the real-life equivalent of Spotify.
“The idea is for us to program artists at different times, so people think, ‘Well, I’m going to go to MIA early to go and check out SOSUPERSAM, and then I’m going over to Celebrities to do the Monstercat showcase,’ ” Alvaro Prol, co-owner of Blueprint Events, tells the Straight on the line from the company’s Snowbombing festival at Sun Peaks. “The scheduling for Seasons is very deliberate. It’s really varied. You can go and check out a trance act, or a hip-hop act, or a super-boutiquey local underground show—or all three.
“Booking diverse artists is our duty as promoters,” he continues, “and it’s that range that gives people the option to pick and mix different events. I think we can’t just go one way or another—it’s our responsibility to give people different things, exciting things. Maybe a fan of Galantis will leave a fan of Yotto. Those are the fun stories of festivals—the discoveries people make when taking a chance on a new venue and show.”
Beginning seven years ago as a passion project loosely designed as “an experience around Easter”, Seasons has grown from a one-night-only event featuring Calvin Harris at the Vancouver Convention Centre into a multiday platform that showcases various genres of electronic music—and, at various locations, visual art—in their natural habitats. Taking over everything from the smoky basement of Celebrities to the huge arena of the Pacific Coliseum, Blueprint has enough venues and affiliates on its books to house performers spinning aggressive big-room dubstep or glitchy, minimal techno.
“We know that we’re a big company, and our fan base is very diverse,” Prol says. “The guy who goes to MIA on a Saturday is not necessarily the guy who wants to go to Fortune. The venues are very different. When you head to the main room in Celebrities, you get that kind of LED feel—it’s brighter, it’s flashing, and it’s pumping. When you go to Open Studios or the bottom of Celebs, it’s underground, and it’s analogue. The biggest show we do at the Pacific Coliseum has all the lights and the effects and the raw power—that’s the crazy one. We’ve made sure we’ve varied our offerings to let everybody feel like they’re doing their own thing.
“The size of Vancouver allows people to easily flow throughout the city,” he continues. “The festival moves individuals around, and lets residents and visitors experience things in different places. Seasons Festival is a mini-showcase of our home.”
Prol’s comments are equally applicable to the event’s artists. Alongside world-class icons Above & Beyond, Galantis, and Excision—the three biggest names at the show’s two-day headline arena event—Blueprint has booked a swath of local talent making moves in the Vancouver scene. Funky house and soul producer Pat Lok shares the festival bill with acts like Pomo—most recently known for writing with Anderson .Paak—rising vocal techno act Sabota, and soulful singer and producer Harrison Brome, tipped by Prol to be “the next big story out of the city”.
Rather than exercising complete control over the bookings, however, the Blueprint team has delegated certain responsibilities by offering local labels and groups the autonomy to select their own lineups—a move that allows Vancouver’s top collectives full independence to book unique showcases.
“Seasons has become a big thing,” Prol says, “and as it grows, we want authenticity. Instead of doing a show with artists from groups like Monstercat, Hybridity, or Pacific Rhythm, we’re like, ‘Go do your own thing. Make it a part of our festival, let us promote you and live within your idea, but you own that particular section of the lineup.’ We’re doing that with So Loki, for example, which is a local act. Instead of booking a show with them, we gave them a bunch of money to curate something.”
Recognizing that—with the rise of streaming sites offering billions of songs at the click of a button—everyone can be a first-class selector, Seasons brings the digital appreciation of music to life for both the audience and the festival programmers.
“Seasons is about trying to let people take ownership of the event, and making it feel like it’s theirs,” he continues. “Everyone is a part of the festival.”
Seasons Festival is at various venues from Wednesday to Saturday (April 12 to 15).