Why GNARFest Matters
Bummer Records presents a music festival that Brantford wants – and needs.
Maichina Veri, October 03, 2022 // Brantford, OntarioBummer Records co-CEOs Issa Mohammad and Noah Carmichael. Photo credit Sarah Evans.
There are legendary tales of a place in our community called The Ford Plant and great shows presented by zBTFD at The Train Station Coffee House and Gallery and The Creamery. Denzel Gordon, a Hamilton musician who grew up in Brantford, says the scene in Brantford has always been “hit or miss” and the periods of shows mentioned here were the hits. “Now,” Denzel says, “Bummer Records has the torch and it’s looking as great as ever to me.”
Bummer Records is a not-for-profit independent record label based in Brantford, and they are curating a new and exciting music festival for the community called GNARFest. This youth-led festival takes place over October 6 to 8 and features talent from across Southern Ontario.
The guy and the fella ready to shred at GNARFest. Photo credit Sarah Evans.
The co-CEOs of Bummer Records, Noah Carmichael and Issa Mohammad, who in jest refer to themselves as “the guy” and “the fella” respectively, have been arranging shows at Two Doors Down on Market Street throughout the summer and are culminating the season with GNARFest. “I think, for me,” says Issa, “that it’s been a long time coming because we’ve always been talking about wanting to throw a festival, have all our friends involved and have a bunch of Ontario bands that we like a lot. It’s awesome having our friends from Toronto, Hamilton, London and Guelph just to come down and have this little celebration with us.” Noah adds, “It’s all about building a community and definitely putting Brantford on the map. Trying to get people to recognize Brantford is a place where music is happening and culture is happening.”
“Bummer Records shows are always well run and professional,” says Leesah Fulton of Two Doors Down. She thanks Bummer Records for choosing the local bar as their venue and says of the shows so far, “They find a lot of amazing musicians that always draw out such a good crowd of people. The vibe is always on point.”
Isaac Papineau of Markham, vocalist and guitarist in the band Rikashay, has played a Bummer Records show before and will be playing GNARFest. He calls the Brantford music scene “a distinct ecosystem of its own” saying it’s just far enough away from Toronto to “not play by the same rules.” This speaks to the originality of what Bummer Records is doing.
While some surrounding communities have similar youth-led initiatives, neither Issa nor Noah can speak to anything else like GNARFest currently taking place in the community. “Not everybody has the time or dedication to do this. It’s really hard work. We’re tired all the time. We’re in a band full time, working full-time hours and doing this on top of it. We don’t sleep,” Noah explains, “It’s a tall order to ask anybody else to go about doing things like this. You have to love music enough to really want shows to be happening in your home town on a frequent enough basis.”
Issa Mohammad and Noah Carmichael being young at Two Doors Down. Photo credit Sarah Evans.
Building the festival has been both stressful and exciting for Bummer Records. “It is stressful, but when you hit the high moments when someone says, ‘Yes,’ it’s like a jump-out-of-your-seat kind of thing,” says Issa. “Definitely really exciting in a lot of moments,” Noah begins, “We were really lucky. I feel like a lot of it was just us being like, ‘What if we got this band? What if we did this?’ and a lot of it happened.”
GNARFest is important to people for different reasons. Denzel says of the Bummer Records team that they are “great lads” who are leading with love and courage. “The festival is all about that and it’s palpable,” says Denzel, “I think love and courage are important.” For Isaac and Leesah, GNARFest is important for exposing the underground music scene in Brantford to a wider audience as well as bringing people together. “It’s like a well-kept secret,” says Isaac. “GNARFest is giving other bands from elsewhere the opportunity to play their music to an enthusiastic audience who are hungry for what they have to offer.”
Noah and Issa’s goals for GNARFest are to have a good time, make friends, make memories, get people involved and inspire others to start bands. In the future, they see GNARFest growing to be “bigger, badder, stronger and sexier.” “I would love to do GNARFest every single year. I would love to get my community involved and kind of put our stake in the city itself too so people remember Brantford,” Issa says.
A look at your venue Two Doors Down. Photo credit Sarah Evans.
Kara Davey is the manager for Tourism, Culture and Sport for the City of Brantford and says that Brantford is home to hundreds of festivals, events and large-scale sport tournaments each year. Speaking specifically to GNARFest, Kara says that is exciting to see event organizers bring something new to the city and GNARFest is no exception. “We’d be happy to see an event like GNARFest grow in the future to enhance Brantford’s reputation as a destination for festivals and events.”
More personally, Isaac says, “I feel like this is something of a stone in the evolution of the Southern Ontario music scene and I’m super stoked to be a part of it.”
The festival will feature over 15 bands from Brantford and beyond including PKEW PKEW PKEW, Single Mothers and Status/Non-Status, plus two mystery performers on October 6. The primary venue will be Two Doors Down and tickets have already sold out, but there will be a free show at the skatepark at Brant’s Crossing on October 8 starting at 1:30 p.m.
In closing, Leesah says, “I know that Bummer Records are going to exceed any expectations I could ever have.”
Headliners for Thursday, Friday & Saturday. Photo courtesy of GNARFest.
Full details on GNARFest can be found on their website, CLICK HERE.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Maichina Veri is a writer based in Brantford, Ontario. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing from Montreal’s Concordia University and has a background in Journalism – Print from Niagara College.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER
Born on a frigid winter's night, Sarah Evans knew early on that the only way to warm her soul was through art. During her time studying Film and Video Production at York U, Sarah discovered her love for photography and has been shooting ever since. Other things Sarah has done is worked on film and television sets, painted a terrible mural in high school, opened a floral business and bitten into a paintball (it wasn't a chocolate covered blueberry!).