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Not a festival to pass over

Noah Bick tweaks the music festival model

While the subject of whether a specific “Montreal sound” exists will probably always be up for debate, there is no doubt that if it does, it will be showcased this coming weekend during the Passovah Fest.

Organized by Passovah Productions, the festival is in its second instalment this year, following the success of its inaugural year which featured over 24 local acts. The mastermind behind all of this is Noah Bick, creative director of Passovah who, despite his youth, has been active in the Montreal music scene for almost half a decade.

It is partly due to his experience with local independent music institutions like Pop Montréal and Blue Skies Turn Black that Bick has been able to put together a festival with over 50 acts, mostly local and undoubtedly independent. Scheduled artists include Miracle Fortress, Cinema L’Amour, Ari Stone, and Holobody.

“I’m in my fifth year of promoting shows independently as Passovah, so we started in February 2008, and then last summer was the first edition of Passovah Fest. It was kind of a way to say let’s try doing something new…a space where I can do my own thing,” Bick told The Daily in an interview.

In a way, being entrenched in the local scene gives Passovah Fest its distinctive feel of a community-based event. Through his experience in the independent scene, Bick has been able to meet the burgeoning artists showcased in the festival, thus the event he has planned ultimately looks more like a gathering of extremely talented friends. “It’s a way of doing local shows but keeping it exciting, so for me 50 acts over three days is something fresh that no one else doing,” said Bick.

“There are not very many other festivals that showcase local talent in that way, and there is no other festival that has such a compressed [format]. You can walk into a room at 8[p.m.] and stay till 1:30 and you have seen like 12 different acts…no other festival here does that.”

Passovah promises to offer Montrealers a taste of a great number of local bands, at a lower price, and without the annoyances inherent in bigger, more corporate festivals. Using a “pay-what-you-can” model, Bick hopes to keep the festival accessible to those who want to support the artists.

“Some people are really broke, people who are artists and support the artist community don’t have a lot of money, but some people have “9-to-5s” and are still part of the artist community and make a lot money,” Bick said. “If someone wants to drop 30 or 40 bucks you are more than welcome but if you really can only pay one dollar, I’d rather have you in the room than not in the room.”

One thing that makes this year’s festival different from the previous editions is the partnership with the Immigrant Workers’ Centre of Montreal. According to Bick, part of the festival’s proceeds will go to help the organization, which, according to its website, seeks to “[defend] the rights of immigrants in their places of work and fights for dignity, respect, and justice.”

And even though Passovah already seems too good to be true, with its colossal number of local acts, its support for social justice organizations, and its commitment to accessibility for attendants, it looks like it is only going to get bigger and better. Bick has big plans for the festival next year, trying to get funding from the government and hoping to take the festival outdoors.