Messtival a local, volunteer-run success story

From its humble beginnings as a house party, the Moncton music and arts festival known as Messtival has come a long way. Organized by the TBA Collective, a Moncton-based non-profit art and music collective, Messtival is an all-day, all-night music concert coupled with a psychedelic light show, live art and art exhibits and multimedia performances, among other activities.

Reputed for its volunteer-driven approach, 2011 marks Messtival’s fourth year in existence. A festival with a keen social conscience, organizers of this year’s festival are taking the extraordinary steps of holding the festival on a private property in Anagance (near Petitcodiac) that is completely “off the grid.” The festival will be partially powered by wind and solar energy, which creates a unique set of challenges for the organizers but ones that they have been preparing for over the course of the past two years.

Tasked with taking care of site logistics and setup for Messtival 4, Marc Landry admits that most of the challenges that organizers had anticipated in pulling off this year’s festival were actually addressed last year.

“Last year’s festival was held at a location that was not necessarily off the grid however the site’s location had us relying on generators for 100 per cent of the show,” Landry says. “The site where the festival is being held in Anagance this year is on a private rural residence that is powered by wind and solar energy, which is in turn stored in batteries. Generators will still be used this year so that we do not deplete the batteries prematurely however the generators are more of a supplement than anything else.”

Landry says that the addition of Mike Ritchie to the TBA roster has been a blessing when it comes to much of the site preparation being taken care of. Ritchie owns the land where Messtival 4 is being held and, among other tasks over the past year, he has constructed a 30-foot (9-metre) by 40-foot (12-metre) stage for the bands to perform upon.

Of course, summer tends to be music festival season no matter where you might live in eastern Canada.

Festival booker Mario Gautreau says that when the call for submissions went out to bands all over the Maritimes earlier this year, Messtival organizers received a respectable 75 submissions from artists interested in performing.

“Submissions this year were up from approximately 60 the year before and frankly, it was great to see such a great response from not only local musicians but bands from places like Montreal and Toronto as well,” Gautreau begins.

One source of deserved pride for Messtival organizers has been the diverse genres of music that they bring together. One look at this year’s lineup has proven to be no exception. Among the acts slated to appear this year include experimental noise-rock band Something Delicious, country outlaws The Divorcees, bluegrass heroes The BackYard Devils, instrumental rockers Kuato and more.

“Messtival has always been about showing a wide array of musical talent, regardless of genre,” Gautreau says. “The members of the TBA Collective, as well as the people who attend our events all have different tastes in music so we figure (it) makes for a more enjoyable time to mix and match a diverse line-up of musicians. We figure it’s enjoyable for everyone to try and mix and match a diverse line-up.”

TBA Collective member Jonah Hache has been involved with Messtival since the very beginning and admits that it is amazing to see how the festival has evolved over the course of the past four years.

“During the first two years of the festival, tickets were sold through specific people in the TBA Collective and were sold mostly to friends and friends of friends,” Hache says. “The festival has branched out to friends of friends and their friends so we have seen a lot of organic growth over the past four years. This year though, with the new property and what has been made of the property, I feel it is going to be something really special.”

When it comes to Messtival, the “doing it for the love of doing it” mentality of the members of TBA Collective has is a refreshing shift away from the “bottom line” mentality that dominates so many other music festivals. Both Hache and Landry defer credit for the festival’s success over the past four years to the volunteers who help organize, promote and work during the event. As far as Hache and Landry are concerned, it is the festival’s volunteers that help to make the it such an unqualified success.

“It is excellent to see that Messtival is still completely volunteer-based and co-ordinated by a handful of people that do it for the sheer passion of it,” Hache says.

“Everyone that participates in running the festival end up being invested in what they are doing when it comes to the festival and help make it the best it can be,” Landry continues. “That is what makes our volunteers’ participation so valuable when it is all said and done.”

Article published in August 12, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript