Luminato is upping its game in David Pecaut Square this year with an impressive line-up of local and international artists performing free concerts on a super-sized stage decked out like a giant art installation.
Dubbed Windscape by creators Diamond + Schmitt Architects, the Festival Hub along King Street West between Simcoe and John streets will feature a Christo-worthy ribbon more than 100 meters long and six meters high, sweeping around the square and framing the extra-large stage. At the centre of the square is an array of fans and windsocks by artist Mitchell F. Chan, designed to swivel, rotate, swell and deflate, while changing colour and intensity in response to live music.
This year’s grand finale concert (June 17) features the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in its first outdoor show in more than a decade; in order to accommodate the 80-plus member orchestra the stage had to be scaled-up significantly which means that all the acts performing this year get to enjoy some added elbow room, says Luminato Music Curator Derek Andrews.
Andrews, left, has been a respected booker on the Toronto music scene going back to the 1980s and 90s when he helmed the popular Harbourfront Centre free concert series. Andrews loves all genres of music but he’s most passionate about world music, which explains why names like Fatoumata Diawara and Quique Escamilla roll off his tongue so easily.
Derek squirms a bit when asked to pick highlights from this year’s program but when pressed he points to AfroCubism (June 12, 9 pm) and the Caribbean Summit June 9 featuring Calypso Rose and Ernest Ranglin in the afternoon (2 pm) and Michael Rose and Kobo Town in the evening (8 pm). K’naan (June 8, 9 pm) and Michael Franti & Spearhead (June 14, 9 pm) are more or less guaranteed to rock the house, while Celtic songstress Loreena McKennitt promises a more contemplative evening (June 13, 9 pm). Andrews notes that it’s rare to see Canadian pop/roots star Kathleen Edwards, below, on an outdoor afternoon bill so her date with fellow Juno-winner Dan Mangan on Saturday, June 16 at 2 pm, should be a treat, especially if the weather cooperates.
Andrews’ advice is to arrive early and stake out a spot on the grass with a blanket. “This program is not dissimilar to what we used to see in the good old days of the Ontario Place Forum,” he observes. “People didn’t always know what to expect but it didn’t cost them anything to take a risk and come and see an artist who they weren’t really familiar with. They can trust us to give them a music experience that is really quite special.”
“I’ll tip your readers to a hidden gem of David Pecaut Square,” adds Andrews. “The lemonade stand on the south side of the park has the best lemonade in the city and they make a great Jerk roti so if people come unprepared there’s excellent food and beverage available on site.”
WHERE/WHEN: The Luminato Free Concert Series runs at the Festival Hub (David Pecaut Square, 55 John Street) from June 8 – 17, various times, see website for details.