People & Culture

Bike to the beat

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There’s a revolutionary new concert movement under way, and it’s spinning through the streets of Toronto for the third time this fall. Held at three public parks in the heart of the city, the Toronto Bicycle Music Festival features sound equipment that’s powered by a pair of energy-generating bikes, which audience members take turns pedalling.

“For some of the bands that are a little louder and have more bass, the riding is a little more strenuous,” says founder James Davis, who works at a non-profit called FoodShare and builds fun things like bicycle-powered blenders. Davis was inspired by the San Francisco Bicycle Music Festival, the largest fully bikepowered music festival in the world. In 2011, the Toronto festival featured Jeremy Fisher, a Juno-nominated musician and bicycle-touring pioneer. That year, attendance doubled to about 250 music lovers per venue and the festival secured funding from the Ontario Arts Council and the Toronto Arts Council. This fall, on September 15, the festival will bring Toronto’s cycling community together with performances by Canadian musicians such as Rae Spoon and Gentleman Reg.

Karol Orzechowski, a photographer, cyclist and musician, toured with the first two festivals. Last year, he performed during one of the group rides between venues and relished the experience. “At one point, the group ride just sort of stopped,” says Orzechowski. “People started ringing their bells in rhythm with the song. It was one of my favourite moments I’ve ever had while playing — a very sublime kind of moment where people were using what they had to join in.”

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