Chatting with Ziv Przytyk: Founder & Director of Shazamfest
What is Shazamfest? It is one of the most eclectic festivals of the summer. Going into their second decade of a run, Shazamfest brings together community, artists, families and 3 days of awesome activities and country air to take in.
But how does one run a festival? Where does one get the idea to produce such a festival? Enter left stage Ziv Przytyk. The “most organised anarchist you’ll ever meet” and that I have ever spoken to. He has always wanted to produce a festival and now he is living that dream. Going into his second decade, a lot has happened and changed since he started this journey. I wanted to pick his brain about how he got here and what he would advise someone who wanted to go down that path. Here’s our chat.
How did you come up with the idea?
I always wanted to do a festival since I was 16 years old. It was a way to bring the arts to the country. When I was a kid there was no place to get a job in the arts and now I get to hire local kids to work in the arts. I get to do cool stuff, community development through the arts.
I have a really short attention span so listening to the same thing for 3 days would have killed me. I use to go to a lot of raves, and a lot of festivals and just listening to the same beat for 2 days, I can’t handle that. That’s why at Shazamfest, if you don’t like one thing, you can wait an hour and then there will be something that’ll appeal to you. We have an eclectic mix from punk to reggae to jazz and rock music. We have wrestling, skateboards…. Every year it changes and I give a lot of space for spontaneous things to happen. I try to push all the artists to come to Shazam to try new things, be creative. Spontaneity is awesome but you have to create a framework for it to work. I’m the most organized anarchist you ever met.
What were the biggest problems you had creating this festival?
The weather! The first year, I did it 2 days and on the Saturday it rained 3 inches in 12 hours. We had two tractors pulling people out for 36 hours, it was a total mudfest. The first and the third year kind of insane that way.
How did you let it not defeat you?
I’m stubborn. You have to have a strong fortitude to organize a festival, because most of the time you’re gonna lose money. The first two years I thought I was going to make money, work and party with my friends and so far it has not been the case. But like I tell my friends, some people are addicted to crack, I’m addicted to festivals. It brings a lot more smiles to people, creates a lot of community, a lot of collaborations have happened after meeting at the festival. So that’s been really cool to watch what’s been spawned from the festival.
How did you find the place?
My parents bought the farm in 1981 and it was apart the property. That’s part of the reason why I can keep doing it because my expenses and overhead for the spot is low. I built all the infrastructure and had some help to start the process from. The genesis of the whole festival started with the Carnival Carmagnole. They’re a circus festival that happens in St-Jean-sur-le-Richelieu they ran for 5 years and then debunked for about 7. My buddy was a part of this so I was lucky to inherit all their infrastructure and that really helped me kickstart. I will always credit them for giving me the shove.
What kind of workshops will you have over the 3 day period?
Circus workshops, wrestlers, urban farming, tie dye. A lot of it is geared toward the child in all of us. But also because a third of the festival is for children which is pretty wild for the kind of festival we have and all the stuff we have going on. We had over 300 under 12 years old last year out of 1600 people. They are better than security because they keep people from doing dumb things.
I think it’s cool you have a skatepark. Where did you get that idea?
A lot of things happen just because. The first year, my friend had a half pipe and my brother had a kid who was into the skate thing so they brought it. Similarly, that is how we ended up with the wrestlers. A man came to grab some scrap metal off the arm and he was like: “Oh! You’re doing a festival? You want wrestlers?” I said “Hell Ya!” and both have been an integral part of the festival since.
What advice would you give someone who wants to produce their own festival?
They need to be very stubborn and kinda insane. First of all, you’re dealing with artists and, not all artists, but a lot of artists have big egos. You have to be able to deal with people, be nice and a lot of perseverance. Depending on where you’re doing the festival, you have to be plugged into the community. You can’t do it without your community and their support. Without the help of volunteers, it wouldn’t really happen. You have to be inclusive. I think it’s important to do so. We don’t have any VIPs at Shazam because I think it’s important to be inclusive and leave it open to everyone.
What is your fondest memory running this festival?
There’s so many. After 10 years, they all melt into one. Last year was pretty epic. My friend does pyrotechnics for movies and he phoned me up on the Friday of the festival and asked to come saying he was going bring all his fire toys. We had Bob Log the Third with fireballs on stage and he had a skull and a flame-thrower… these kinda moments that are not sought after and that just happen, those are the best ones and every year there’s a moment like that.
What’s your main goal in throwing this festival?
It has definitely changed over the years. At first, it was how to make a living in the country doing something really cool. But over the years it becomes an exercise in community building. That’s what I get off the most on now. The fact that I built this amazing community that circles the festival, that breathes its own life and created its own little monster. Community building is the most important aspect of it.
*This interview has been edited and condensed.
Shazamfest will take place at 2722 Ch. Way’s Mills, Barnston Ouest from July 15th-17th. A diverse group of talented artists will hit the stages over the weekend. Bloodshot Bill, Static Gold, Sharon Epic, l’Academie de Lutte Estrienne, the Blue Mushroom Sirkus Psyshow, a skateboard competition, a moustache & beard competition and so much more! Buy your tickets now as they are going fast and almost sold out!