In 2007, OBEY Convention started “as a small happening aimed at celebrating weird and sometimes subversive music,” says founder and organizer Darcy Spidle. “From day one, it caught on.” In the last eight years, intimate meetings of contemporary art and music have grown to epic proportions. OBEY reinvents itself every year and still maintains its core values of inclusion, immersion and psychic engagement.
“We look for acts that push boundaries,” Spidle says. “And we also try to represent the DNA of Halifax indie music culture, which means weird guitar bands smashed up against more experimental voices, and it’s worked well. We’ve presented everyone from Mac DeMarco to Peter Brotzmann.” But the music isn’t the only oddity in the program; OBEY has utilized unconventional venues—barbershops, libraries, churches and community gardens—alongside standard bar shows and theatres, all with full intention.
“We try to bring music to a level beyond entertainment,” says program manager Andrew Patterson. “A lot of times in music culture, you go out and it’s a social time connected with drinking. But music can be a very spiritual, intense and transcendent experience, so we try to find places where we can treat the music that way, and treat the artists that way, as these are really special talents.”
Running at 10 venues around downtown from Thursday May 26 to Sunday May 29, this year only a few shows are 19-plus, and every all-ages show is free to anyone under 19. The EverySeeker Symposium events are also at no-charge, as is most of Art in Fest. This accessibility is made possible through community partnerships with Dalhousie University’s Fountain School of Performing Arts, Halifax Jazz Fest and more. (For info about getting tickets and passes, head to the OBEY site.)
“We want to involve as many people as possible,” says Spidle. “Art and music can be radical and change lives. We hope to continue upping our game each year.” And while some of the musical lineup may be unfamiliar to you, OBEY has always been about discovery. OBEY is a chance for exploration.
“I don’t think it’s our intention to be obscure,” says Patterson. “But we’re interested in pushing human consciousness, we’re interested in finding vulnerable and ambiguous spaces. For me, the most important part is the human part. Free programming is a place to start if you’re not ready to commit.”