Johnnyland debuts all-ages event in Halifax

Organizers of music and art event looking at expansion after successful first show.

The first Johnnyland Halifax event was held on Thursday at the Bus Stop Theatre in the city’s north end. Johnnyland events showcase youth artists and musicians for people of all ages.

Organizer Joe Dent said Johnnyland was started several years ago in Toronto by Dan Drory-Lehrer, who realized how hard it was for underage music fans in the city to attend events.

“In Toronto, all the bands play ‘19 plus’ shows,” said Dent. “There’s so few venues that have all-ages shows.”

Dent’s co-organizer, Camila Salcedo, came up with the idea to bring Johnnyland out east after she discovered that Halifax also lacked all-ages shows.

Johnnyland Halifax's first event was held at the Bus Stop Theatre on Gottingen Street. (Photo: John Sandham)
Johnnyland Halifax’s first event was held at the Bus Stop Theatre on Gottingen Street. (Photo: John Sandham)

Although the Halifax Pavilion regularly holds all-ages shows, most venues around the city do not. Halifax Pop Explosion, arguably the city’s biggest annual music festival, hosts the majority of its events at 19 plus venues.

“When I came here, I was kind of feeling that there weren’t enough all-ages shows and that I was missing that from the Halifax experience,” Salcedo said.

Dent felt the same way, joining the organizing team after a chance encounter with people from Johnnyland Toronto last summer.

As Dent recalls, the Johnnyland Toronto organizers asked him and his band to play some of their winter shows. When he told them he’d be in Halifax until the summer, they told him about Salcedo and her interest in starting Johnnyland Halifax.

Dent and Salcedo met weekly to plan the event. Their first show featured seven local bands and artwork from seven students studying at NSCAD University.

Art by NSCAD students displayed in the lobby of the theatre. (Photo: John Sandham)
Art by NSCAD University students displayed in the lobby of the theatre. (Photo: John Sandham)

Despite the snowstorm last Wednesday that dropped an estimated 50 centimetres of snow on the city, the turnout for the show was exactly what Dent and Salcedo expected.

“Even with the snow, people seem to be really excited,” Salcedo said.

Stepheny Hunter, who works at the Bus Stop, said the theatre was almost filled to its 170-person limit.

“They for sure had over 100 people if not more,” Hunter said. “Most people were dancing and having a good time.”

Dent was optimistic when asked about the future, saying “there’s definitely long-term plans for Johnnyland Halifax.”

“[We’re] just trying to bring the all-ages scene out here so everyone can sing, dance, and have some fun,” Dent said.