June 8, 2023

In three short years KOI Music Fest has become a major part of the Kitchener-Waterloo music scene thanks to astounding growth.
The festival, held on King Street in downtown Kitchener, started with 135 bands in 2010. The roster consisted of a few larger bands and a wide array of local talent. This year, big names in the music scene such as Cute Is What We Aim For, Classified and Emmure were present, as were a long list of local bands and acts.
On Sept. 14 the growth of KOI was easily seen. Acts could be found everywhere and they were all different. The festival had bolstered its original nine stages in 2010 to 12 this year and had 140 acts play to a seemingly endless crowd that swarmed downtown King Street.
“We have absolutely zero interest in doing something in Toronto like this,” said Cory Crossman in an e-mail. Cory and his brother Kurt are the founders of KOI Music Fest. “The point of this festival is to give people another reason to come to Kitchener or to give people from Kitchener a reason to stay here and support their own community.”
“KOI is our favourite day of the year. It is an opportunity for musicians of all genres to play to a diverse audience at an incredible festival run by some super down-to -earth promoters,” said Robb Pugh, the lead vocalist for local band Gracefield. “The Crossman brothers have been around the local music scene well before many of us picked up our first instruments and they are giving back to the community doing what they do best. Vendors, artists and concertgoers from far and wide come to Kitchener to experience an awesome weekend in which we all attend to enjoy quality music and the company of great people.”
“The festival has definitely come a long way in four short years,” said Brandon Gatten, the lead vocalist of Three Crowns, in an e-mail. “I think it’s something that every local band in southern Ontario looks forward to being a part of every year, either playing or attending.”
The number of people in attendance has nearly doubled every year. In 2012 nearly 7,000 people were present in downtown Kitchener. A very vibrant setting, filled with music, friends and respect, KOI has grown to be a reputable festival and is drawing attention to the local music scene.
“We are a heavily community-engaged event and we put a strong emphasis on local talent at the fest,” said Cory. “We want to support those great artists and build  Kitchener as a music destination for all to enjoy.”
“I think it really helps to put Kitchener on the map, instead of being known as the small stepping stone between London and Toronto,” Gatten said. “Festivals are always a ton of fun. To be able to play to a festival crowd full of all our friends and in our hometown? It doesn’t get much better than that.”
The festival is also a place where onlookers can unwind.
“Being a kid is hard. Hell, I’m 26 and I still feel like a kid,” Pugh said. “Music still helps me through all sorts of things going on in my life and there’s nothing like a solid album or concert to clear my head and make me smile when I’m stressing out or feeling under the weather.”
Gracefield has been an act on the stages of the KOI Music Festival for three consecutive years, each year playing new and old fan favourites. This year they played a lot of new material as they get ready to release their upcoming album, Parasites.
Even late into the Saturday night the festival was still swarming with people full of energy and excitement. The latest act was scheduled for midnight and people stayed in the downtown even later, talking with both new and old friends.
“There is a strong following here in the K-W music scene and at times it can seem very small when you attend certain events in the city,” Pugh said. “Different people are into different kinds of music for different reasons and the guys over at ARC do a really good job at bringing in a diverse lineup of artists both locally and internationally.”
ARC Cloathing Co. is a company founded by the Crossman brothers and is a major supporter of KOI Music Fest.
“We look forward to KOI every year and we can’t wait for next year,” Pugh said.

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