The last time I was up at Downsview Park it was 1984 and it was to see Pope John Paul II. All I remember was my dad making my sisters and I trudge through the mud to get there. The day was spiritually and life changing albeit a tad wet.
Toronto received a lot of rain on the evening of Friday Sept 5th thus making us wonder – what will the state of Downsview Park be for Riot Fest & Expo Toronto? Will I be trudging through the mud again decades later in wellies? Indeed.
Upon arriving to the park, I observed the line ups to be quite long just to get into Downsview Park but the mood was high for Riot Fest & Expo Toronto. In the sea of ‘Billy Talent’ t-shirt wearers, ripped nylons and people giddy about finally seeing The Cure – the day was well on its way.
We were greeted by a wrestling ring with lookalike WWF wrestlers in full regalia getting it on. The activity really added a crispy flavour to the carnival ambiance at Riot Fest & Expo Toronto. Besides the wrestling ring and the ominous food stands they were the only signs of what make carnival dreams glossy.
This year four stages greeted us at Riot Fest & Expo Toronto. But there was no signage to direct people which direction they should be going to catch their respective bands. A posted schedule with a map at different locations would have been helpful for the folk who didn’t have access to the Riot Fest & Expo Toronto app.
The Roots and Riot Stage although side by side were a neat idea. But came to be a bottleneck as people travelled between stages. There was a VIP tent in the middle which required another dilemma in navigating the space. A thought, next year to move the food vendor stations to allow more lounge room in the back, remove the VIP in the middle so the standing crowd can mill about easily between the stages.
Clearly, Riot Fest & Expo Toronto has grown since last year’s Fort York location in downtown Toronto. Downsview Park is a palatial and a roomy estate in comparison. With that come logistical pieces that can indeed be ironed out for next year to appease the ‘grumbling crowd’ who had to travel north of Toronto to catch a festival. First world problems mates.
The musical highlights of Day 1
The Afghan Whigs were in fine form for their early afternoon spot. They were not only extremely confident but were having a great time collectively on stage. Under the raucous tracks ‘Parked Outside’, ‘Fountain and Fairfax’ ad ‘Debonair’ lays a lot of darkness. But was delivered in such a way that would do Buckley’s cough medicine proud.
The ‘Modfather’ Paul Weller christened the crowd with a set that would make an old school mod teary. If you weren’t shaking your tail feather to ‘Wake Up The Nation’ and ‘You Do Something To Me’ – clearly you weren’t letting yourself go in the moment.
Death From Above 1979 are one of those bands if you miss them indeed your hearing may thank you but your heart will never experience such excitement again. True Toronto natives at heart they were quick to poke fun at the crowd by saying ‘I bet most of you are from Barrie’. Cheeky. (For my International readers: Barrie is a small town just north of Toronto which hipsters from Toronto would derive joy in picking on). Death From Above 1979’s rambunctious set was fit for kindergarten kids in a fit of a tantrum at a grocery store. ‘Blood On Our Hands’ proved to be a chest pumping memorable performance.
The Flaming Lips set was what a grand magical fable coming to life is made up of. Pop up. Acid like. Who need’s Las Vegas? One can walk around The Flaming Lips performances punctuated in a dreamscape with dollops of fluorescent lollipop colours, Beatles serenades and textured layers that will now be housed in your subconscious for moment’s when you need to ‘check out’ out of the daily grind. ‘Race for the Prize’ mesmerized my fellow audience members like a good trance should do Jim Jones style.
The Cure are athletes and delivered an over two hour set to the crowd that was well worth the price of the Riot Fest & Expo Toronto ticket just in itself. It was robust in classics and new tracks. Nicely mixed together in a stew reminiscent of ‘Disintegration’ days. Dance heavy. Sombre driven melodies. Themes that The Cure is known for and continues to flourish in with some obvious maturing enhancements. Closing with ‘Close To Me’, ‘Why Can’t I Be You?’ and ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ would satiate any fan.
Overall, a visually and musically decadent day at Riot Fest. Looking forward to seeing what Day 2 at Riot Fest & Expo Toronto brings. Happy Sunday everyone! Don’t forget to wear your wellies! Bloody Toronto rain.