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Concert Review: I Lost My Hearing at Riot Fest Toronto

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Well I can’t put all the blame on Riot Fest but I have been chiselling away at my hearing since I was a teen with a mission for punk rock.

On one of the last weekends of the summer, it was made even sweeter with the American folks from Riot Fest bringing their music and Travelling Exposition to our humble town from August 24th and August 25th.

Two day passes quickly sold out and they had reason to:  Mayday Parade, A Day To Remember, Best Coast, Rocket from the Crypt, Iggy and the Stooges and The Replacements were to be in attendance.  There were single day tickets still available to Sunday’s show which also disappeared in no time – no surprise there.

We arrived to RF a shave after 3 p.m. on the Sunday.  A gorgeous afternoon – it was sunny, a bit of a breeze and the energy was high.  The attendees were an interesting mix of old school punk rockers, some families with teens, 30 something’s and folks that came from out of town to bear witness to some afternoon delight.

What I appreciated immediately was that there was a lot of room to mill about the venue.  Fort York is truly a historic space to hold a music festival – it’s full of trees, picnic tables near the gathered food tracks, some stands to buy t-shirts, free water fill up stations and even a phone charging station.

We caught glimpses of Deadmau5, Kevin Drew from Broken Social and members of Sum 41 about.  A low key punk rock festival affair with dashes of glittering Canadian pride.

Best Coast from L.A. consisting of Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno shined their lo-fi surf pop tunes into the crowd.  There may not have been a lot of folks in attendance but nevertheless there was swooning and bopping to tunes like ‘The Only Place’, ‘Boyfriend’ and ‘When I’m With You’.  It was magical seeing this band live – I felt emotional.  Listening to tunes crafted in sunny climes that hang over our upcoming cold and chilly Fall is definitely a moment I plan to linger upon in the months ahead.

Dinosaur Jr. from Amherst, MA took a hold of our hearing in one seagull swoop right after Best Coast.  Looking a lot older then from my late uni days; then again so am I.  J Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph assaulted us (in the nicest Canadian way) to tunes like ‘Fell The Pain’, ‘Just Like Heaven’, ‘Freak Scene’ and Sludgefeast’.  Listening to ‘Just Like Heaven’ a raucous version of The Cure’s classic was like being hit in the head with a sledgehammer.  I guess that was the intent.  J with his long grey locks barely said much between songs leaving Lou to sneakily say ‘Goodbye photographers!  Go take pictures of someone else now.’  To be in their presence after 20 years was decadence.

Rocket from the Crypt followed.  Lead singer Speedo ran through a litany of cheeky comments to keep the crowd giggly and testosterone pumped as they jammed furiously together to ‘I Know’, ‘Born in ‘69’ and ‘Young Livers’.  Petey X and ND conjured skateboarding memories with bad boys from high school.

We quickly moved from our blanketed spot under a tree to gather around impatiently for the grandfather of the New York punk rock scene.  Again the crowd was all very polite and chilled.  That is until Iggy came on stage with Mike Watt and the boys.  Mayhem.  A funnel cloud of dirt rose from a mosh pit that had formed as Iggy pranced, body rocked, body slammed, stage dived, strutted and sexed up the crowd.  Aged but still gorgeous as ever.  The surfer golden blonde hair straightened just so, bare chested, skinny black denim jeans with a studded belt.  At 67 this man would still get it as he hollered at a ‘pretty Indian girl’ stood in the front of the stage.  Or was that me?  😉

‘Raw Power’, ‘Gimme Danger’,  ‘Gun’, ‘1970’, ‘Search and Destroy’, ‘Fun House’, ‘Beyond the Law’, ‘Johanna’, ‘Ready to Die’, ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’, ‘No Fun’, ‘The Passenger’, ‘I Got it Right’, ‘Cock in my Pocket’, ‘Your Pretty Face is Going To Hell’ and the latest ‘Sex & Money’ were religion to us.  I saw grown men crying.  At one point Iggy invited a gaggle of concert goers onto the stage to slam and dance along with the Stooges.  As I looked around people were brimming with happiness while others had an ‘I wanna be up there’ look on their faces.

As Iggy and the Stooges exited the stage he paused on the stairwell with the help of a roadie.  With a towel wrapped around his wiry frame, he blew us a kiss.  In that moment, I knew that I would never see him again and I was christened a punk rocker for life.

Lastly, we ended with The Replacements from Minneapolis, MN.   I had a major crush on Paul Westerberg as a teen.  Well dude was dating Winona Ryder, if she thought he was dreamy why was I chasing Keanu Reeves.  All prepubescent girliness aside – people were a blazing and were ready for full on pint sing-along.  Mr. Westerberg in rare form had forgotten the words to some songs with his brassiness in check.  Eugene always the wing man chimed in from time to time poking fun at the audience and J. Mascis who had appeared in the wings to watch them perform.  ‘J. Mascis, I was looking for you all day; you fucker’, Eugene squealed.  Ah boys.

We were taken back 22 years ago in that moment when these guys shut shop and we packed up our tape decks and started to age into ‘adult jobs’.

‘Takin a Ride’, ‘I’m in Trouble’, ‘Favorite Thing’, ‘Hangin Downtown’, ‘Color Me Impressed’, ‘Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out, ‘Kiss Me on the Bus’, ‘Androgynous’, ‘Achin’ to Be’, ‘I Will Dare’, ‘Love You Till Friday’, ‘Maybellene’, ‘Merry Go Round’, ‘Wake Up’, ‘Borstal Breakout’, ‘Little Mascara’, ‘Left of the Dial’, ‘Alex Chilton’, ‘Swingin Party’, ‘Can’t Hardly Wait’, ‘Bastards of Young’, ‘Everything’s Coming Up Roses’ and ‘I.O.U.’ gave us all something to remember.  Indeed times have passed us by as we watched these aged rockers from our youth but we have amazing moments to look forward to with this renewed soundtrack injected back into our lives.

Riot Fest did a tremendous job with their online media campaign to get people out.  I hearted reading cheeky comments by whoever man’s their Twitter and Facebook pages.  Talk about a buzz.  These people are the real deal, professional and extremely good to their fans.  I felt the love and I saw it emanating from other concert goers.  We were nicely taken care of.

Chicago and Denver you are next.  Get ready for some freshly baked punk rock goodness.