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Riot Fest & Expo Toronto (Sept 7, 2014) – Day 2 Review

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The sun greeted us with a friendly ‘get ready to get burned’ grin as we entered Downsview Park on Day 2 of Riot Fest & Expo Toronto.  Nothing like a sinister hello to get our backs up in a true punk rock stance.

The first stop of the day was with Bob Mould at the Riot Stage.  The Riot Fest schedule had changed a tad overnight so things were a tad a flutter.  Regardless, when Bob Mould bounded onto the stage there was a rumbling of Husker Du and Sugar residue that flooded the audience.  Indeed a teenage hero clean of rock star guitar riffs instead replaced with earnest intent and humility.   That’s what Bob Mould is all about.  ‘A Good Idea’ would have been a gift but instead we were served some Husker Du classics like ‘I Apologize’ and ‘Makes No Sense At All’ which were just as decadent.

Our skin roasting we headed over to the VIP tent to wait for The New Pornographers.  How can you not adore a super band calling Neko Case, Dan Bejar and John Collins from Destroyer members?  An upbeat set with a cool Vancouver breeze to wash over our charring skin with songs like ‘Brill Bruisers’ and ‘Mass Romantic’ kept our electrolytes up.

Carrying on there was a short walk over a hill and a muddy patch to take in Die Antwoord’s set at the Rock Stage which was heavily anticipated.  If the crowd of kids was any indication things were about to go ‘mental’.  And they did.  Body surfing, topless girls falling over as leering boys took in eye full’s.

Die Antwoord’s lyrics would put make NWA proud.  Full of swagger by way of South African ‘zef’ and yet a sense of a strong professional work ethic stood out.  Their star has been steadily rising with beats and catchy crowd bursting shout outs.  If you didn’t pull out your phone to set a reminder to download their stuff as soon as you can – you have issues. ‘Fatty Boom Boom’ and ‘Fink U Freeky’ cemented their game changing status.

Death Cab for Cutie drew a larger crowd and was sure to make each person swoon with ditties that resembled high school love poems gone awry.  ‘Long Division’ and ‘Cath’ lead the now cooling down crowd into a sing-along possibly only heard in shower stalls.  Zooey Deschannel must have some stories.

By the time The National arrived our knees were buckling from heat exhaustion.  But in true rousing form Matt Berninger and the Dessner and Devendorf brothers gave us a show that instantly killed whatever symptoms were attacking our minds and bodies.  ‘I Should Live in Salt’, ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’, ‘This is the Last Time’ and ‘England’ offered the clearly fan heavy crowd a nice smorgasbord of tasty treats but also new fans a tasting menu worthy of buying into.  As the sun began to set in the background you couldn’t help but feel emotional reflecting on the lyrics spiralling around you and possibly feeling tears of love, loss, desire and new horizons begin to stain your cheeks.

I opted to end the evening on a high note with the Buzzcocks.  Indeed Metric and City and Colour being Toronto’s hometown heroes would have satiated my thirst but Buzzcocks being from Manchester and having a true punk rock history which fits into Riot Fest’s aesthetic was an important happy ending.

True rock pioneers, the Buzzcocks were an important influence on the Manchester music scene.  They achieved commercial success with singles that fused pop craftsmanship with rapid-fire punk energy. These singles were collected on ‘Singles Going Steady’, described by critic Ned Raggett as a “punk masterpiece”.  Get it!

Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle were in fine form.  Full of exuberance and pure punk rock joy that only some of the last left punk rockers truly know to infuse into their stage presence. The Clash, The Sex Pistols would be humbled by ‘Harmony in my Head’ and ‘Orgasm Addict’.  If you think Billy Talent won outstanding achievement at Riot Fest this summer – clearly you are not paying close attention to what Riot Fest’s true mantra is all about.

If Riot Fest & Expo Toronto prepares to keep up the momentum with fantastic music scheduling, a keen attention to detail, large scale festival organization and keeping their Canadian fans happy we will be destined for even more outstanding summers with our American counterparts in punk rock for years to come.




Riot Fest & Expo Toronto (Sept 6, 2014) – Day 1 Review

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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.




Riot Fest & Expo Toronto Band Spotlight: Bob Mould and The Cure

Riot Fest & Expo Toronto is now just under two weeks away.  Can you believe we are almost there?  The summer is almost done and we are heading into the Fall.  What better way to celebrate with Riot Fest & Expo Toronto?

We only have one more installment of the Riot Fest & Expo Toronto Band Spotlight.  So make sure you are getting your band research time in to be ready for September 6th and 7th at Downsview Park.

Let’s start!

Thirty Four Flavour’s ‘Sweet Pick’

Bob Mould

Bob Mould is an early ’80s pioneer of electronic, rock modes, to the deafening pop sparkle which he beautifully showcased in his work with band outfits Hüsker Dü and then Sugar.  If you see anything at Riot Fest that maybe out of your comfort zone – Bob Mould should be it.

Bob Mould was instrumental in Hüsker Dü’s formation in 1979.  Their hard-core anthems, tight, melodic, hard-pop chestnuts, and sprawling double-vinyl conceptual opuses was churned out in equal measure up to its dramatic 1987 flameout.

Bob’s solo works ranging from his landmark 1989 debut Workbook to Black Sheets of Rain (1990), Body of Song (2005), District Line (2008), and Life and Times (2009); his forays into electronic music, including 2002’s Modulate and his Blowoff collaboration with Richard Morel; and the reissuing of Sugar’s 1992 debut ‘Copper Blue’ which Bob and his band have been playing front to back at recent live shows.

I encourage you to pick up ‘Copper Blue’ the next time you are perusing iTunes or are in a music store.  It is a classic piece of music that stands the test of time and will also thoroughly blow your mind.

The Cure

We saw The Cure last summer at Lollapalooza in Chicago. It was magical and probably the most emotional we have been sharing a musical moment with a few thousand friends. Looking up at Robert Smith sing ‘Pictures of You’ and ‘The Forest’ into the sparkling evening Chicago skyline was decadence and was worth the price of our Lollapalooza weekend and more.

The Cure at Lollapalooza in Chicago (2013)

The Cure at Lollapalooza in Chicago (2013)

When we heard The Cure was headlining Riot Fest Toronto we felt that same emotional reaction come up to the surface. If you feel like The Cure has touched you as you walk to school, drive to work, work out at the gym or dance at your local club – you have no idea what you are in for from Robert Smith and his mates come Sept 6th at Downsview Park. We can’t wait to share the moment with you.

See you next week for my last edition of the Riot Fest & Expo Toronto Band Spotlight!  Buy your tickets soon before they are gone!

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