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.