Day One of Toronto’s Riot Fest & Expo contained heightened emotional moments, cheeky smiles, hilarious in crowd conversations with random strangers, blatant audience shenanigans and tears (or was that rain drops?).
As usual Union Events does a great job organizing Riot Fest Toronto on our Canadian home turf. The lines run smoothly, the site is organized and the space is a plentiful to roam, discover new music and ultimately take in a fete we have been waiting all year for.
But then the rain came and boy did it come down hard. At one point as we stood awaiting Gwar, we felt this experience was penance of some sort. Then Gwar disappointed a few hundred wet fans by stating they were unable to perform due to the poor conditions.
The show went on.
Riot Fest Toronto again brought us the grandfathers of Canadian punk rock and boy did they deliver. D.O.A. is close to legendary as The Ramones, The Buzzcocks and Public Image Limited. Their set was full on, political, endearing and the gentlemen were probably in better physical shape than the young’ uns watching them in the crowd. The sweetest part was observing Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth taking in D.O.A.’s set from stage right. It’s not every day you see an ex-Sonic Youth front man paying homage to Canuck punk rock royalty.
The Dead Milk Men always ever so cheeky enticed the fans with their humour and nostalgic renditions of songs from our youth – ‘Punk Rock Girl’ made us all feel really old at the same time.
Sans Josh Homme, Eagles of Death Metal from Palm Desert California proved that we Canadians can get down and dirty when probed. Albeit a shorter set due to the rain – there was still an abundance of bras thrown onto the stage for Jesse to inhale as he took all of us on a wonderful high.
Weezer created a gorgeous ambiance later in the day playing their album ‘Pinkerton’ in its entirety. ‘Island in the Sun’ was a wonderful reminder that when we feeling like bashing our heads onto our desks at work on Monday – there are only a few songs that can save us.
The Thurston Moore Band was certainly no Sonic Youth but certainly demonstrated the remnants of its iconic heyday. The dreaminess, electricity and pure verve were alive and well. But staring at Steve Shelley’s drum kit clearly holding the Sonic Youth seal was heartbreaking.
The night ended with Alexisonfire. Instantly it felt like 20,000 were crammed into one space. It was a chaotic juggernaut alright. Teenage girls were crying, grown men stood still and even the security guards had given up. Clearly Dallas and the boys have moved on in their professional careers – but last night we saw all the markings of what made them truly unique on Dine Alone records. Punk rock with melancholic sensibilities. Alexisonfire will crush you while also holding your heart up when you need them the most. It seemed like the audience was deeply triggered last night while remembering that one song from Alexisonfire that got them through.
Outside of the announced bands, this year’s festival had a circus tent featuring the Hellzapoppin Circus Sideshow Revue, a miniature golf course, a video arcade hall, and a wide array of food and drink options.
Let’s do it all again for Day Two!