Living that Field Trip Life: Day 1

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The sun was high in the sky by the time Day 1 of the second annual Field Trip festival got underway at Fort York. Curated by Toronto record label Arts & Crafts, this year’s lineup largely extended past their own roster to include a multitude of friends. When not listening to music, the family-friendly affair offered bouncy castles, hula-hoops, an Etsy market, plus everything you could possibly want to eat from a food truck.

After visiting the free water refill station and getting my hair pulled back into an upside-down braid courtesy of John Frieda I began the day stretched out on a blanket in front of the Fort York stage for festival opener Maylee Todd. One fierce lady all on her own, Todd was flanked by some seriously grooving backup dancers, and their R&B soulfulness had the early crowd dancing in the sun to songs like “Pinball Number Count” and “Hieroglyphics” from Escapology. Left solo for “I Tried” gave Todd the opportunity to show off just how powerful her voice can be on its own, sans flash and sparkle.

Up next on the Fort York Stage was Megan Bonnell. The often quiet Bonnell dialled things up a few notches as the silky piano melodies of Hunt & Chase permeated the afternoon air. She also took to the guitar for the second half of her short set and her electrifying presence further proved the singer-songwriter as one to watch.

Having recently seen Reuben & the Dark, I opted to then make the trek over to the Garrison stage for Austra. The band’s moody electro-dance grooves and pulsating synths positively blazed under the pounding sun, encouraging the growing audience to expend the energy needed to slowly move to the beats of Olympia. The heavy bass was enough to leave your ears ringing if in close proximity to the stage, but it was frontwoman Katie Stelmanis’ fantastical voice that rightly remained the focal point of their set.

After a quick break for fish tacos and mojito gelato, I was back up front at the Garrison stage for Montreal’s Half Moon Run. Having last seen them blow away the audience at Air Canada Centre (opening for City & Colour), it didn’t surprise me in the least when this crowd hung on to their every lyric and movement. The bass on “21 Gun Salute” reverberated in your heart while the harmonica on achingly ethereal ballad “Unofferable” drew all the feelings – and then caused a frenzy when it got thrown into the crowd after the song. They suffered some minor technical difficulties mid-set but managed to come back with even more energy before ending on an intimate note with “Full Circle.”

Starting with “Ends of the Earth,” Lord Huron instantly brought some summertime vibes worthy of their dusty California roots. Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers may have been the major players to usher in the folk-rock revival, but Lord Huron’s sweet harmonies, dreamy distortion, lightly tropical melodies, and washed out background nature sounds set them apart and proved they aren’t just riding on coat-tails. Perhaps most impressive was their ability to mellowly coast along for most of their set before all of a sudden exploding into jangly folktastic goodness, finally really letting it all hang out on “Lonesome Dreams” and set closer “Time To Run.”

I ended the night back over at the Fort York Stage. The quintessential Torontonian, Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew sang ballads dedicated to his city and love songs sent out to the audience as the sun dipped lower in the sky. From “Good Sex” to the appearance of Leslie Feist for “You in Your Were,” Drew getting the crowd to join in a chant of “fuck you, love you”, and then coming down into the crowd during “My God,” it felt like a series of perfect moments. Not one to hold back his thoughts, Drew’s chill vibes were only interrupted by his anger directed towards the beach balls being thwacked around amongst the crowd. He ended his set urging the captivated audience to “enjoy your life,” and at that moment, it was pretty much impossible not to.

Closing out this stage was A Tribe Called Red. Genius DJ crew Ian “DJ NDN” Campeau, Dan “DJ Shub” General and Bear Witness set up shop, working their laptops to spin a blend of “electronic-powwow,” dubstep, hip hop and native tribal chants. They were at times joined on stage by a Native dancer, who thrilled the audience with his moves and abilities. A genuine frenzy of a dance mob was whipped up as they ended their set by teaching the crowd how to rain dance. The group’s 2013 Polaris Prize shortlist and Juno nod has them earning much deserved respect and acknowledgement. Next time you want to dance, turn up A Tribe Called Red – “A Tribe Called Rad” is seriously more like it.

While headliners Interpol brought back nostalgic memories of 10 years ago for the crowds at the Garrison main stage to close out Day 1, I chose to take my tired legs home early in preparation to do it all over again the next morning.

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Categories: Field Trip 2014, Live Music


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