Photographs by Neil Van.
The first day of Field Trip felt like a mixture of a day at the beach, a walk on the arcade-clad boardwalk and a scavenger hunt in the forest. As soon as you enter Fort York, there are cartoon like stands, bouncy castles, games, live painting events, free haircuts, wine tasting booths and more in this secret hideout– one extravagant enough to have come from the mind of a highly imaginative child with a mature taste in music. I have been to festivals before, but this festival truly was one in a number of senses of the word. With a fun atmosphere and a glaring sun, there werent any interferences for the bands on stage. This was their moment to win people over.
Local starlet Maylee Todd took the stage first with a very funky set. The bass was loud enough to sink a battleship and this was the case for every performer–it just worked better with some artists. In Todds case, the skull shattering bass was quite splendid. Her set was very sarcastic as well as she had backup dancers essentially mocking how backup dancers are in a traditional sense. They got laughs from the audience for their moves and silly gestures but they remained stone faced (until their backs were facing the audience. At an angle you could see them roaring with laughter). The music itself was catchy, fun and perfect for starting a day of enjoyment. Todds stage presence was one of the best of the day, and hopefully this gig will help her career take off even sooner.
The Darcys opened the main stage with an almost perfect Droog set up (Michael le Riche being the only person not dressed in all white, instead bearing a blood red shirt). Their two opening songs were beautifully chaotic and unable to control. The majority of their set was slowed down afterwards. The attack was still there but not the pacing. It was like a wild tiger stalking its prey and then lunging for the kill. With a wider discography and a larger set up, I can imagine The Darcys really putting on a stellar set in the future of the band.
A completely contrasting band came on after as Austra brought more control and relaxation to the stage– all while keeping the party that The Darcys started on that stage going. The loud bass worked mostly in favor for Austra out of all of the bands as the entire lawn turned into a retro night club. Katie Stelmanis swept across the stage in her red dress and shades while belting out very challenging falsetto notes. The lighting set up was gorgeous as well with blurs of lcd colours melting into one another and fitting the throwback aura Austra had going. Stemlanis ended the set begging us Canadians to vote to eliminate anyone in charge currently as us citizens deserve more. She finished off on a bouncy final song, leaving us with the impression that Austra us about uniting people together just to have a good time.
Half Moon Run were a band I saw at the Air Canada Center last month. I mentioned their great set but commented on how the piercing sound at the venue was a bit distracting. With their gig at Field Trip being almost exactly the same (even with the white lights turning to red at the final song), it was interesting to be able to compare both concerts. The bass was still loud but nothing was taken away. Without the piercing shrieks before, Half Moon Run really benefitted this time around and put on another frenzy filled show. So far they are two for two for me.
Shad is a new name for me and I only caught a glimpse of his set. Nonetheless, I left feeling incredibly happy. His uplifting lyrics and fun sample choices (I almost lost my sanity when I started hearing Shad rap over a TLC sample) were perfect for Field Trip, and he glided across the stage with a wide grin and the confidence of a tiger. With such a short exposure to his set, consider me intrigued to check out more from Shad!
Heading back to the main stage after watching Shad, the stage was bare, every instrument was in line at the very front of the stage (with even the drums facing the other instruments and not us). Storm sounds came out of the speakers and on came Lord Huron. Ben Schneider brought his token white hat with him as he acknowledged the crowd with a welcoming “good evening”. Lord Huron may not have carried the same energy that bands like The Darcys, The Kills and Austra had (understandable as Lord Hurons music is much more controlled in nature), but they were easily the most technically proficient band of the day. Every band member was perfectly in time and while each band member felt grounded, the music they played wasnt nearly as easy to pull off as they led you to believe. It was a set that changed the tempo of Field Trip in a good way as we got a nice, mellow and charming set (which many still danced ecstatically to).
This was followed by The Kills who are like a bomb going off in comparison. The stage was leopard skin clad and full of drums. If Austra used the insanely loud bass to their advantage the most, The Kills were a close second with their pummeling war drums signaling a droning storm. James Hince’s guitar was so loud and filthy that it was gorgeous for any noise lover like yours truly. His guitar tones definitely translate well live. So does Alison Mossharts energy, as she would seem furious during songs but would remind us she’s actually having a great time with a nice “thank you” after every song (on that note its worth noting that every artist was clearly glad to be there which doesnt always happen). Hince asked the audience about the hula hoop area in the games section of Field Trip, wondering if it was a typically Canadian activity. With the humor and light hearted nature between songs, it made for a nice comedown when we were barraged by guitar static and hammered drumming; Both of which were maddeningly splendid.
Interpol closed the first (and successful) day off with an incredible light set up and a great setlist in full throttle. With new songs off of the upcoming album El Pintor being well received by the dancing fans, their older songs were immediately replied with loud roars of cheers. Guitarist Daniel Kessler moved around the stage like a spy dodging lasers. Singer Paul Banks was all smiles between songs as he introduced every band member and many of the songs played. It was a great ending to a day where the bass and crowd combined could have broken the highway hanging above Fort York.
Thanks to Arts & Crafts and Live Nation Ontario for media access.