Photographs by Sean Chin.
Last year, the rain and wind turned Time Festival into an event associated with ponchos and chills. We persevered through the weather woes. This year, there wasn’t an inkling that it would rain at all, as the sun beat down on us. We hunted for shade, and once we found our areas of comfort, most of us stayed perched and enjoyed the festival from where we were. Some people fought the heat and stayed in front of the stage. Some of us hid in the shade at the VIP section or at the very back. Wherever we were, we had a great time festival that mirrored last year’s event while being a definite step up.
Australia’s dream-j Alison Wonderland was one of two EDM acts placed in the middle of the day, whereas last year this genre essentially dominated the entire day. No matter, as the young and aspiring artist tried to take her set to the next level anyways. Her mix of synthpop and rave dropping seemed to work well live, despite an initial effort to try and get Toronto moving with some coaxing. She placed a light on music she loves (TNGHT and Fatboy Slim as examples) while churning her own material. Her nostalgia, along with her joy instilled within her own music, got her set rolling faster still, and she got the evening started early.
Ryan Hemsworth isn’t nearly as new to the game as Wonderland is, so he may have had less to prove when he followed up right afterwards. He did put on a similar set nonetheless: He had low key moments (aethereal not dreamy), nostalgia (videogame music more than Praise You) and the bombastic EDM swirling (just as full of drops and beeps). It was a flowing set that had songs creeping into one another, even when Hemsworth stopped to have some quick words to say. As the two biggest EDM names at a festival that was stuffed with this style last year, both Wonderland and Hemsworth did their genre proud.
Freddie Gibbs ended up being the hip hop act of Time this year, and he was chosen wisely. Gibbs had a variety of material to pick from, and we got it all. We had straight up rap to go nuts to and the chillingly produced work he did with Madlib to take us a few steps backwards in awe. Gibbs even rapped, rapidly, sans music to prove that he is more than a name. There was a bit of repetition, though. Musically, gun shot and siren sounds were being spammed like someone button mashing a fighting game they don’t know how to play. Gibbs also asked who there smoked pot an abundance of times all while saying “Fuck police” again and again (I doubt this had anything to do with the newly released NWA movie). Freshly bruised dead horses aside, Gibbs was a great performer with tons of talent and finesse.
Toronto’s born and raised jazz trio Badbadnotgood are always a treat to see live, and this stop of theirs was no different. They still ended up being the most talented musicians at the festival they partook in, and it’s nice to see their names get pushed higher on the billing each time they are due to slay a show. You got what you’ve come to expect from a show of theirs: jazz whirlwinds, friends that come out to jam and a jar crammed with their usual covers (Flying Lotus, Tyler, the Creator, Gucci Mane, etc.). Even though their sets are pretty easy to predict now, there aren’t any complaints here. Badbadnotgood were a blast as always, and they continue to be a band I am pleased to remind others is from Toronto and are barely legal drinking age.
Now, let’s talk about disapppontments. Ariel Pink has stopped past Toronto before, and I’ve even caught a show of his. When he performed at The Phoenix, it was a weird set but a very electric one, too. I’m used to Pink’s antics, so I felt prepared before I caught his set. I was not ready for what came, despite the many controversial instances of Pink refusing to sing or his usual difficulty to work with. Because Pink was frustrated with his microphone’s many issues (shortages, not being loud enough), most of his set was dedicated to him yelling at the guy at the soundboard. Pink even forced him to yell into the mic as he shoved it in his face. We were blessed with great songs like Black Ballerina without any effort to sing, as the band kept playing while Pink quit twice. Even when Pink came back was the show still overly sloppy and with all the effort from the band to fix things (zero from Pink himself). Finally, Pink stormed off for good, and even the band weren’t prepared for that. Last year, I slammed Action Bronson’s bizarrely slacked performance at Time, but he was a shining beacon of effort in comparison to Ariel Pink’s tantrums and lack of professionalism. Come on, Pink. You’re better than this.
Rounding off the night early were two acts that probably seemed dodgy especially after that fiasco. Not to worry, as both Canadian Mac DeMarco and South African Die Antwoord are both silly caricatures but are no laughing matter on stage. DeMarco played new material and had the humorous audacity to call Salad Days work “old” (reminder that Salad Days came out last year). He eased tensions of the crowd with his lazy rock swirls. It’s my third time seeing DeMarco, and he has tossed out new banter every single time (he focused on twelve strings and having hippy newcomers in his band this time). DeMarco was as fun as always.
Rounding the night off, Die Antwoord did what Badbadnotgood did. They performed as expected by anyone who is a big fan of theirs. Just like the way I said it before, this is far from a bad thing. Die Antwoord are top billers because they always deliver. Most of the crowd came for Die Antwoord alone, and they payed the festival ticket to catch them. Hopefully they discovered some great new acts along the way before the big firework to cap the day. Just like Grimes last year, there’s something sinister about Die Antwoord’s antics and music when it is placed in the dark and amidst the trees of Fort York. It was a surreal way that ended a (mostly) successful day, and while they didn’t have to pull Time back up quite like Grimes had to last year, they made the wait worth it with their zef style and filthy raving ways. There’s a reason why they have a cult following. I became a fan once I saw them live the first time, and I’m sure this night wasn’t any different for those who came for other artists and stayed until the end.
Yes, Time Festival this year was stronger and much more put together than last year’s. The line up selection was superb, and most of the acts did a sterling job. We were graced with so many styles this year, and even with a large hiccup towards the end (it’s starting to get hard to defend Ariel Pink), the day was a large success.
Thanks to Embrace Presents & LCPR for media access.