Concert Reviews

The Prodigy, Weezer, Wu-Tang Clan, Rancid, Tyler the Creator at Riot Fest Toronto Day 2

Photographs by Sarah Rix.

Day two of Riot Fest Toronto was much sunnier, but all of its attendees still had filthy shoes. This was a crowd that cared little about presentation and more about getting back to our roots, and so we did the entire day. Once again, Riot Fest was a success as a whole with only one complaint of which will be reflected upon later.

But first, it’s time to party with Andrew W.K., who was out and about with the festival birds  (1:30, which is early enough). The crowd was still recovering from the day before, and W.K. had to cater to a tired and small crowd. He didn’t care, as he seemed to have the time of his life. He flailed around like an inflatable tube man, despite having the structure of a skyscraper. He banged on his keyboard perfectly, even though he was wobbling his head around and couldn’t see what he was doing. He was there to have fun, and it’s a shame there weren’t more people there to rock out with him. He pointed at us and gave us the thumbs up, and we knew we were a lucky private party.

Babes in Toyland, too, were one of the better bands to perform this day and they were still early enough to not get the crowd they so deserved. There was a plethora of problems: The wind carried the sound and the band couldn’t hear themselves, microphone stands kept tilting and dropping their mics and the guitar feedback was sharp and fierce. This is a professional band, though, and instead of being discouraged, they utilized these issues to be even more punk than they already are. This wasn’t an act of nostalgia for me as I only knew of them in passing, but Babes in Toyland are back and as killer as ever. The vocals were frightening and the tribal drums were booming. The guitars were rusty like an old table saw. It was beautiful aggression, and Babes in Toyland still have what it takes.

Tyler, the Creator would not the same thing about the crowd, though. He gave it his all during his set but still felt quite underwhelmed by the Toronto crowd. He asked why people crowdsurfed in between songs when no music played, why we weren’t feeling it and if we would even bother following his instructions or clappingin time. He still cracked jokes, claiming hes terrified to be a father of a young girl one day in response to a crowd member’s sexual nature. He still wobbled around on stage and barked into his microphone like he couldn’t give less of a damn. He was still damn fun live, and I can’t imagine what it’s like when he’s feeling it (considering this was apparently an off day for him). He apologized on twitter later, but we will accept it in person when he has promised to be here next.

Rancid had no trouble getting the crowd going (by their standards anyways), as the veteran punk rock band performed their staple …and Out Come the Wolves in full. Unlike Weezer, Rancid talked in between songs to build up what each song on this album meant for them, rather than trying to tackle the album as virtually a spot on live rendition. Singer Tim Armstrong talked about his hometown, discussed which tracks were his favorite and more. Nearing 50, Armstrong was chuffed that so many people came to celebrate Rancid’s top album twenty years after its conception. They played with youthfulness and joy, and it was all but awful. This set was probably the best encapsulation of what Riot Fest is all about this weekend. It was punk rock unity throughout.

We had the hip hop crowd flocking over to the rock stage for a different celebration. Wu-Tang Clan were there with most of their members (including Rza, Ghostface Killah, Gza and more). They played a whole slew of all things Wu, including a ton of throwbacks and tributes. A touching moment was when Rza (who worked as the MC here much like he would on most Wu-Tang releases) dedicated a song to the late Old Dirty Bastard, as ODB’s son actually took to the stage and spat some lines. It was a hip hop celebration like any Wu-Tang Clan show would be, and it even got extended longer than Rza intended  (their set awkwardly ended but then started up again, and who cared if it meant more of hip hop royalty). It never hurts to witness some of the greatest rappers of all time all at once.

It does hurt when Weezer was placed during Wu-Tang’s set. I managed to see all of Pinkerton being performed the day before, but it meant missing all of heavy metal badasses Motorhead’s set. This means I didn’t get a chance to see all of Weezer’s performance of their self titled “blue” album. I got a few songs in. Why would whole album presentations be placed during other headlining acts’ performances? You either break the album, or you just miss another worthy act entirely. For future reference, please don’t put album play throughs entirely during another major set. Oh well. My Name is Jonas and Buddy Holly were great live.

Uninterrupted, rave madmen The Prodigy closed the night off with some seizure enducing greatness. They went right into things with their hit Breathe, as they aren’t performers to mess around. Their album material, mostly sample based and instrumental, was very different live with Keith Flint and Maxim viciously snapping yelps at us. The Prodigy are a complete package, where their live show is a different beast in relation to their albums (which serve mostly as Liam Howlett’s outsourcing of anguish). There is even more madness (somehow), more vocalization and opportunities to join in the insanity instead of just rocking out. Last year’s Riot Fest ended with a soft bravo when City and Colour serenaded us into the night. This year, Riot Fest ended with, well, a riot. It was savage and perfect.

About author

Former Film Editor & Music Writer at Live in Limbo. Co-host of the Capsule Podcast. A Greek/South African film enthusiast. He has recently earned a BFA honours degree in Cinema Studies at York University. He is also heavily into music, as he can play a number of instruments and was even in a few bands. He writes about both films and music constantly. You should follow him on Twitter @Andreasbabs.