Field Trip 2016 got off to a beautiful start on Saturday, the weather was perfect, hot and sunny with a nice cool breeze to keep the air from stagnating. It was Arts and Crafts’ third incarnation of the two day festival held in early June each year and its fourth festival put on with the title of “Field Trip” (the first one being a single day festival).
My day started off by hearing the end of Tor Miller’s set as I approached Fort York. I caught his hit single Carter & Cash echoing under the Gardiner as I approached the stairs down to the park. By the time I had picked up my wristband and made my way in, his set was over unfortunately. I found a nice spot in the grass and basked in the hot sun while I waited for Meg Mac to take the stage.
This was Australia native Meg Mac’s first performance in Canada and her band’s first ever trip to Canada. She has a powerful voice which is going to take her places presumably all over the world. The music itself is a blend of pop and neo-soul. Mostly mellow music, Meg was a perfect fit for a mid-afternoon set. During her set she played two of her hit singles, one of which is a CBC Radio 2 mainstay, Roll Up Your Sleeves. She ended the set with her other hit single which charted pretty successfully in her native Australia, titled Never Be. The song was an up-tempo and melodic piece of music, a perfect choice to close out the set, likely leaving the catchy chorus stuck in music fan’s heads the rest of the day.
Next up in the day (after a quick wander through the grounds to the second stage) was brother/sister duo Brave Shores. The local band brought their summery indie-pop tunes to fans at Field Trip to help kick off the festival season. A great band for any outdoor festival, their catchy guitar licks, memorable lyrics and soaring synth are the perfect soundtrack to dancing under the mid-day sun. Prime examples of this sound were on display in the form of the songs Dancing Underwater, More Like You and World Beneath The Sea. I was able to catch about four songs from the duo before heading back to the main stage for Australian band Boy & Bear.
The indie folk-rock group from down-under took the stage in the late afternoon under the hot sun. This was my first time seeing the band, while only being familiar with a couple singles I’d heard over the years, I walked away from the set thoroughly impressed. Their catchy melodies, harmonized vocals and water tight performance on stage were enough to win a new fan. It was arguably one of the better sets of the weekend in my opinion and certainly one of the best on Saturday. Fellow Aussie Meg Mac was seen backstage looking on as her countrymen performed a mix of songs from all three of their albums. Songs like Old Town Blues, Part Time Believer, Just Dumb, and Limit of Love were featured throughout the set, while more familiar songs from the group Southern Sun and Walk the Wire helped close out their hour long performance on the main stage. One of the best parts of a music festival is checking out a band that you knew a song or two by going in, then walking away impressed by every song they pulled out of their arsenal. Boy & Bear were that band this weekend.
Following Boy & Bear, pop sensation Santigold took the stage. Hailing from Philadelphia and using an addictive blend of reggae, soul, indie, and punk sounds to create a very unique musical styling, Santigold had the whole crowd moving in the early evening. I foolishly made an attempt to try and get near the stage but failed my endeavour somewhere in line with the sound tent. Apparently a lot of folks were there for her and it was quite clear as I made a passive attempt at trying to get a better view. Featuring back-up dancers and some costume changes throughout, the visual entertainment was on point with the music. There was even one point where some of the crowd were let on stage for a dance party during the performance. A lot of the visuals on stage were promoting her new album and singles from that album. Most of Santigold’s songs are quite memorable, certainly a testament to her unique style. I realized during the set that I had heard a lot more of the older material than I first imagined. New songs were catchy and memorable, and it wasn’t hard to figure out what they were when looking them up later on. Some songs that Santigold played during the set were Disparate Youth, Banshee, Can’t Get Enough Of Myself, L.E.S. Artistes, Say Aha. A great fit for Field Trip, the music is easily accessible and fans of all genres of music could easily enjoy the set.
Following Santigold on the main stage was local band July Talk. A band that has really blown up this past year, now on the verge of releasing new material much to their fan’s delight. They blew the metaphorical roof of the place with the first song, their new single Push and Pull. The crowd went crazy as the opening notes of the song were played, it was really obvious that a lot of people were there for July Talk from the get-go. The set was absolutely loaded with energy and sexual on-stage theatrics between Peter and Leah. Their sound is certainly a unique one, but it was nailed spot on during their performance, hardly wavering from any of their recorded material, which is always impressive to see on stage. Throughout the set the crowd’s energy was right there with the band on stage, they were in sync and completely involved in the music throughout. There were a lot of familiar songs throughout their set such as Guns and Ammunition, Summer Dress, Paper Girl and a handful of others from their debut album. If you’re a fan of July Talk and have yet to see them perform live, do yourself a favour and make it happen. Even if you’re not a huge fan of their music, their live show is impressive and would impress any fan of live music.
To end the first day of Field Trip, Brooklyn band The National closed the night out as the headliner for Saturday. Introduced by Kevin Drew, he told us about how he wrote personally to The National asking them to headline the festival. Within a day they had responded to his letter and two days later they were signed on as a headliner. He then handed over the stage to the band who were greeted with a warm welcome from Toronto music fans. They kicked their set off with Don’t Swallow The Cap, the lead single off their most recent album Trouble Will Find Me. They followed up with I Should Live In Salt, Sea of Love and Bloodbuzz Ohio. As a huge fan of The National, I was already ecstatic with the songs I’d heard being only four songs into the set. After a few songs from their three most recent albums, they brought out Hayden to help sing I Need My Girl. Hayden took a turn singing a whole verse of the song, likely a much needed rest for lead singer Matt Berninger. It was quite clear that Matt had come down with a cold. He was sporting a box of Kleenex on stage, and raspier vocals than fans are used to. It wasn’t a detriment to the show whatsoever but it was clear he wasn’t totally healthy. It was a huge gain of respect in my books, to see him grace the stage and perform admirably despite not being one hundred percent. During their set they played two new songs, one titled Sometimes I Don’t Think and the other Day I Die. Both songs sounded fantastic, and while sounded like The National, seemed to be dipping into the Radiohead honey-jar just a tad (certainly not a bad thing in my books). A fantastic performance from the whole band that spanned from unreleased tracks, all the way back to their third album 2005’s Alligator, they closed the set out with fan favourites Fake Empire, Mr. November, Terrible Love and Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks. For Vanderlyle, Matt stepped back as he usually does and turned away the mic, simply guiding the sing-along from stage. It’s always such a beautiful experience to end their shows and I see no reason to ever change it. I cherish the experience of singing along to that song with thousands of fans. The band didn’t break for an encore just played through the whole set in one shot and left the stage, which is better in my opinion when you’re playing a slightly condensed festival set, why waste time standing back stage when fans want music? It was great to see them once again, and especially great to see them headline a small local festival like Field Trip. If it was possible for me to respect them even more, than I sure would after this, but the fact is they won my respect years ago. Hopefully they won over some new fans in Toronto with this performance.
Overall day one of the festival was a massive success, I had a great time all day long with the varying genres of music, and left Fort York craving more music the next day (and maybe a throat lozenge from screaming out The National lyrics for the better part of an hour and a half).