Photographs by Katrina Lat.
The final day of TURF and the summer festival season in Toronto got underway last Sunday afternoon at Fort York. It was a hot and humid day that truly felt like the “last day” of summer. It had been a fantastic weekend of music, short waits for food and nearly never a wait for the washroom. The attendance was certainly lower than last year, which was likely geared to the lineup, and seemed to be the plan all along. It certainly isn’t meant to take away from the pool of talent that filled the lineup, but last year’s festival had bigger names and a deeper roster throughout the afternoons. Last year felt a bit crowded at times, but this year felt just right. Still a good turnout, but small enough that you always had a good spot. There were nearly no patrons shoving their way through the crowd, as there was always comfortable sized spaces to move through. Overall the experience this year was a lot more enjoyable due to logistics and attendance, and it’s made me fall in love with TURF even more. It will be hard to pass up next year before we send summer off and embrace the transition to autumn.
I kicked off the last day by checking out one of the best bands this country has produced with some of our most talented individual musicians, The New Pornographers. Unfortunately (as is quite common) Neko Case was not on stage with the band. She rarely tours with them, but is always involved in recording and writing the music. They started off the set with the title track of their 2014 album Brill Bruisers, and followed up with Moves and Use It. I’d already seen The New Pornographers this year at the CBC Music Festival back in May and feel very lucky to have seen them twice in one summer. Their music is great, and a festival set is unable to truly do it all justice. There are so many hidden gems throughout their catalogue, and obviously most of those gems that lean on Neko’s voice are going to be left off any show she isn’t a part of. A lot of the afternoon’s set featured some of the finer songs from Brill Bruisers, amongst some of the best songs in their catalogue. They mixed in Laws Have Changed, Sing Me Spanish Techno, Slow Descent Into Alcoholism, Mass Romantic and then wrapped up the show with The Bleeding Heart Show.
Next on the schedule were American indie-rockers The Hold Steady performing their critically acclaimed 2006 album Boys And Girls In America. They played the album front to back before mixing in some other tunes from their catalogue; Girls Like Status, Constructive Summer, The Swish, Your Little Hoodrat Friend, and wrapped things up with Stay Positive. The band was great live, seeing them for my first time I was very impressed. Their songs often tell stories, and easily create imagery as you listen to Craig Finn powerfully belt out the lyrics. They included a story prior to Chillout Tent (a song about a girl met in the medical tent at a music festival), saying that while talking about drugs with the head paramedic at a rock festival in the U.S, the paramedic told them “Don’t take the new synthetic drugs, take the old stuff, anything that was around in the 70’s is safe” and that the new stuff can make you sick or kill you. It goes without saying that safety is the number one concern at any music festival. Safe zones are a huge necessity and there should always be a policy in place that allows patrons to be honest without worrying about criminal repercussions.
Matthew Good took to the East stage next on the day, and he started things off with one of his most well-known songs, Load Me Up. He mixed in the song Carmelina before a reprise to Load Me Up. Matt followed up with another one of his most recognizable songs, Hello Time Bomb. The sun was bright and low at this point, and Matt told us that he had just lost his prescription sunglasses to the wrath of his daughter’s foot and was forced to battle with the beaming rays. He split the set evenly with solo material, and songs from his time with Matthew Good Band. Matt wrapped the set up with Apparitions, Weapon and lastly Giant.
As the skies began to glow and daylight faded, Jimmy Eat World was starting their set on the West stage. A weekend full of throwbacks continued as the band delivered some of their mainstream hits, and some lesser known songs for the hard-core fans. The emo-punk rockers from Arizona brought a lot of energy to their set. The music was tight and while not being the biggest fan of that style of music, I have to admit that they were nailing it. Throughout the set I could see a large number of fans, jumping and singing along to every song. It was only during the last two songs of the night that the entire crowd got rowdy and sang along, when the band wrapped up their appearance with Sweetness and The Middle. Easily their most recognizable songs to casual fans. The band has a new album coming out October 21st titled Integrity Blues, and throughout the set they featured a few songs from that upcoming album. If you’re a fan of the band keep an eye on their tour schedule as they should be coming around on tour during the winter. If you’re a fan and have yet to see them live, you won’t be disappointed by their performance on stage.
The last act of the weekend was Ben Gibbard and his band Death Cab For Cutie. The set ended up being one of my favourites of the weekend. I wasn’t a huge fan going in, but I was familiar with a lot of their music and enjoyed most of what I heard. I ended up leaving thoroughly impressed with how tight the band was. The songs are fairly recognizable and easy to enjoy for the most part, but they took on a new life on stage. The music sounded a lot more rich, elaborate and intricate live than I had ever really noticed in recorded versions. Basically, the songs are much better live. It’s cliché to say “it’s hard to get unless you’ve seen them live”, it’s the go to defense when someone doesn’t really “get” a band. This is a time I have to use it, because I never was a real “fan” going in despite enjoying a lot of their music. If you’re someone that falls into the “I think they’re alright” or “I like some of their stuff” categories regarding Death Cab, then you’d probably be easily swayed after seeing them.
They kicked things off with I Will Possess Your Heart and The New Year. One of the most beautiful moments of the evening was I Will Follow You Into The Dark. Ben stood with the spotlight shining as the crowd gently sang along to the emotional lyrics. Some of the newer songs like Black Sun and The Ghosts Of Beverly Drive sounded more full and raw live, giving them a push from good to great. They featured songs from throughout their career such as Soul Meets Body, El Dorado and You Are A Tourist. They returned to the stage for an encore and performed Marching Bands of Manhattan and Transatlanticism to finish their performance.
TURF 2016 was a great success in my opinion. The stage setups were balanced between VIP and GA nicely, and far enough that there was no sound bleed from other stages. The crowds were small enough and spread out so that it never felt overcrowded. This was my second year straight attending TURF and one of my favourite things about the past two years has been being able to enjoy the talented artists as the summer season winds down. I’ll be looking forward to doing it all again next year as a way to put the cherry on top of what I hope will be yet another great summer of music festivals in, and around Toronto.