Concert Reviews

Bestival Toronto Day 2: Nas, Caribou, Banks, Owen Pallett

Photographs by Sarah Rix.

What a difference a day makes as the sun came out for Day 2 of Bestival on Toronto Island.

Following the washout that was the first couple of hours on the first day, the festival site really managed to live to its full potential as it basked in the sun.  

While the entire event was dampened by the rain Friday, it was the mainstage area that suffered the most.  The field was mostly mud and until Florence, most people stayed away.  By Saturday afternoon the field dried out enough to enjoy the many acts over the course of the day that made it easy to forget there were other stages.

The Cuban Brothers were finishing their set by the time I cleared another thorough security check.  Other than a noticeably lewd one-sided conversation with a security guard, they were the background to the site finally in full bloom with a nicely mixed crowd.

I didn’t make it to the Big Top tent at all, preferring to let the mainstage shine, although dancing to DJ sets from Cassy and Dan Snaith’s Daphni at the ornate Bollywood stage were chances to shake out any remaining cobwebs.

Born Ruffians are a band whose name I know but have never checked out.  They drew a respectable crowd to the mainstage area with appropriately sunny indie-pop.

Shamir appeared to a virtually empty field but pulled in the curious as the momentum of his set grew.  Promoting his fine new release, Ratchet, Shamir seemed shy and awkward at first but his confidence grew as his impressive backing band laid out an irresistible groove.

Owen Pallett drew a large crowd that lapped up his surprisingly poppy set.  I haven’t seen him since he was promoting his debut, but was most impressed by his evolution as a performer.

Banks is another name I know but I haven’t checked out.  Her large and rabid following was ready for it.  Her slick, almost futuristic R&B recalled Aaliyah for me and her hour long set was one of the nice surprises of the weekend.

Dan Snaith would return with his Caribou outfit delivering one of the most impressive sets of the weekend, even inspiring a crowd surfer, the only one I saw all weekend.  The four-piece were huddled together on the vast stage, but delivered massive sound as the sun set for the evening, closing out with an epic “Can’t Do Without You” that was more shock and awe.

Unfortunately, after Friday’s exodus from the island, I opted to attempt to flee the island early as Nas came on. Heavy beats and smooth hip-hop lyrics followed by fireworks is always a great way to end off a festival. I’ll see him again in Montreal this summer and vow to following the sound of the crowd and the earth-shattering bass that soundtracked the ferry’s journey back to the mainland.  Maybe with these island festivals, a mid-tier “comedown” band to close the night would stagger the masses trying to get home and still allow the headliners perform to the full crowd that they are entitled to.

And with that the inaugural Bestival Toronto came to a close.  While not perfect, this was a beautiful festival that guaranteed a good time once through security.  Probably the most unpretentious and enjoyable Toronto festival crowd I’ve been part of it can only get better with experience. 

About author

Concert reviewer at Live in Limbo.