It would be nice to say day two of Field Trip kicked off without a hitch, but unfortunately mother-nature had other plans. Due to severe weather in the area and the threat of lightning, the festival was suspended for close to three hours to ensure the safety of fans, artists and festival workers. I was aiming for a mid-afternoon arrival hoping to catch a bit of any set prior to Charles Bradley at 4pm, but when I arrived the festival had been evacuated with no signs of re-entry. Fans were confused as the sun was shining and the dark clouds had blown past, yet we were still stuck standing at the gates. Festival organizers were active on social media helping fans understand why they weren’t being let back in. It was important to monitor and rule out any risks of severe weather before allowing patrons to re-enter Fort York, only to be forced to evacuate once again if lightning was spotted in the area. I have to say I truly believe the organizers did a fantastic job keeping everyone informed of their reasoning and they did an even better job rescheduling the day to ensure some of the acts fans came for would still play a reasonably lengthened set.
They allowed fans back into the venue around 5:30pm and had posted a revised schedule on social media and around the grounds. Charles Bradly would have finished at 5pm on the old schedule, but had now been bumped to a 6pm start, followed by DIIV, Of Montreal and Robyn on the main stage. The second stage saw a similar shift in time slots with acts being rescheduled into condensed sets Eliot Sumner followed by Ra Ra Riot, Basia Bulat and Plants and Animals.
Completely relieved I re-entered the grounds and posted up near the gate for Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires with what felt like literally hundreds of others, yes only hundreds. The grounds were sparse at best, it was clear that a lot of folks didn’t stick around near the gates for re-entry. Slowly but surely more and more people filtered in but it was still a very bare-bones audience by the time Mr. Bradley graced the stage. The weather delay had essentially created an intimate venue inside a festival ground for one of the most intimate performers of the weekend. It was a real treat to see him so close, and despite the small crowd they were active and loud for all Charles’ sexual dance moves and soulful screams booming through Fort York. Bradley, a man who could be considered a late bloomer in terms of a musical career, was living on the edge of poverty before he was discovered. Now, he graces festival lineups all over the world and warms the souls of music lovers who are blessed with the opportunity to see him perform. The Screaming Eagle of Soul (as he has been appropriately nick-named) closed out his set with his most recent single ‘Aint It A Sin, followed by his emotionally charged and powerful rendition of Black Sabbath’s Changes. He greeted fans near the front of the stage after his set, he truly is a humble man who appreciates just how lucky he is to be performing for his fans.
Following Charles Bradley (a tough thing to do according to lead singer Zachary Cole Smith) New York City band DIIV took the stage a few minutes earlier than scheduled. It was indeed a tough act to follow, but DIIV completely delivered. In one of the best sets of the weekend, the band delivered a powerful and energetic performance, despite their laid back on-stage demeanour. They played a good amount of songs from their 2016 album Is the Is Are including Dopamine, Incarnate Devil and one of the most memorable songs of the set, Under The Sun. The album is one of the best post-punk/shoegaze albums released this year. If you’re a fan of those genres you’ll definitely want to check it out. It will likely be on my “Top Albums of 2016” list depending on how much competition arises throughout the year. Lead guitar player Andrew Bailey was on fire. While the rest of the band was generally laid back, he was jumping around and spinning while shredding the guitar. He was completely in tune with the music, and seemed to go to another place while in the midst of the songs. They also played a few songs from their debut LP Oshin, (Druun Pt II), Doused and How Long Have You Known. Overall, these guys were phenomenal live. I was enjoying their music while listening in prep for the festival, but after seeing them live they completely won me over. I would highly recommend checking these guys out if you have the chance, festival or stand-alone, I’m confident they would deliver.
After a quick walk through Fort York, I made my way to the second stage where Basia Bulat was about to start. A chance to sit down and take in a wonderful artist was quite welcomed after rocking out at DIIV. She kicked off her set with Let Me In, a track from her 2016 album Good Advice. After laying down the powerful vocals of her opening song she gave a quick shout-out to Charles Bradley and what an emotionally charged performance it was, saying she was on the verge of tears. Basia had the crowd moving with her melodic indie-folk tunes. Through her set she played the songs Long Goodbye, Infamous and Fool. The crowd was dancing and singing along and Basia seemed to truly cherish being able to perform for fans. With a smile on her face many times throughout the set, despite what can be considered some emotionally charged music. She also remarked that she was so glad the sun came out so that she could play for the fans at Field Trip. It was a good change of pace from the previous show and an enjoyable way to relax before heading back to the main stage for the final show of the weekend.
For the final show of the weekend Sweden’s Robyn brought her new remix project to fans at Field Trip, ending the final show of the weekend with a seamless, uninterrupted dance party. The beat never stopped through the whole show as the songs shifted throughout. It sounded like a rave, and the lights and costumes on stage helped curate that feeling. I personally hung around near the back of the crowd where I could see some people standing around chatting, while I saw other small groups having their own interpretive dance parties. I can only imagine how crazy the front of the stage must have been where the hard-core fans had posted up for her set. The remix project features reinterpretations of a handful of Robyn’s older hits such as Hang With Me by Axel Boman, Indestructible by The Black Madonna and Who Do You Love by Wolfgang Voigt, all of which were featured during her weather-shortened headlining set.
Overall the Sunday turned out to be a success, despite its bleak beginnings with the lengthy weather delay, organizers did a great job getting the festival rescheduled so that most of the booked talent for Sunday was able to perform a reasonable set. Stories of artists like Dear Rouge, Kevin Drew and Lennon and Maisy performing songs for fans that were stranded inside the barracks or waiting outside the gates to get back in, were littered across social media throughout Sunday, a truly heart-warming thing to hear. Field Trip has grown on me immensely since attending this year and last, and it will be hard to pass up in the future. It’s a great weekend with a diverse range of talent, and a fantastic way to kick off festival season in Toronto. I look forward to the rest of festival season and to next year’s incarnation of the festival put on by Arts and Crafts.