So, it’s the last day of the festival and through the blistering heat and muggy rain, the most musically dedicated have made it. Whether it’s the impressive line-up involving The New Pornographers, Jimmy Eat World, Matthew Good, and Death Cab for Cutie – or if it’s the thrill of the vibe that this festival presents, but just about everyone has made it. Now let’s get into the last great Sunday before the Winter takes us.
On a beating hot day, Marlon Williams’ cool, eerie blue were a relief when the second tier of people came pouring in. His tunes were very New Zealand-based, singing about a river with a very nostalgic wistfulness. Accompanied by a cello and banjo (which brought unorthodox sounds than what you would usually expect from a banjo or cello), his soft country rock really goes against the grind of generic blue grass and rock music.
He came to the Danforth music festival about two and a half months ago where he saw a raccoon for the first time. “It was very exciting. We saw him in the back alley digging through the rubbish bin. He stuck his little paw in,” Williams gestured the rodent’s actions around the guitar hanging off his neck, “and he had a feed…” He also played a few tunes that were initially written in Ontario. And just like that, they switched out to electric guitars and a harder rock which brought an awesome end to the performance.
Another country rock band joins in the afternoon crowd with Sun K performing lively tunes like “Cowboys + Drugs”, which was so catchy that even people who were hearing these guys for the first time were nodding and stepping to the beat. They had the look of a modern country band: still wearing the telltale country hats and dressed-down Western look, but with a sharpness that only someone who spent a considerable amount of time in the city could pull off.
The first big Canadian band of the day, hailing from the largely experimental Vancouver and getting a lengthy introduction from the two main organizers of the event: it’s The New Pornographers in all their heavy roots sound. They had the spirit of a band that has done this a million times before, but it never gets old for them. Probably because they have done this about a million times before, having formed in 1999. With the Lollapalooza-like crowd that stood before them en masse, it’s no stretch to say that they’ve always been a fan favourite with these indie fests. Their upbeat music that balances the roots of Canadian sound with a few new things their sound tries here and there, The New Pornographers have developed a sound that literally spans decades.
“Did it just go up ten degrees?” asked lead singer A.C. Newman, “That’s bullshit! Who loves the sun? Not me!” They were the only thing going on between 3:00 and 4:00. Even if there was another band rocking out at this point, they would have been brutally overshadowed.
Corb Lund and his band had the generic country sound and he looked very Albertan with his hawk feather in the hat, which comes as no surprise since he came from Edmonton. Lund was another sound of country here, taking the Battle of York Stage with hits like “Run This Town” and “I Wanna Be In The Cavalry”. In this weather, like every other band, it didn’t take long for the jackets to come off.
For a band called “The Hold Steady”, they’re pretty rampant with their rock style, using absurdly funny stories as something to base their music on. There are a lot of moments when the lead singer would let go of his guitar and start gesturing wildly, at one point about “a boy, a girl, and a horse”.
Though I was never particularly a fan of Jimmy Eat World (due to a lack of listening and nothing else, I swear!), I can see why so many others consider this band to be a great indie act. Taking in every inch of that late 2000’s angst and an impressive lighting set to take off from, Jimmy Eat World was a much-anticipated act that delivered. The production level was where it needed to be: dark purple beams dancing across a light golden background and white smoke curling therein – a modern sense of regality with a band that represents anything but.
The Rebellion stage was finally brought to life by country star Julia Jacklin, who brought another nice UK voice to the end of this festival. The two bass players looked familiar because they were just playing for Marlon Williams around one o’clock at the West Stage. “This is my first time in Toronto… nice tower you have… we have a few like it in the UK, but it doesn’t have the – what do you call it? A steeple? A point…? Well, that spike. It doesn’t have that spike.” There were a few awkward laughs here and there. Her next calmly somber song began playing to a lounging audience.
By the time Matthew Good hit the stage, brother, don’t even ask me what the other stages had. As a fan of both Matthew Good and Death Cab for Cutie, I wasn’t going to be pried away from the East Stage anytime soon. I wasn’t the only one: there were crowds of people bumming about in front of the stage a good half hour before the bands were even scheduled to play. Not to sound cliché, but the Good performance was everything I could have hoped for: all the hits that we’re used to, plus the quick wit between songs – he really knew how to win a crowd. “I’m looking out over all of these food trucks here,” he said while adjusting a few things, “And all I can think of is that Bob’s Burgers episode. You know the one I’m talking about.” That got him a big laugh. Then everyone went wild when he started up “Alert Status Red”.
Then came the performance that everyone was waiting for: Death Cab for Cutie. It was a phenomenal way to end the night, presumably for both fans and regular festival-goers alike. No other band had such an explosive presence on stage, opening up with the much-loved “I Will Possess Your Heart”. All too soon, they bid us goodnight, but no one moved. The audience kept cheering “encore, encore, encore!” In the dark of the stage, you could see the members returning to their places. Lead singer Ben Gibbard took to the mic: “Alright Toronto, we can play a few more!” Huge roar across the audience as the lights flared up again and the band belted out a few more tunes.
It was a great end to a great day to a great festival, and the drunks walking off the festival grounds were nothing if not thoroughly satisfied with TURF. With the tradition of roots music kept on in such an awesome way, we have the organizers, the City of Toronto councillors for allowing this historic site to be used as a public space, and of course, the bands to thank.