Monday, September 09, 2013

Riot Fest @ Fort York Garrison Common, Toronto (August 25, 2013)

Ushering in the dog days of summer a few weeks back was the two-day long weekend travelling music festival Riot Fest which took over the grounds of Fort York Garrison Common. Day One was strictly for the younger generation (eg. A Day to Remember, Pierce the Veil, Every Time I Die, Mayday Parade, Grade, The Ghost Inside & Structures) which I passed on and so I chose to take in Day Two only which while including newer acts like Best Coast mostly featured bands of an older ilk including Dinosaur Jr., Rocket From The Crypt, The Weakerthans, Iggy and The Stooges and of course the much anticipated reunion of The Replacements, Toronto which had the honour of hosting the first live reunion of Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson (plus backing band of Josh Freese and David Minehan) after 22 years. Other than Best Coast, I'd not seen any of the other acts live. I'd caught a J Mascis solo set at the James Street Supercrawl in Hamilton a few Septembers ago, a Lou Barlow in-store a few years back and a John Samson solo set at Lee's Palace back in 2009 but save for that, Riot Fest was my first time seeing their respective bands as well as my first time seeing Rocket From The Crypt, Iggy and The Stooges and The Replacements.

  Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast: photo by Michael Ligon

I kind of remember Best Coast as a one trick pony, playing the same garagey, surf-pop number over and over, but that wasn't true at all during their set. They're more varied sonically than that and although their are particularly innovative, they managed to charm me by the end of their set. Bethany mentioned how it was an honour to play the festival and that she was the only girl amongst the bands in the lineup, which drew applause from the crowd.

  J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr.: photo by Michael Ligon

Dinosaur Jr.' set, while great, felt low-key surprisingly even during J's most shredded guitar solos but it was great to hear "The Wagon" and "Just Live Heaven". Lou Barlow seemed much more animated on bass than I would have imagined.

  The Venue: photo by Michael Ligon

Ah yes, Fort York Garrison Common. You became almost a second home to me this summer, having been there already twice before for other festivals [TURF, The Grove Music Festival].

  Rocket From The Crypt: photo by Michael Ligon

San Diego's horn-embellished punks Rocket From The Crypt were a name that floated around during my indie rock 90's days who I never really explored in depth back then. They were very much an enigma then and still are today with their punk-driven brand of rock n' roll with more than a dash of horns, like a collision of rockabilly and punk but without the awful aftertaste. I remember the sun coming out during the set (after it had been mostly grey prior to this) and the dust storm being kicked up near the front of the stage by what I presume were concert-goers really getting into the music. With the band wearing matching black and white, rockabilly shirts they were perhaps the best-dressed band of the day.

  John Samson of The Weakerthans: photo by Michael Ligon

In his off-time, it appears that Weakerthans vocalist John Samson has mountain-men'd himself up with his beard and outgrown locks. Mellowest set of the day for sure, and perhaps the odd-band-out, their lyrical pop-rock in contrast with the punkier roots of all the other acts on the bill. Fox Jaws' Carleigh Aikins was a special guest on one song to sing duet with Samson.

  Iggy and The Stooges: photo by Michael Ligon

Still sounding dangerous after all these years, Iggy and The Stooges (which included The Minutemen's Mike Watt on bass, plus original members guitarist James Williamson and drummer Scott Asheton) played pretty much what amounted to a greatest hits set playing classics like "Raw Power", "Fun House", "Search and Destroy", and my personal favourite "I Wanna be Your Dog" as well as plugging the most recent Iggy and The Stooges album Ready To Die (released earlier this year}, and then throwing in a great performance of a solo Iggy tune ("The Passenger") for good measure. Though well-meaning I think it was an error in judgement bringing up audience members on to the stage for a dancy party during the more askewed punk-jazz of "Fun House" but other than that this was a terrific set.

  The Replacements: photo by Michael Ligon

Having been in highschool back in the mid to late 80's I was too busy listening to the British acts like The Smiths, The Cure, and New Order perhaps too immature to have cared much about or appreciate an American band like The Replacements. It probably wasn't until the early 90's when Muchmusic and their alternative music video show The Wedge seemed to feature The Replacements' music videos for "Left Of The Dial" and "Bastards of Young" (both videos similarly filmed with a fixed shot of a speaker) as staples of the program. Sign of the times back then I guess that music videos got me to take notice of an artist. I'd still count myself as a sporadic listener of them even after that but, colour me impressed [how pun-ny of me], after witnessing their reunion set at Fort York Garrison Common a few weeks ago. Covering all aspects of their career from their early punk days to their later major label releases, it was a fantastic setlist all around. That the band had limited their reunion (at least for now) to only three cities (Toronto, Denver, Chicago) on the travelling Riot Fest roadshow is a shame for everyone else but wow, what an honour and an experience it was to see them.

Photos: Riot Fest @ Fort York Garrison Common, Toronto (August 25, 2013)

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