Sunday, 10 July 2011

Edgefest 2011 - Recap

Festival started at 12 and I entered at 3, whoops! I'll point out in advance that it was a last-minute decision to attend and I only had my Blackberry for a camera. I was disappointed to miss The Reason but unfortunately a mixture of traffic and a late-Friday caused me to get to the park fairly late, here we go!

Arkells (3:10) - I've seen these guys a whole bunch of times already and know what to expect, but each time I have been happy with the result and this was not an exception. Perhaps the only exception here was that they opted to not open with a track from their debut record Jackson Square, but rather the new single (Whistleblower) from their upcoming release. Fun, upbeat set that was a solid start to my day, featuring all of the hits that we've known to love such as Oh, The Boss is Coming!, John Lennon, and Pullin' Punches, as well as a few surprises including the debut of a new track and some guest appearances from various other friends at the festival (members of Dinosaur Bones, The Reason, and Tokyo Police Club). Frontman Max Kerman pointed out that the band has moved up the Edgefest food chain hour-by-hour in the last three installments of the festival; assuming the new album is as good as it's starting out to be I wouldn't object to a higher billing next summer.

EDIT: The song they debuted is called "Kiss Cam".

Gentlemen Husbands (4:00) - Recently had the opportunity to check out the tail-end of their set while at NXNE and was impressed with what I heard, so immediately when I saw the Edgefest schedule I penciled them in. Unfortunately, I also went to grab a beverage (two actually) beforehand and caught about 75% of their set as a result but was happy with what I got. Sticking with the Arkells opening to my day, they were upbeat and took advantage of their fairly short slot by delivering an enjoyable set.

Tokyo Police Club (4:10) - These guys are a band for whom I have never really listened to but have been told to check out, so I'll give them the k-os Award for this round of Edgefest. Since Gentlemen Husbands wrapped up before TPC I figured I would check this one out, but also used it as an opportunity to touch base with friends I know at the festival so I took this one in from the hill. In contrast to where I was disappointed with k-os, I found myself enjoying Tokyo Police Club and am probably going to pursue some of their studio material. Which brings me to the next band that also overlapped with TPC...

Monster Truck (4:35) - The positioning of the blanket for which I was visiting was smack-dab in the middle of the two stages (Main and XM), so between TPC songs I was able to listen to some of Monster Truck, in addition to the couple of songs I heard initially before moving to the group. With most festivals comes a scheduling conflict that forces one to make a decision and forgoing another, while I was happy with my choice I wish that they were scheduled at a better slot (for me) so I could see the whole thing. I'll take a raincheck and hope they return to the GTA soon (let's pretend that they didn't play at the Bovine Sex Club last night too). They're in the Edgefest queue of bands I am going to follow-up with shortly, so this "review" of their set is more a place to drop their name for anybody who many stumble onto this entry. :)

The Sheepdogs (5:10) - I gained awareness of them through the Rolling Stone contest that placed them in a battle for the front cover, then after appearing on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon I just missed them at NXNE, so they took some priority yesterday. While I was not crazy about their set, I'll give them the Arkells Award from 2009 of being a band that I hope continues to improve as they are enjoyable, especially on a sunny day like yesterday. The crowd was very into this set and their single "I Don't Know" went over quite well. I'm seeing a trend developing in this recap, where I talk about the band and then say I'm going to check out their album very soon; throw them on the list!

The Weakerthans (5:40) - I've been aware of these guys for quite awhile but never listened to their albums or saw them live because I have always had a dislike for the lead singers voice. I saw about half of their set and enjoyed it while finding there was some diversity in their sound, so I'll credit them with putting on a good set, but maybe just not for me.

KO (5:55) - Continuing on the final point from the last part, I will credit him with being a good, high-energy live performer but just not my thing. The open-air, sunny day setting is definitely an excellent fit for his music and energy (plus it provides some ventilation for the crowd). His sound is along the lines of Sublime, illScarlett and any of those bands with alot of references to smoking weed, which made for a fun set, but I'm sort of content with keeping the relationship casual as it currently is (saw him open for somebody else last summer). I won't have to be dragged kicking and screaming to his sets in the future, nor will I rush to any of them.

Hollerado (6:40) - Maaaaan, oh man. Two years ago I saw these guys very randomly open up for the Dead Weather (story is that Jack White hand-picked them for a secret show) and they were a very pleasant discovery. Here we are in 2011 and the band has rightfully earned a nice amount of success while not appearing to be slowing down. If you have not seen them live, they are an extremely catchy, fun, high-energy band with excellent crowd-interaction who is certainly worth your time. They're in Toronto quite a bit and although their price is no longer free like it usually was in 2009, I would still recommend them (fun-fact: 3/4 times including yesterday I have seen them for free, I owe them some nachos). The difference between then and now is that their videos for Americanarama and Got To Lose each went viral (rightfully so), Juliette became a hit and with these accomplishments they have attracted a much larger crowd which in turn has led to a far more energetic crowd. Fun, fun band that I may have taken for granted lately; they even brought confetti (and lots of it). A quick listen to their album may give off a vibe that they're very poppy, and while I would agree to an extent, their philosophy is that catchy, pop music doesn't have to be bad. Without question I have to recommend their live show. Also, go to HMV and look for Hollerado under Rock/Pop and try telling me that you didn't find something unique (unless their supply is zero). They performed all of their hits, brought out a new track and even covered Neil Young's Keep on Rockin' in the Free World to close out the set; these guys belong on the main stage at this festival. Moving onto the final band of my day (after Hollerado frontman Menno Versteeg ripped into them upon exiting the stage, of course)...

A Perfect Circle (7:10) - The festival typically provides Canadian bands to attendees and then grabs an American band or two for the latter part of the day (previously we had AFI), so in 2011 we have A Perfect Circle, who have just started touring again. I missed the start of their set due to Hollerado's overlap but managed to see most of it. I'm not familiar with much of their catalogue since Mer De Noms (which came out in 2000), so this one was going to be a bit of an experiment to close out the afternoon for me. There was certainly a different (mainly darker) tone to this one compared to most of the days acts, but that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. The highlight of the set for me was a track entitled Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums which definitely brings some impact live. The set featured four covers (of the eleven played) which is a bit high, but that also included John Lennon's Imagine. I'll be catching these guys at Lollapalooza next month so I was okay making my way to the exit as they were finishing in order to avoid traffic.


Festival thoughts:

Overall, I must say that I had a great time and suggest that if you're into up and coming Canadian bands that this is worth your afternoon. Much like my logic in 2009, face value was $40 for the early bird ($60 otherwise) for about 9 bands (split-sets included), so it works out to very little per act. For somebody who arrives early and/or is a fan of the headliner it is excellent value (last time I got to see Billy Talent and Metric for less than a standard ticket to one of their shows). The beer is expensive but the roaming aspect brought on by a recent law change is nice (no more beer tent!). If I had one suggestion to make, it would be to somehow expand the XM Stage because for Hollerado and the Sheepdogs that thing was beyond capacity.

What is a Sandman Viper Command? The winner of the Edgefest marketing award, that's who. I think I'll check them out right now because their posters and shirts were plastered all over the place.

I would also recommend taking the TTC. The festival provides a shuttle service from Downsview station and you get to avoid the potential clusterfuck of an exit by car. I left before the headliner and still had to deal with two 401 entrance closures, then add some eventual traffic to that and you have yourself one big mess. Next time I will likely be taking TTC (plus you can drink).

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