The island’s All Caps Festival has gone on for five years, and this year it drew to a close. Five years of music, celebrating Canadian talent and culture. Five years of camping over night, of beach parties, of skinny dipping. We shall be sad to see it go.
This year, the two-day festival kicked off on August 10 at 2pm. The venue was smaller than I’d imagined, and instead of a boisterous, crowd-heavy festival, it felt more like a family reunion barbeque, far away from any city.
The festival begins on the boat. With familial ties getting me access to the VIP seat on the top of the Toronto ferries, I had the best seats in the house to and from the island. By the time I walked the 20 minutes to the festival grounds, my sandals conveniently broke, and grew progressively worse as the day wore on.
The first band I watched was called Beekeeper, who were on at 5:15. From Vancouver, BC, the band went in for a group hug before starting their set. A little girl introduced the bands throughout the day, much to the joy of the intimate gathering of people, and then a poetic, performative introductory song brought the band on stage. Beekeeper is a bit unpolished, but enthusiastic, and the rawness of their music is what draws you in. As they return from Warptour, the band insisted on a “circle pit,” which was, apparently, big on tour. Their music alternated from upbeat, danceable music, to slow and heavy songs. They even included a cover of Alanis Morrisette’s “Ironic.” The lyrical “I can be many things” stuck in my head throughout the day. Beekeeper is maybe a bit indulgent when it isn’t being profound.
Next, at 6, what began as sweet background music for the family reunion soon developed into music that was very The Smiths/Talking Heads-esque with the arrival of Shotgun Jimmie. Their lyrics were comedic, with lines such as “I’m a lightweight waiting for a Skype date,” before launching into quick tempo finishes in many of their songs. The songs were quite short, but sweet and light-hearted, keeping the pace snappy and energetic. During one of their last songs there was a jazzy break for the saxophone solo, lyrics included “Too many flowers/Too many mosquitos,” followed by a question from the lead singer about the fire ant colony that the festival happened to be presiding over this year. How are the fire ants? They bit me.
At 7 was the much anticipated Bizzarh who took over the stage with shy, nervousness, but soon shifted into full gear, playing an energetic set that was reminiscent of Chaka Khan and Erika Badu. There is a lot of raw, untapped talent in these two teens, that, with the confidence only success and approval can bring, will surely bring them to the top of the R&B hit list. Topped off with Caitlin, the girls’ so-called “Hardbodied” DJ, the girls were a sight to see.
At 8pm, Hooded Fang came on stage, and I was finally able to sit on a friend of a friends blanket, and the fire ants left me alone. Hooded Fang’s psychedelic rock music, reminiscent of certain punk bands like the Ramones brought the festival solidly into the night. A mic cut out and the vocalists had to share. Near the end of their set, the crowd finally set to moshing.
Finally, at 9, the Blow came on stage. The set was a little strange, consisting of one girl spinning mad raps about very uncomfortable things, but the crowd loved it. Maybe because it was night, maybe because of the endless beer, or maybe just because the vibe from the Blow was so amazingly upbeat, they couldn’t help but dance. Khaela Maricich moved along the stage like Ian Kurtis from Joy Division, and showed off the quirky, non-conformist style that her native Portland is known for (Portlandia, anyone?). Her performance was similar to those given by Regina Spektor, acting on stage the way the public may secretly wish to act all the time.
The night was topped off by a raving dance party. The stage was opened up to the crowd, and they turned it into a club. The beach was a place for communing and socializing, as bonfires popped up along the water’s edge. Also on the beach was the small, but beautiful stage set for the night DJ, who found his songs by twinkle light until the wee hours of the morning. At 11:45, however, I left to catch my VIP ferry, standing at the wheelhouse to watch the skyline grow closer.
DAY 2 —————————–
The second (and last) day of the festival began in much the same way. The music was a bit more urgent, a bit more on-the-ball. Perhaps there was something in the air, what with it being the last day of the last festival, but regardless of the reason, the music had something organic about it.
First on, when I arrived at 5, was Elfin Saddle, whose swooping, cinematic music reminded listeners of landscapes, expanses of countryside, and every Lord of the Rings movie ever made. Making a sharp change was Magneta Lane on at 6, with their rock and roll dance music, loud, dirge-like and ballad-y, mournful music that stimulated the crowd with its uncleanliness. If Zooey Deschanel turned girl rock, her music would sound like Magneta Lane.
At 7 was Beliefs, who took the stage with trip-hop and psychedelic rock. The bands vocals were often overtaken by the loud and chaotic music, supplemented with some screeching feedback, which just added to the soundtrack of the evening. Loud, but excellent for headbanging. With drowned out vocals, Beliefs sounded like some major indie bands such as Broken Social Scene.
The band Catl. came on next, at 8, with their characteristic southern drawling rock. After urging the hesitant crowd to come forwards, the guitar drum duo broke into such a furiously fast medley of music that could only be found in the Dakota Tavern, if not right here. The band was badass rock, imprinting images of horses and driving in the desert, road trips, the wild country, and whiskey.
Finally, after the set up of video cameras and the movement of extravagant props, which added to the general hysteria built up around the arrival of Rich Aucoin, at 9, though due to technical difficulties he ended up going on at 9:30. The performance began with an introductory video, like the beginning of a VHS tape, which made the set appear as a performance art piece first off, followed by previews, stitched together. The music itself was dance-y, with elements of dub-step and trance over a solid base of electronica. Rich was magnetic, kneeling down on stage to spring up again, coming into the crowd to sing, standing precariously atop an amplifier. Confetti exploded from the stage into the crowd countless times, balloons and beach balls bounced above our heads. People began crowdsurfing, and even on the small gathering they stayed aloft for a while. Sparklers made their way into the crowd and the result was like the candles on top of a birthday cake; celebratory and ultimately joyous. The crowd was instructed to form an immense circle, and the parachute was taken out, which the crowd began flapping energetically until the next song began and the parachute was feverish. At the count of three, Rich instructed us to run under the parachute, so we did (of course), and the parachute became the low roof to our underground rave. Rich joined the crowd and stood in the middle, singing and moshing on the spot, until the song ended and Rich launched into his final song, with firework accompaniment. Finally, Rich took a chair out into the crowd, sat on it, and was lifted above us. He eased his way off the chair and was picked up by some guy, who piggy-backed him in a sprint back to the stage. Rich gave the entire audience his phone number.
After the festival died stupendously, the only thing left to do was go down to the beach, where hammocks we strung between trees and were full of sand, which got in our clothes when we decided to skinny dip. Another night will never be as complete or all-encompassing.
All Caps Fest, you shall be missed, but never forgotten.