Festival Review: Field Trip Music & Arts Festival 2014

Field Trip Music & Arts

This weekend was the 2nd Field Trip Music & Arts Festival hosted by Toronto record label Arts and Crafts. June is Toronto in its zenith – Saturday brought us clear blue skies and blistering sun – Sunday brought warm sunshowers and a cool breeze, with the sun making an appearance an hour before sundown, offering everyone this wave of joy that was fitting for the festival flow.

Sometimes there is a case for a lot of pretty words and then there are other times when people will find a way to muddy up something that is already beautiful with a lot of ruffles and frills. That’s how I feel. I believe that the most beautiful things are undeniably simple; they demand no frills. That’s what this festival was. It’s my experience that we usually remember the simple things much longer than we remember the complex processed stuff. Field Trip was beautiful in its simplicity.

Leave it to Arts & Crafts to orchestrate such a low-maintenance, spacious, relaxed, casual, and independent event. Many who attended this year were also at last year’s festival – and pleased with the lineup which included Interpol and Broken Social Scene, Chvrches, Gord Downie and the Sadies, The Constantines, Hydra, Half Moon Run, The Darcys, Fucked Up, Washed Out, and more…

Unique to this subculture of indie-music lovers was the fact that this festival accommodated for the growing demographic, most of the people who have supported these bands over the last ten years have gotten married and started having young families. It only made sense that the festival was accessible enough by having a Hula Hooping station, bouncy castles, kid-concerts, and face painting. Emily Haines of Metric tweeted, “@Metric: Sending my love from Spain to the Art s& Crafts family this weekend. Anthems and Backyards forever”.

Anthems and Backyards forever. It was precisely that. The organizers did a great job by transforming the Historic Fort York grounds into a “family picnic” style oasis. There was a “day camp” for children, The Etsy Village for independent artisans, Gourmet Food Trucks, several art installations as well as the Analogue Photo Gallery highlighting some exceptional Toronto talent such as Stephen McGill, Michael Meehan, Sara Rix, and Bobby Singh.

Gord Downie and the Sadies was by far my favourite act – there is nobody that can compare to this legend of a man. He is authentic, true, very recluse in nature, but when he is on stage he sings with such Canadiana and intensity that even lukewarm fans are converted. He walked on stage dressed in white linen with a cowboy hat to match, and the crowd roared – some with squeals, others with tears, and then the golden quote of the afternoon “I wish Gord Downie was my dad, he’s just THAT cool”, I like to think of him that way since the only thing that seems to have aged are his dance moves, but everyone accepts him. I didn’t hear one harsh critique of him as I surfed through that crowd – making my way to the side stage to get a closer glimpse of this living legend.

Fucked Up was another intense show – Damian Abraham was off the hook when he took the red plastic beach balls that were bouncing around the crowd; his decision to deflate them with his teeth and wear them like a beret was zealous. He was electrifying the pit, especially when he jumped in himself. The crowd that gathered to watch him perform was diverse – whether or not the genre of hardcore experimental punk rock was their usual jam. What that man did on stage was not to be missed. The intensity of his vocals, his primal screams, his facial expressions and the pure adrenaline was contagious. If nothing outraged you yet, this was the time to get pumped up!

In-between sets I frequently went to visit the Indie 88 Yurt – a structured tent where they invited listeners to come and charge their cell phones, hydrate themselves with free water, and pick up some free swag and maybe indulge in some free high fives. It was definitely a central spot for me, since I attended the festival alone, by the end of the night I had made so many new friends, there really was no place like yurt.

Another thing about this festival aside from it being nearly flawless, is that everyone was able to take in the music at their own pace. If you wanted, you could have ran to every stage whenever the new band started, or you could have chosen to get food during one of the sets and still would have gotten a solid experience out of it. There was no bad spot to be sitting, standing, picnicking, perusing or hula hooping at this festival. Even if one decided to leave early (so I was told), you were able to hear the bands all the way in the parking lot on the other side of the Gardiner Expressway. Pretty rad.

Most of us are in Field Trip withdrawal now, as those countless hours in the beautiful sunshine were not enough – it was just the start of the Toronto concert season. Our hearts are screaming for more, but with gratitude and content, I am grateful for such a strong community of Music lovers in Toronto.

Review by Stefanie Romano | @stefaloves


 

I’m typing this as I sit in the studio in Montreal used by Wintersleep and Stars. Those who attended the Arts and Crafts festival last year know that Stars made an appearance, although they are no longer with the label. This year, the label expanded into their repertoire, featuring acts that are based overseas like the Kills, as well as long extinct bands such as the Constantines.

When it comes to the highly competitive and ever-changing world of music, especially in Canada where the government grants provide much of an artists funds, there is a constant dance between musicians and their labels. The interdependence runs deep.

With Arts and Crafts the label is quite picky, choosing only the acts they know will be successful. Some labels choose to represent performers who have no immediate revenue turnaround, and they invest a lot of money in these acts and lose a lot of money in these acts. To select those bands that are guaranteed to earn money while investing only a small percentage in their development and production seems counterintuitive, but in this case Arts and Crafts is guaranteed to earn back their investment completely.

This is certainly evident when watching the bands at Field Trip festival, a celebration of music for one, but also a form of peacocking that some may say stimulates competition between labels. The different levels of music production mean that there are different levels of competition, but among many musicians, especially those centered in Montreal, it is nice to see the mutual support among musicians, with many performing in several acts. Among labels, it becomes much more about the monetary aspect of making music, which is not necessarily a bad thing, often leading to boutique labels and independent labels. In other words, the desire to create a label that would focus on extraordinary, successful acts is what makes Arts and Crafts successful, and Field Trip is a demonstration of the incredible music that results from this meticulous level of attention.

Overall, the festival is a method for showcasing the excellent roster of the label, with the excitable rock music of The Darcy’s and the raw rap from Shad, the label proved its versatility. Kevin Drew demonstrated his ability to create wonderful, hooky music while balancing his set with songs from his days in Broken Social Scene. The Kills performed with more stage presence than they are typically known for, with Alison Mosshart pacing the stage like a caged animal and crooning emotively at the crowd in front of a leopard-print backdrop. The singer, notoriously nervous before large crowds, ended the set sitting on an amp smoking a cigarette; essentially exemplifying London rock in its very essence. Interpol presented a performance that was also a visually delectable show, with extravagant lights and smoke that added to the atmosphere of the evening. The second day brought a slew of performances that were a treat to see, including Charlie Spearin’s pre-Broken Social Scene band Do Make Say Think; the influence of Spearin on BSS is extremely obvious. Gord Downie and his expressive stage presence seemed intimidating to a crowd that may have never witnessed his on-stage behaviour before at a Tragically Hip show. Feist, AroarA and Snowblink made up the fledgling band Hydra (not to be confused with the 1970s rock band), which brought a new and interesting sound to which our attention should be paid. The Constantines seemed the band of the weekend, drawing a fair amount of attention away from electronic band Washed Out, which performed its pop-electric on the small stage while the Constantines moved some crowd members to tears. Chvrches and Fucked Up lead to the grand finale, Arts and Crafts staple Broken Social Scene, which brought the festival into the night and sent the crowd out like dust into the dark.

Click here for all of our Field Trip concert photos.

Review by Emily Fox |

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